Legacy of Love and Pain

By early June, Hudson can speak more clearly. Her children are in the temporary custody of their great-aunt, Green. Hudson's most recent surgeries have gone remarkably well. Soon she may be headed to physical therapy, on her way to walking again.

But nothing comes easy to this family.

On June 8, Tropical Storm Allison unleashes a record-breaking deluge, flooding neighborhoods and the Texas Medical Center, including Hermann Hospital.

Tate calls to check on her daughter, as she does every night, but no one answers. She tries the waiting room -- no answer.

Television reports that phone lines are down in the Medical Center.

Shortly after midnight, the phone rings. It's LoMonaco, calling to say Hudson is being flown by helicopter to LBJ Hospital.

Tate is relieved -- until she sees the water rising from a nearby bayou into her back yard.

The water seeps into her garage, her kitchen, the hallway and the living room.

"Then I just started praying," she recalls. " `Lord, please just don't let it overflow my house. I'm too tired to fight the flood, and I'm alone.' "

The water stops rising about 3 a.m., sparing her home of 35 years from major damage.

Another 30 minutes of rain and the entire house might have been flooded.

"I'm still blessed," Tate says.

Over the next several weeks, Hudson's stay at LBJ -- which has neither a burn unit nor a staff well-versed in dealing with burn patients -- is not without complications.

From the beginning, Tate feels her daughter is not getting the same level of care she received at Hermann. At times Tate has to change her linens and dressings and request pain medication.

The scarring on Hudson's bottom lip is getting worse, causing her to drool. The IV line in her right ankle causes her foot to swell. She has pneumonia, which doctors believe is caused by an infection in an IV line. Burned tissue on her back is causing her extreme pain.

One morning, custodian Melissa Smith, 32, comes into Hudson's room to sweep, mop and disinfect, as she does every day. Sometimes they chitchat. Today their talk takes a more serious turn.

Hudson says this might never have happened if she had just heeded her mother's warnings about Keeper Hudson.

As Smith cleans, she reveals to Hudson that her husband once sliced her right hand with a butcher knife. She needed 20 stitches.

The two young women connect. They understand pain and betrayal.

Hudson says she doesn't see how she can trust men; she'll never consider marriage again.

"Do you think there is any good man left?" she asks.

"There are good men," the custodian says.

A few weeks later, after being bedridden for more than two months, which has caused her leg muscles to atrophy, Hudson begins to walk again with the help of physical therapists.

At Green's house, Hudson's youngest daughter, who is nearing her first birthday in July, takes her first steps.