by Terri LaPoint
Health Impact News
A little boy recovering from a brain tumor has been has been taken from his mother, in what some are calling a medical kidnapping in Connecticut. After surviving a year of intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, 3 year old Weston Lamarre was declared to be in remission and cancer-free. But just two months later Child Protective Services stepped in and took him away from the mother who has stayed by his side every step of the way of their heartrending journey.
Now Wendy Lamarre is fighting to get her son back, after an unexplained bruise discovered at daycare resulted in Connecticut’s DCF being called in and Weston being taken from her. Even though the investigation allegedly concluded that she did nothing wrong, she still does not have him back. This child trying to heal from cancer reportedly only gets to see his mommy for two hours a week.
According to Wendy:
Cancer is a disease where you need to feel loved and supported to beat it, and by taking him out of my home and making him feel abandoned, it is a recipe for disaster in his fight against cancer. I fought to get him where he is today in terms of his health, and I refuse to stop fighting now. … I am desperate. … I need him to be home where he is comfortable and where he is loved and belongs.
Cancer Diagnosed and Followed with 51 Weeks of Chemotherapy
When Weston was 22 months old, doctors discovered that he had a brain tumor on the back of his head that was the size of a baseball. It was a rare, but aggressive, form of cancer known as ATRT, which attacks the brain, spine, and organs. According to St. Jude, the survival rate for children under 3 is less than 10%. But thus far, Weston has beaten the odds.
Most of the tumor was removed in a 14-hour surgery, which was followed by a grueling schedule of 51 weeks of aggressive chemo at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and then 6 weeks of radiation. He had surgeries to insert a shunt and ports, and a g-tube for feeding. All of the treatments affected his hearing and vision, as well as his ability to walk and talk. He had numerous blood and platelet transfusions, and sometimes had bleeding issues from all the chemo.
His mother is a medical assistant by trade, and she went right to work learning everything that she needed to know in order to help take care of him. Weston’s oncologist reports that Wendy stayed right by his side all through his numerous and lengthy hospital stays, saying that sometimes they had to insist that she go home and get some rest away from the hospital. Wendy loves her son and was determined to fight with everything within her for Weston’s life.
Remission and Getting Back to Normal
Just after his 3rd birthday, Weston received his final dose of chemo on September 28, 2014. The doctors declared the good news that he was in remission. The cancer and treatments had taken a toll on his little body, and he was still unable to walk or talk, but he could crawl.
Life began to fall into a more normal routine for Wendy and Weston. Wendy was rehired at her old job as a medical assistant. Weston began a half-day program for children with special needs on October 16, and attended his old daycare. He also had a pretty intensive schedule of physical and occupational therapy.
He still had to go to the hospital once a week for blood work and sometimes transfusions.
A Simple Diaper Rash Leads to Trip to Hospital
According to Wendy, November 5 was “a typical day.” She went to work, and Weston went to daycare. She picked him up at 4:30 and took him home. They ate dinner, watched tv, and she put him to bed.
The next morning while they were getting ready, Wendy noticed what appeared to be a diaper rash. She applied Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, a thick, zinc oxide-based diaper rash cream. She mentioned the rash to the daycare staff when she dropped him off, and all appeared fine.
About a half hour after she arrived from work, Wendy reports that she got a call from the daycare that Weston had some bruising in his diaper area. Because of Weston’s medical history, the doctors had told her to bring in her son whenever there was anything out of the ordinary. So Wendy took Weston to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
Removal of Child by the State of Connecticut
Weston’s normal oncologist was not there, so he was examined by Dr. Donna Boruchov, a doctor who was not ordinarily involved in his care. Without considering numerous possibilities of a medical explanation for the bruising, she allegedly said that she could not determine what caused it and told Wendy to go to the SCAN clinic to get a second opinion. What Wendy didn’t realize at the time was that SCAN stands for Child Abuse and Neglect.
Health Impact News has reported previously on the role of SCAN clinics in the story of Jaxon Adams in Kansas City. Children’s Mercy Hospitals SCAN clinic presents itself as “Safety Caring and Nurturing Clinic” while its real purpose is to watch parents for signs of child abuse. A number of parents have reported to us that sometimes the child abuse doctors appear to be so eager to find abuse that they allege abuse when none exists.
Dr. Boruchov reportedly called DCF. At the SCAN clinic, Weston was examined and photographed, and the police were called. Wendy was interrogated, and two days later, DCF showed up to seize temporary custody of Weston, alleging neglect and child abuse.
Abnormal Labwork Ignored
It was only after the police were called in that Weston’s labwork was done. One of the things that was measured was his PTT level. According to Healthline, Partial thromboplastin time (PTT) is a blood test that measures how long blood takes to clot. Weston’s PTT level was elevated. When this happens, excessive bleeding, persistent nosebleeds, and easy bruising may occur. According to his oncologist, Weston’s levels show that he was a bleeding risk, and his blood was not clotting correctly. However, DCF allegedly reported that his PTT level was not high.
