OR - 'Extreme Makeover' family accused of medical child abuse

Discussion in 'Up to the Minute' started by Missizzy, May 15, 2011.

  1. Missizzy

    Missizzy New Member

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    This is a subject that changed my life. One of our adopted children came to us from a mother with MPB. Our daughter was the unknowing victim. It's one of the most perplexing and insidious mental illnesses ever. If I wouldn't have seen its effects personally, I would have never believed the horrifice level of emotional and medical abuse. I have some great resources I'll post tomorrow.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2011/05/clackamas_county_a_case_of_med.html

    'Extreme Makeover' family in Oregon finds mother under 'medical child abuse' scrutiny

    "The world met the Cerda family two years ago when the ABC reality show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" showcased their story -- a generous, but struggling Las Vegas couple raising two daughters with serious immune disorders. The girls, M and M, wore face masks to guard against toxins and germs that might be harmless to healthy kids. The TV program paid to demolish the family's mold-filled house and replace it with an opulent new home..."

    and

    "...By fall 2009, the house was for sale and the family moved to Oregon, where the parents that television producers found so compelling came under scrutiny...."

    and

    "....Several doctors and a hospital social worker began to question Terri Cerda's insistence that her daughters had chronic health problems when tests and examinations indicated otherwise. In January, Dr. Thomas Valvano, an OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital pediatrician who specializes in suspected child abuse and neglect, reported the Cerdas to state child-welfare authorities, and in February, the state took temporary custody of the two girls...."

    and

    "....Six doctors testified that M, 10, and M, 8, did not live in constant medical peril, as Terri Cerda claimed. Valvano went further. The Cerda children, he told the judge, were victims of medical child abuse....."

    More at link
     
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  3. Donjeta

    Donjeta Adji Desir, missing from Florida

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    Even if they have a real immune deficiency, IMO it sounds like the children might
    have learned to use lethal illness to get a reaction from the adults if they keep making yelled self-diagnoses of being in the terminal stages.
     
  4. Trident

    Trident Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure what to believe. I've heard of Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, but never met a parent who had it. I have, however, personally met some very bad, negligent, arrogant, uncaring, and criminal doctors.
     
  5. krimekat

    krimekat Amazed and Baffled

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    respectfully snipped - do you mean Munchausen by proxy (which would be MBP)? Confused me until I read the article at the link . . .
     
  6. buffetoflies

    buffetoflies Active Member

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    This is Munchhausen by proxy because Terri is claiming the kids are sick for attention. If it was just Munchhausen syndrome, then Terri would be claiming that she is sick for attention.

    I think, that if situations like this aren't found out, then when M and M turned 21 and continued with the charades, it would switch to them having Munchhausen b/c their mom wouldn't be lording over them.

    Also, at least Terri wasn't poisoning M and M so they'd actually appear to be sick. I have heard of cases in real life and on TV. On TV there was an episode of L&O SVU where the situation was sort of Michael Jackson esq with a pervy guy supposedly molesting sick kids. One of the kids had cancer supposedly, but later it was found out that really her gma was poisoning her with mercury to make her sick so she could get the pervy guy in trouble and get lots of money off him cause he was real rich.

    In RL, there was a news story that sticks out in my mind about a child who was in the hospital most likely b/c of stuff the parent had been doing to them, and the parent was found to be putting fecal matter into the IVs or onto the skin around where the needs sticks in.

    Uh, negative. All medical documents are typed/printed out these days darlin, and wtf does the terminology have to do with it? Sure, it can be confusing (but not really after you learn some simple tricks..), but your defense could have gotten someone to explain it to them. And frankly, a person could make up fake ones easy.
     
  7. jjenny

    jjenny Well-Known Member

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    It appears that if they do have any health issues, it's not to a life threatening degree. Like that doctor said, if she is screaming, she ain't going to die from not breathing.
     
  8. marycarney

    marycarney Inactive

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    I've personally cared for children who were victims of MBP - nearly every children's hospital today has video surveillance rooms for just this sort of thing. It is a horrendous form of child abuse. Sick.
     
  9. gitana1

    gitana1 Verified Attorney

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    Very troubling. The judge allowed the girls to go back to the parents because the dad was considered reasonable and able to care for their medical needs. However, right after they were returned, they moved back to L.A., where apparently, there are doctors who believe these very robust looking girls are sick and then it appears that the mother moved, alone, with the girls, to Las Vegas, leaving the dad behind. So, whatever protection the dad was thought by the judge to offer (which I think is little if any) is gone.
     
  10. gitana1

    gitana1 Verified Attorney

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    Apparently this family has a blog where people can donate money to them claiming the girls are homebound:

    http://sparrowformollyandmaggie.blogspot.com/

    My brother was repeatedly ill as a child with asthma, before they had inhalers or home breathing machines (1970's). Basically, when he had an attack, my mom would put him in the bathroom with the shower running on hot and try to steam it out. When it got too bad, he would go to the hospital for a few days, in an oxgyen tent and I guess they gave him adrenaline.

