Contributed to TLB by: Health Impact News and Medical Kidnap
In what is becoming an all-too-familiar scenario, a young couple living in Fayetteville, North Carolina, took their baby to the emergency room when he was not acting right, only to find themselves almost a year later still battling to try to bring their child home out of Child Protective Services custody.
Concerns During Pregnancy
High school sweethearts Kacie and Raymond Hernandez, originally from Folsom, California, were transferred to NC in the middle of Kacie’s pregnancy, and there were concerns already. The couple eagerly anticipated the birth of their baby, and he is now the “light of their lives.”
There was difficulty in nailing down a precise due date because the ultrasounds in California showed that their baby’s head continually measured a full month ahead of his body. Doctors told her that she measured “too small” at almost every prenatal appointment. The baby was not an active baby, and Kacie rarely felt him move. She says that she felt like something was very wrong, and would often call the nurse hotline in tears out of fear for her baby.
In mid-August of 2014, the NC obstetrician decided to do an ultrasound and found that her amniotic fluid levels were low and that the baby was breech. There were no recommendations made at that time other than instructions to come back in two weeks to reevaluate. When Kacie returned on August 28, the amniotic fluid levels were at <5, and she was diagnosed with oligohydramnios. The baby was still breech, with the left side of his body tucked up under his mother’s ribs.
Little RJ (Raymond III) was born the next morning via c-section, at somewhere between 4 to 8 weeks premature. Kacie remembers him literally being stuck in her ribs and someone pushing down on her ribs to dislodge her baby. He weighed 5 lb, 14 oz, and was whisked away from them. She was told that he had breathing problems, but was ok. She had hoped to hold her baby skin-to-skin and breastfeed after he was born, but it was more than 7 hours later before she was able to hold her tiny bundle of joy.
Early Signs of Possible Problems Missed by Doctors
It was not until much later, after their world came crashing down on them, that they learned that their son had “multiple physical abnormalities that were never once mentioned.” Kaycie and Raymond were not even informed at the time that their baby had been taken to the NICU. Records show that he had a fever, as well as a wide anterior, abnormal head, neck, and extremities. The parents were assured that RJ was fine, and he went home with his parents at just 2 days old.
There were symptoms in RJ’s early days that concerned his parents, but were dismissed by the doctors. At times he would sometimes stare off in the distance, and, since birth, his eyes would move in opposite directions. Doctors now tell the Hernandez family that these eye movements were seizures. He kept his legs pulled up tightly to his chest for his first 2 months and showed signs of jaundice, such as yellow eyes and orange skin. The doctor assured them that his bilirubin levels were going down and would resolve without treatment. At one visit, RJ’s right eye was completely bloodshot, but the doctor allegedly chalked it up to a strain from crying.
Their World Comes Crashing Down
On the day after Thanksgiving, when RJ woke up from a nap, his parents noticed odd marks on his nose and under his left eye. They took pictures and sent them to family members to see if anyone could figure out what it could be. They decided to monitor him, and look out for any unusual behavior. The next day, the marks appeared to have spread and were darker. Still, RJ wasn’t acting differently, but they decided they were going to take him to the pediatrician on Monday morning. It never got to that point.
That same evening, as his diaper was being changed, RJ’s eyes went in different directions and he went limp. Kacie called her mother while Raymond applied a cold compress to his forehead.
RJ opened his eyes and let out a terrible cry.
His parents rushed him to Cape Fear Valley Hospital, where doctors originally thought it was a virus. They asked to do a CT scan due to the marks on his face. Kacie and Raymond readily agreed.
Doctor Accuses Parents of Abuse
They were not prepared at all for what happened next.
Cape Fear Valley Hospital has a “Child Maltreatment Team” so that their staff is trained in recognizing signs of abuse. As Health Impact News has noted, sometimes they “find” abuse where none exists, or they assume that injuries are the result of abuse without first checking to see if there are any underlying physical conditions to account for the injuries. Factors, such as RJ’s history surrounding his birth, are sometimes ignored.
The doctor who had once been so kind and helpful came in with a different demeanor and very coldly informed us that our child has brain bleeds and a linear skull fracture.
While we fell apart trying to ask how this could have happened, he quickly walked out and child protective services stepped in.
They later learned that the brain bleeds were old and healing, and that RJ had a completely healed clavicle and a healed rib fracture. RJ was 3 months old, and fractures take 2 to 3 months to heal. These fractures, including the skull fracture, were on his left side, where he had been tucked up under his mother’s ribs at birth, when a doctor pushed hard on her ribs during the c-section.