Police Investigations Come Up Empty, But Weston Still in DCF Custody
After the police investigation, there were no charges filed against Wendy. They allegedly said that Wendy did not hurt her son. On January 13, Wendy was questioned again at the police station, with the same result. They told her that they would not charge her with anything.
According to a post on the Facebook page Pray for Weston:
“The prosecutor said i didn’t do anything and the cops said i didn’t do anything so they aren’t criminally charging me but dcf said it’s my responsibility to know what happen to him and since I don’t they are taking me to trial.”
The cancer doctor who first examined Weston allegedly admitted she didn’t know what happened, yet apparently it is now the legal responsibility of parents to know what happened even when the doctor cannot figure it out. It is allegedly on such tenuous grounds that a sick child is taken away from his own mother.
Possible Explanations for Bruise
Like any good mother, Wendy has racked her brain to try to figure out what could have happened to her son. She reports that she “had done research on every possible thing it could be.” One possibility is that Weston could have been kicked by another child at daycare or had an accident with a toy. He was in a room with toddlers who were walking and running around, while he was crawling. The day care was apparently not investigated, and he is still attending the same facility while in DCF custody.
Weston had been involved in a great deal of physical and occupational therapy at the time, and could have developed a muscle tear or hip flexor strain. This would have been detectable with an MRI. The elevated PTT levels would have led to a higher likelihood of bruising. The prosecutor allegedly told DCF that an MRI was needed as part of the investigation, but it never happened.
Another possibility that Wendy found relates to a medication that Weston had received in his port about a week before the incident, called pentamidine. According to her research, this medication can cause a rash, accounting for the diaper rash, as well as thrombopenia, or decreased platelets, accounting for the high PTT levels. She learned that the medication counteracts zinc oxide, which is the primary ingredient in the butt paste she used. The interaction can cause dark discoloration. Even rubbing the thick ointment on could conceivably have cause bruising with Weston’s clotting issue going on.
Wendy reports that the next time that Weston received a dose of pentamidine, three weeks after being taken into custody, the medicine had to be stopped because he developed a severe allergic reaction, including hives.
There are a number of valid possible medical explanations for the bruising, and no one is being charged with any abuse of Weston. But still Wendy goes home every night, without her son, based on DCF’s allegation that it was her responsibility to know what happened to her medically fragile child.
“One of the best mothers” Ordered to Take Parenting Classes
When Wendy went to court in November, she agreed to go to parenting classes and counseling classes. When I asked her why she agreed to those if she did nothing wrong, she said that they told her if she did those things, they would not take her to trial. She also said that they have never signed her up for the parenting classes they told her to attend.
Ironically, the mother they want to force to take parenting classes is a mother who faithfully nursed a child through a year of cancer treatments and got him better. One of her Facebook friends says,
“I’m praying that God will open their eyes and hearts and let them see that what they are doing to you and that precious baby is just so wrong. You are one of the best mothers I have seen in a long time.”
DCF has allegedly offered her a plea deal to avoid trial. If she will agree to substantiation going on her record, which puts her on a registry of child abusers, then they say they will begin the reunification process. That kind of record could jeopardize her career, and she doesn’t want to admit to something she didn’t do.
“Weston Belongs Home”
Wendy says that Weston is “a different kid” when she sees him for the brief visitation of 2 hours per week. “He doesn’t smile or laugh anymore.” He has been through so much in his short life, and now he is separated from the person he loves most in the world. Weston is forced to try to recover from the disease that took him to death’s door without his mother by his side. Wendy writes:
“Both Weston’s oncologist and neurologist have told DCF that Weston needs to be home with me and they have no concerns about me harming my son.”
The emotional impact of the separation is devastating to this little boy. They meet for visitation at the library. She says that he responds when she asks for a kiss or hug, until they put his coat on and take him to the car. Then he knows he is leaving. At that point if she asks for a kiss, and “he looks right through me.”
How to Help
The next hearing is expected to be in March, but no date has been set. Wendy reports that she has never seen the judge, prosecutor, or social worker associated with her case. She has a private attorney who has been in all the hearings, but she has not been allowed to go into the room.
There is a Facebook page set up to support the family and get updates called Pray for Weston.
The governor of Connecticut is Dannel Malloy. His office may be reached at (860) 566-4840, and contacted via email here.
Senator Henri Martin represents the Lamarres district, and may be reached at (800) 842-1421 and contacted here.
The Representative for the district is Frank Nicastro, Sr., and he may be reached at (800) 842-8267 and contacted here.
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