    My brother was very valiant and tried to run around despite his asthma, but in pictures during months when he was not doing well, he is as pale as can be. It hurts our hearts to look at those photos. Poor kid, he used to think a baby lamb slept next to his bed. It was his own wheezing that he was hearing.

    Luckily, his asthma got better over time and although he still has it, he never had to be hospitalized after age 8, and even was healthy enough to hide it (or it was not a big enough issue) and get into the military where he served for 8 years!

    He now only has it around cats, usually or when he gets a cold but he uses inhalers for that and is great.

    My point is, I know what a sick kid looks like and those girls, for having immune deficiencies, look as robust and healthy as can be. I call BS on the mother and worry about these girls in her hands.
     
  11. LadyL

    LadyL Well-Known Member

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    I can understand that they had breathing & other health issues when they were in the mold-infested house but after that, all should have improved right? Except that by then all of them had probably learned that being sick gets you attention, money, new houses etc. etc. So now the mother is backpedalling b/c she'll probably get charged with some fraud offenses. I don't think she really has MBP - I think she's just a scam artist. Unfortunately, now she's made the kids into hypochondriacs or worse b/c of her scheming. JMO.
     
  12. marycarney

    marycarney Inactive

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    Wow- that blog was about as self-serving as you can get!
     
  13. jjenny

    jjenny Well-Known Member

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    I find the judge's decision strange to begin with. The judge seem to be saying that since the father is a reasonable person the children should be returned to the parents. But that same father had not stopped his wife from going to all the doctors and doing all the tests. So how does it make sense?
     
  14. gitana1

    gitana1 Verified Attorney

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    I agree. MBP parents usually have very passive spouses that defer to them and allow them to continue their abuse. It's all part of the dysfunction.
     
  15. Missizzy

    Missizzy New Member

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    I posted this very early this morning as I stayed up late. I'm having a grandson today (YES!!) and I'm knitting like crazy to keep my mind off the fact I can't be there. I wanted to get this article out there as I want the general public to know more about this disorder.

    I have to say that I'm more than a little surprised that the Oregonian and DHS are being so forthcoming with confidential medical and child protective issues concerning M & M. I almost left their names in this thread but it just doesn't seem right. IMO, they are victims.

    I learned about MBP during my years as an advocate for special needs children. I encountered two adoptive mothers who were thought to have it. One can't actually get a formal diagnosis (as the article mentions) as it's not in the DSM-IV and is quite rare. It falls under child abuse. Both women I knew fit the profile to a T. They were both single adoptive moms, were childhood sexual abuse survivors, did not trust men, and yet thoroughly enjoyed spending their entire lives in doctor's offices (typically male doctors curiously) and hospitals. I knew them to be very "two-faced". They could turn on the charm for the doctors and spout the most detailed medical information about their child and then turn on a dime and be vicious to their child or anyone showing true concern about the child....such as a nurse, an advocate, a family member or friend. In fact, anyone who questioned them.

    Interestingly enough, both women were morbidly obese and I've since learned that this can often play a part in the disorder. One woman lost her large family back to the system as videos (as MaryCarney brought up) showed abject medical abuse. It was horrifying. The other woman didn't lose her children but was under intense investigation after her son needlessly passed away. Several advocates who worked with the family were in constant contact with DHS as we saw it coming. The poor little guy did have heart problems but his mother was not following the doctor's orders at all. She overmedicated him to such a degree that he just wasted away. Because he did have a heart condition, abuse was hard to prove. Oh, but it was there. Many of us saw it.

    Most often, a woman who has extremely low self esteem, attention seeking behavior and unresolved grief will exaggerate a child's very real illness. Usually only one or two children in a family will be singled out. Adoptive moms have been known to seek out children with tremendous physical difficulties and then go from there. The litmus test for me is just how much time does a mother spend focusing on illness? How often is this child in a medical office? There are many mothers of chronically ill kids who despise the hospital (like me) and do what needs to be done and move on. A mom with MBP really has nothing else in their life.

    I'm making the assumption that these children are birth children, though. Another interesting factor is that most women are very bright, charming, and articulate. They've often held jobs which required record keeping skills. They also, in my experience and reading, seek out men (if they do at all) who are subservient to them. In fact, many of the fathers of the children are also private victims of emotional and even physical abuse. It's very very sad. The father loves his wife and child but allows the mom to take over the medical side of things. He learns to defer to her. Very very seldom will the dads be present when the children are presented at clinics and hospitals in distress. It's almost always the mom. Notice that this father and maternal grandfather didn't really see the illness, the mother did.

