Email: Sheri Madaris
My name is Sheri Madaris. I am the mother of five children, ranging in ages from eight years down to one year. My youngest child, Lance, had stomach surgery on November 23, 1994. The surgery was for reflux and we were told it was to improve his symptoms. Prior to this surgery, Lance was a reasonably healthy baby, who was gaining weight and able to breastfeed. After the surgery, my son was unable to eat by mouth without severe pain, and within less than two weeks, he was on G-tube feeds. We complained several times, to that hospital, that something was very wrong with our baby. Within four weeks, we were denied services at that hospital, unless we signed some papers, drafted by one of the doctors, that consisted of several rules, which included: not complaining unless it was in writing. We refused to sign any such documents.
From December 1994 through March 1995, we took our son to five major medical centers for children. We never found the answers to Lance's feeding problems, however, we did accumulate more and more unanswered questions about his condition. We were told by the doctors that Lance's condition was nicotine intoxication from my breast milk; to things like a behavioral problem, colic, neurological problems, to failure to thrive. We had heard it all. We kept saying we thought something was wrong from the surgery that was keeping our son from eating without distress. So, the doctors tried sedating him with drugs, but, they never eliminated my son's pain.
We took our son to a doctor, out of state, who thought he knew what was wrong and that he could help. Once arriving at that doctor's clinic, we were told that the head doctor, of Texas Medicaid, had contacted their office, informing them that there was nothing wrong with the Madaris' baby. The out of state doctor told the Medicaid doctor that he was very wrong, because there was a real problem with my son. Medicaid still refused to let this doctor help my baby. We were, then, sent back to Texas for medical care, however, the out of state doctor did write a letter on our behalf. The Medicaid doctor stated that all services, required by our son, were available in Texas, therefore, we had no reason to go out of state.
All we wanted was an unbiased opinion, and we never got it. We even went as far as to contact the Texas Attorney General's office, two senators, the governor's office, and state representatives. Yet, no one would lift a finger to help my son, even with us showing them numerous documentation.
On April 3, 1995, after a long phone consult with a doctor in California, I took my son to a well known surgeon for an evaluation. I took a large number of medical records and x-rays for his review. This doctor did no further testing, however, he did observe my son's attempt to eat by mouth and saw his symptoms. He took all the records and x-rays to a group of his colleagues, for their opinion, and the majority agreed with him, that there was a problem with the surgery. Since Texas Medicaid would not allow a surgery to take place outside of the state, we were referred to a surgeon in Houston. We provided the surgeon, in Houston, with all the same records and he, too, did no further testing. However he was aware that we had an attorney and stated that he would fix Lance, provided that if this went to court, he would not be an expert witness in a court of laws. This surgeon re-operated on our baby May 1, 11995 and found several problems. But, it was expected that our son would be eating by mouth and doing fine within a few weeks. Lance was released on May 6, 1995 with instructions to attempt oral feeds as Lance would tolerate, and the remaining formula or breast milk would be given through his G-tube. The doctor ordered for Lance to be given a total of 24 oz. per day.
In December 1995, we obtained a nurse for Lance, through a Texas Medicaid program. We were approved for 30 hours per week. Since we have five children, all with ear, sinus, and asthma problems, we knew we were going to need some extra help with Lance, due to all the problems that occurred following his surgery. Also, we felt that the only way we were going to get help for our baby was by having someone else observe and document his symptoms.
On May 1, 1995, following the second surgery to repair the first surgery, Lance continued to have some problems. But, those problems did not appear to be as severe as they once were. We were concerned that Lance losing weight instead of gaining. He had weighed 13 lbs. on the day of the surgery and was 12 lbs. 6 oz. on the day of his discharge on May 6. Over the three weeks that followed, his weight fluctuated between gaining and losing, with no sufficient increase. Lance also refused to nipple feed by mouth; he appeared to have distress during his tube feeds; and now he began vomiting after being fed, which he hadn't done before. His appearance was looking very bad. My son's nurses also noted these problems, so we discussed these issues and concerns with my son's pediatrician. I also took some other medical records for him to review, as there were entries in them that I did not understand, and that he may be able to explain. In reviewing those records, my son's doctor became concerned. He found that his records stated my son might have a rare and fatal genetic disorder, called Leukodystrophy. My son had many of the symptoms of this disease. It was agreed that this needed to be ruled out. We asked to go to Ft. Worth Children's Hospital, instead of returning to Houston, as it was much closer and our money situation was a real problem. Also, we did not feel it was a surgical issue, even though we were thankful to the surgeon who had helped our son. However, we did tell the pediatrician that we would go wherever he felt was best. He said he would make some calls and get back with us. He tried, for almost a week, to reach the surgeon, but had no success in his efforts. So, he made arrangements for us to go to Ft. Worth and I arranged the dates with the clinic, on my son's doctor's referral.
