A Woman Of Courage Rises Above The Pain

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By Donna Britt
Friday, December 9, 2005

Two months after Yvette Cade's estranged husband allegedly filled a 20-ounce Sprite bottle with gasoline, walked into the bustling cell phone store where she worked and doused her before lighting a match, Cade lies in a bed at the Washington Hospital Center burn unit. Through excruciating pain, endless operations and bitter memories of cavalier comments made by the Prince George's County judge who dismissed the restraining order she hoped would protect her, the Suitland resident quietly endures.

Since October, only medical professionals have been allowed to touch Cade, 31, who was burned over 60 percent of her body. So she has yet to receive comforting kisses from her 12-year-old daughter or a hug from her mother, who three times has traveled from Akron, Ohio, to be with her.

Last week, Cade -- for the first time since the attack -- looked in a mirror. Her reaction to the effect of third-degree burns on a face that had been as smooth as honey couldn't have been calmer.

"I finally saw myself in the mirror," Cade, 31, told her sister, Shereen Jackson. Something about Cade's quiet, drama-free tone told Jackson not to push her to elaborate.

Says Jackson: "If she wanted to say something more, she would have said it."

Jackson has plenty to say: about her sister's courage, her brother-in-law's apparent cruelty, the judge whose actions she feels grievously wounded her sister. But Cade -- whose communication has evolved from eye-blinks to tapping out letters on an alphabet board to the near-whisper that's now her voice -- wastes few words on anger or regret.

Physically, Cade -- who on Wednesday had yet another skin graft operation -- is progressing nicely. She can walk to a bedside commode; her body has resisted the life-threatening infections that often imperil severe burn victims. She discusses bill-paying with Jackson and counsels her daughter to behave while she's living with a cousin's family.

"I've never seen her upset since [the attack] happened," says Jackson, who credits their upbringing for Cade's forbearance. "Our dad's a Christian church guy, our mom's an earthy, granola-bar free thinker.

"That mixture means you keep everything positive."

Back on Sept. 19, Cade was her usual confident self as she sought an extension of a temporary restraining order from Prince George's District Court Judge Richard A. Palumbo against her husband, Roger B. Hargrave, who wouldn't stop hounding her, she said.

Explaining that Hargrave was intimidating her daughter and vandalizing property, Cade told Palumbo that she wanted "an immediate and absolute divorce," according to a recording of the proceeding.

"I'd like to be 6-foot-5," Palumbo, who's listed as 5-foot-4 on his driver's license, responded. "But that's not what we do here. You have to go to divorce court for that." According to the recording, Palumbo said, "Uh, this case is dismissed." Although documents show that the protective order was dissolved, Palumbo has said that he meant to retain the order and that its dismissal was a clerical error.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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