Meanwhile, RJ was transferred to UNC Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill, without his parents, who were separated from him and from each other and interrogated by CPS and detectives. Police asked them who slammed their 9 lb baby boy against a wall or threw him from a second story of a building.
We were in complete shock. Our son has never been dropped, he’s never rolled off of anything, he’s never sustained a single injury or any type of mistreatment.
When Parents Are Accused of Abuse, Doctors Quit Looking for the Cause, and Children Can Go Without Needed Treatment
They were “treated like complete monsters.” They told the investigators about their family history of epilepsy. They requested testing for possible genetic or bone disorders such as osteogenesis imperfecta. They asked for the doctors to test their son to see what could possibly explain his injuries. Later, their own research showed that RJ’s prematurity, low amniotic fluid, and lack of Vitamin K shot in a premature baby can predispose to brain bleeding and even brittle bones. His Vitamin D levels were not tested at the hospital, but they are low even now.
According to Kacie:
More research needs to be done, and more tests need to be given to our son, and we need someone willing to actually figure out what is going on with our child rather than just accuse us of abuse. Our son is so loved and is the light of our lives, and we desperately need a second opinion to explain exactly what happened to him and what type of treatment he needs.
No Charges Filed, but RJ Taken by CPS
Their baby stayed in the hospital at UNC Children’s for 2 weeks, but they were not permitted to see him at all. They were not even allowed to enter the waiting room, so they spent nights in their car in the hospital’s parking lot. CPS seized custody of RJ.
The Hernandez’s called Kacie’s mother in California, who promptly made arrangements to come to North Carolina to care for RJ. She left her job, husband, and family behind in order to make sure that her grandson did not go into foster care. She was permitted to care for him after he was released from the hospital in December.
She is still in North Carolina today, and her daughter and son-in-law have only been permitted short visits with RJ since then. Up until the September 24 hearing, they only got to spend one hour per week with their own flesh and blood. Since the hearing, their minuscule time has increased to 2 hours per week.
No charges were ever filed against Kacie or Raymond, but CPS has punished them severely without proof of any wrongdoing.
Brain Bleeding Continued, but Has Now Stopped
Though RJ was no longer in his parents’ custody, there were multiple reoccurring brain bleeds that would appear randomly in completely different spots between his discharge in December and May 2015.
At his July CT scan, the family was finally given some good news:
Good news, RJ is completely fine. He has no new bleeds and his linear skull fracture is completely healed. We no longer have any need to see him.
Medical staff and social workers told the family that RJ would be developmentally delayed. He was sure to have difficulty crawling and talking. The team of child abuse doctors even told the court that their son was blind, but it was obvious that this was not true. That allegation was later withdrawn.
Today RJ is proving every social worker in his case wrong by meeting every single milestone – crawling, talking, and even learning sign language.
Awaiting Medical Expert Testimony
It was back in March that the family was able to hire a medical expert to review all of RJ’s medical records, and the family began trying to obtain records to get them to him. The court ordered that the record be given to the expert at the June 4 hearing. However, it was only on October 2 that the CPS team finally got the last of the records to the expert for him to review. The Hernandez family fully expects the records to exonerate them.
The next hearing is an adjudication hearing on October 20, and the family hopes to have the expert opinion by then. Their family court trial isn’t scheduled until next year. They have been told that the goal is reunification, but they have also been told that CPS wants to terminate their parental rights.
How You Can Help
A friend of the family has called for a prayer chain for RJ, asking for people to:
Set your clocks for 10:00 am and 10:00 pm every day. It takes but a minute. There is POWER in PRAYER. May God be with them. God is Mighty. … Matthew 18:20 For where two or more gather in my name, there I am among them.
There is a website for the family at http://battle4rj.com/ Also, a Facebook page has been set up for supporters to keep up with the story and become involved in helping them.
Supporters are asked to contact Governor Pat McCrory and ask for RJ to be returned home. He may be reached at 919 814 2000, or contacted here.
Congressman Marvin W. Lucas represents the district that the Hernandez family lives in. He may be reached at 919 733 5775, or contacted here.
Senator Ben Clark is the Senator for their district. He may be reached at 919 733 9349, or reached here.
This whole ordeal has taken its toll on Kacie and Raymond, who desperately want to get their son back. Kacie says:
I’m ready to be a mom again, not just a visitor.