On May 25, 1995, my son was seen by a doctor, at a Ft. Worth clinic. This doctor, then, admitted my son to the hospital. Lance was put on continuous feeds, by pump, with an additional 16-22 oz of formula per day added to his diet, making his total intake between 40-46 oz. per day (keep in mind, that on May 6, 1995, his surgeon released him on 24 oz. per day). My son did start gaining weight, which we were happy about, however, he was very uncomfortable and still throwing up. During the two weeks our son was there, the doctor refused to do any of the tests requested by our pediatrician, except for an HIV test. From the first day at the hospital, we were treated like trash. We discover the reason for this was because the doctor had written Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, as a diagnosis in my son's medical records. He was accusing us of not feeding our baby, even though Lance had a documented problem, which proved we were not the cause of. We were being accused of neglect, because we had been to so many doctors and would stand up for what we believed in. Because I am intelligent, and knew where we had been, what had been done, and what the diagnosis was by the medical terms, this made me guilty of MSBP, according to them. Because of these attributes, within myself, any my determination, I was labeled a child abuser.
My husband questioned the doctor about the MSBP, the day after Lance was admitted to the hospital, and about the way we were being treated. The doctor stated that he had not called Child Protective Services yet, and that he would not call the if we sat back and behaved ourselves; if we made no waves and Lance improved, then he would not call CPS. My husband and I had made prior arrangements to rotate staying at the hospital with Lance, as well as at home with other four children. So, I went home the next day and my husband did as he was told, by the doctor, for four days. On May 29th, my husband asked the doctor when Lance could go home and the doctor said, "Not yet". When my husband asked, "why", the doctor was evasive. Then my husband asked if it had to do with the MSBP and the doctor said, "yes". At this point, my husband said, "Look, there is nothing that you are doing here that my son's mother, father, nurse, and pediatrician cannot do for him at home". Then my husband and the doctor argued. My husband requested that the Munchausen be removed from Lance's records, because it could jeopardize his future health care, as the medical profession would be looking at us (the parents) and not at our son. The doctor refused, so, my husband said, "Then go ahead and call CPS, because we have nothing to hide". My husband also told the doctor, "Don't make me take my son against medical advise, or I will call my attorney, and the press". The doctor called CPS and they were there immediately to question my husband. They had my husband sign some papers stating that he would not take Lance from the hospital until the doctor was ready to release him. So, we complied, and I never stayed at the hospital again. I would only go to visit, along with our other four children.
Over a period of about nine days, we attempted to show the hospital administration, as well as CPS, our son's medical records, but, they refused to look at them. We also tried to discuss the problem. We were very cooperative with them. We tried to explain everything that had happened, since the first surgery, providing names of references, friends, and agencies that could verify the whole situation, but, CPS, nor the hospital contacted anyone to verify our side of the story. However, CPS did conduct a home visit with me, my four other children, and my 15 year old stepson, who was present at the time. They also interviewed my eight-year old daughter, privately. I feel that CPS had done a poor investigation.
While our son was still in the hospital, and we (the parents) cooperating with them, CPS took custody of our son on June 7,1995. At a hearing the day prior, CPS told the judge that I (mom) had tried to take Lance AMA and that he was in immediate danger; I wasn't even at the hospital! CPS said we had physically neglected our baby and had medically neglected him as well. My husband was kicked out of the hospital, after they had Lance removed from him. Then CPS informed my husband that a 24-hour emergency hearing would be held the next day and that they would inform us of the time and place, so that we could be present. However, they never informed us of a time or place of the hearing and we were not allowed to go. Lance was released that same day, to CPS and the foster mother. Yet, they never removed any of our other children. A CPS worker also threatened to disallow visitation with our son, if I did no hand over Lance's birth certificate, Medicaid card, and social security card.