    I am shocked that this mother was not over-medicating her children. She was injecting them, though, with immunoglobulin--which may or may not be necessary. Notice that things only seemed to heat up for the family when they moved to a new state. The reason that happens is that new doctors and social workers get a fresh look. And things just don't pan out. The mothers spend years grooming doctors to do their wishes and when they don't get their way, they move on to another. Thankfully, Oregon has inter-agency reporting and knows to watch out for MBP.

    Now, to my own experience. We are the parents of a child whose mother is thought to have MBP. Sadly, this mom did overmedicate her child. Her MO in other areas was identical, however. She groomed a set of doctors in another state for years to medicate her child to a degree that permanent neurological damage resulted. She got more and more attention the sicker the child became. It's a horrid cycle. When people started asking questions, the mother moved to another state. That's when medical staff began noticing that all was not right. Our child has had uncountable hospital stays and has been diagnosed with just about every disease under the sun. If there was a pill or an uncomfortable procedure, it was done. Privately, the child was emotionally abused and actually medically neglected. Medication was given sporadically, diets were not followed. This caused the child to get even sicker.

    Suffice it to say, that we were presented with a very very sick child...one who believed he/she would always be sick. One who believed that normal life was out of the question. We got to work with the backing of doctors, psychiatrists, a judge and DHS and a miracle occurred. We have a totally healthy child who is a delight and who is healing from a nightmare of ill-treatment. He/she rides a bike and a scooter, cooks, takes care of pets, goes to regular school, goes the movies, has friends over. It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of our life. He/she has mild hay fever. That's it. And the unfortunate brain damage caused by over-medication. But his/her body and brain is strong and getting stronger every day. He/she takes a daily vitamin.

    Not too long ago, I learned of a book which helped me to understand so much. The book is available at most libraries and I highly recommend it. It's Julie Gregory's "Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood":

    http://www.juliegregory.com/

    My husband and I both read it and passed it around to all our adult kids. I even bought a copy for DHS and they passed it around. It's a quick read and is not maudlin. Julie is a survivor through and through. MBP can be survived but the victim must forever more be kept away from the abuser or the cycle will begin again.
     
  16. Missizzy

    Missizzy New Member

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    I had to laugh when I saw the video of the mom and the girls out walking with a beautiful shepherd. Shepherds are notorious for shedding. Anyone who needs inhalers (as one little girl was shown using) would NOT have such a pet. She also wouldn't be out walking on a busy city street with exhaust fumes, etc.

    I agree that the children look robust. One other thing I failed to mention is that children who are victims are quite commonly very attractive children. How strange is that?

    And those girls are absolutely lovely.
     
  17. gitana1

    gitana1 Verified Attorney

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    Excellent post! I am fascinated by MBP and have read everything I can about, including Julie's book. Your perceptions are spot on and included some I was not aware of. Very interesting.

    I wonder if NV is going to do something about these poor girls. What a nightmare. They are so scared they come screaming into the ER. Poor things.
     
  18. Missizzy

    Missizzy New Member

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    I agree with you, Gitana, the disorder is actually quite fascinating and makes "sense" in a very sick sort of way. When you think about it the sufferer is projecting their needs onto the child and no child deserves that. The mother wants attention and validation. She wants to be honored for her excellent mothering--in spite of horrible illness.

    I mentioned that I'd seen it twice before but you know, I didn't recognize it when our child first came to us. The parent is so very good that I totally bought all the garbage for a number of months. It was only when I painstakingly went through old records with a CASA and several DHS workers that I started to see the light.

    The screaming and tantruming is common. Even though the children can be bright, they still are developmentally stunted and will act out as much younger children. They've been taught that they can make no decisions about their own bodies or lives. They are typically compliant for a long time as they are groomed from a young age. At some point, reality starts creeping in and they act out. They can develop strange behaviors, eating disorders, cutting, running away--taking unbelievable risks with their personal safety. After all, they're led to believe that they will not live long lives. They are at high risk of using drugs and being sexually abused as they just don't value themselves.

    One thing that has shocked me is how quickly these behaviors can be turned around--with a strong team approach. But it scares me how quickly the improvement can be lost if the abuser steps back into the child's life. The person with MBP requires long-term intensive therapy. Of course the children's story is the one that must be told but my guess is that there's a very sad backstory for the father in this case. That sure seems to be a common factor.
     
  19. gitana1

    gitana1 Verified Attorney

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    What enrages me about MBP is that there are wonderful mothers like you who suffer because their kids suffer, who would trade a limb to make their kids whole again and healthy, but women like one this do the very opposite of what mother's instinct is designed to do. They take a parent's worst nightmare and turn it into a party. It's fascinating from a psychological point of view but it disgusts me. It's like a slap in the face to parents who agonize over their children's real and devastating health issues.
     
  20. redfish

    redfish New Member

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    This is a very fascinating and scary disorder. Thank you Missizzy for your interesting posts.
     
  21. technicalconfusion

    technicalconfusion Curses! Foiled Again!

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    I read this when it first came out. It is excellent and a must read.
     

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