We hired an attorney to fight CPS and we won. A hearing was held on June 15, 1995, in which the doctor from Ft. Worth testified against us. When questioned under oath, he stated that Lance did have the same symptoms as those of Leukodystrophy. He also stated that Lance's symptoms, since the first surgery, were typical post surgical symptoms, however, they were the more severe symptoms that may be seen following this type of surgery. He also stated that it was not uncommon for a baby to lose weight, up to 3 weeks after surgery; and for three weeks prior to this hospitalization, Lance did lose weight. Our pediatrician testified on our behalf, stating under oath, that we were not guilty of anything. He said that we had kept him well informed of everything, to include letting him see copies of other hospital records. He also said that if he were in the same situation, as we had been since November 1994, that he would have done the same thing. As a result, the judge ordered the immediate return of our son to us. However, CPS remained to keep temporary conservatory custody. The judge ordered three weight checks per week, with Lance's pediatrician, and a psychological evaluation of us (the parents). He also ordered another hearing in 60 days, for a final decision at that time. CPS visited our home, only two times, during this period to check on Lance. They finally made arrangements for the psychological evaluation of us two weeks prior to the court date, set for August 17,1995. This gave our attorney only two days, before the court date, to get an independent evaluation done if CPS' was not favorable. On the 17th of August 1995, the judge returned full custody of our son, to us, with no provisions, and CPS was dismissed. However, CPS recommended to the judge that we attend family therapy, which we agreed because our entire had suffered tremendously, from the time they messed up our son and to what CPS had done to our family. But when our attorney presented, to the judge, our willingness to attend therapy provided we had the option to see another therapist, CPS suddenly withdrew their request and stated they had meant for it to be voluntary on our part.
The bottom line here is that the medical field messed up our son and then tried to cover it up. Because we love our son, and advocate for his health and well being, we have been accused child abuse. Our names have been placed on a national computerized child abuse list, along with sex abusers, and we are told that there is no way to have it removed; this will follow us around for the rest of our lives. Our lives and our children's lives have changed forever. CPS does not like to be ridiculed, or proven wrong. They still continue to harass my family, by visiting our home, even with no court order. Our local sheriff's office said they can come to my home every day if, CPS so chooses. They have the ultimate power over people's lives. We have also been told, by CPS, that if we make waves, things could get worse for us.
My son, still to this day, is dependent on G-tube feeds and continues to have some medical problems. But I cannot advocate for him or I could be accused of child abuse by Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, and possibly lose all my children.
Recently, we went to a senator's office and left some records, asking for their office to investigate. They following week, they called and told us that they could look into the situation, however, they could not guarantee that CPS would not retaliate against us. This office suggested that since we had our baby back, we should leave well enough alone and be thankful to have him home with us. We were also told that due to the medical situation and CPS, it might be best fi we moved out of state. Then, once we were out of Texas, then we should pursue legal action. I WAS SHOCKED.
During the same visit, to our state capital, we made contacts with several state representatives. The week prior to this visit, our malpractice attorney had sent us a letter, outlining the events since Lance's first surgery. We were told to review it for errors because he planned on filing suit the next week, against the hospital that messed up or son. After several phone calls, and visits to people at the capital, our attorney pulled giving an impossible excuse. It seems that one my state representatives is a direct relative to the hospital that messed up our son (I found this out the following week). Also, the hospital that messed up our son is a state and federal HMO Provider. I think something stinks, and I have the proof to back up our story.
All my life, I have believed that this was a free country and that our government was there to protect us all. But in my eyes and the eyes of many, it appears that our country is becoming nothing more than a communistic society, where a person's rights are no longer important to anyone. For this, I feel ashamed of my state. No longer am I proud to say, "I'm a proud Texan living in the good old USA". The government, CPS, and the medical society have the ultimate unwarranted control over people's lives. I think our government is there to protect themselves and the people with the money who put them into their power positions, within our so called government.
So tell me, what happened to my husbands rights, my rights, and the rights of my children?
Sheri A. Madaris
cc: 60 Minutes, 20/20, Day One, Current Affair
Follow-up Infromation on Lance
Upon receipt of information in reference to Dismotility, a medical condition, our son's pediatrician decided that we need to take Lance to the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. In order to determine Lance's condition. Lance was hospitalized for two weeks. The docter did several test and determined that Lance has a dismotility disorder and a defective vagus nerve control. This condition was either caused by surgery, or he had this disorder prior to surgery in which case the surgery should have never been performed.
There is now proof that Lance has a medical problem, a real one. So as you can see, all the allegations made by the doctors were wrong. Lance was wrongfully taken away from us in order to cover up the mistakes the doctors made. To this date we still can not find an attorney with enough courage to take our case because of the complications involved. The hospital that did the first operation has a lot of political connections. One very important factor that the attorneys are reluctant in taking our case is because of the accusations of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
This MSBP has become an esacape goat for any Doctor that had made a mistake or just doesn't know what is wrong with a child. The symptoms for MSBP are two-faced.
Note: To this day, even with a proper diagnosis, we are terrified to seek medical help for our children.
Mothers Against MSBP Allegations