Contributed to TLB by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap
Holly Atkins was devastated last year when she learned that her son had multiple broken bones. A Child Abuse Specialist accused her of abuse without looking for medical conditions that would explain what happened, and Child Protective Services seized both of her children, placing them with her parents and sister.
Now North Carolina is demanding that her family cut off all ties to her, including phone calls and social media, or her children will go into foster care and be adopted out. The court appointed GAL attorney advocate, Donna Michelle Wright, reportedly told Holly’s parents in family court on March 23:
Act like [your daughter] never existed.
This same attorney reportedly told Holly’s father previously that:
If Holly’s parental rights are terminated, your main priority will have to be the children. Your and Holly’s relationship would be no more.
While even murderers are allowed visitation with family members, 28 year old Holly is faced with losing the close relationship she has always had with her parents as well as with her 20 year old sister, who lives with her parents. Her sister is being forced to choose between her relationship between her parents and niece and nephew, or her big sister. The Guilford County Family Court has made it clear that she cannot have both.
If Holly’s parents choose not to sever all contact with their daughter, the court has made it clear that the grandchildren, Baylie and Daylan, will go into the foster care system with the intent of adopting them out to strangers. Donna Wright’s complete no contact recommendation was adopted by the judge, and is now part of the court’s ruling, to go into effect after the next Child Protective Services “Team Meeting.”
Medical Problems Since Birth – Misdiagnosed
There were no significant problems with Holly’s pregnancy with Daylan. She enjoyed a diet that was mostly organic and included homegrown vegetables. His birth was an uncomplicated repeat c-section, but he experienced feeding issues from the beginning, throwing up even the colostrum from day 1.
Doctors put him on formula, but he continued to projectile vomit. He lost more than 10% of his body weight. By day 4, doctors prescribed ranitidine (Zantac) and added rice cereal to his diet. At first, he was taking ranitidine twice per day. Then, the dosage was increased and he took it 3 times a day, up until he was about 9 months old. All along, Daylan continued to projectile vomit.
He was misdiagnosed from the very beginning as having reflux, but it was not until much later, at 9 months of age, that it was discovered that Daylan is lactose intolerant. When Holly began feeding him solid food, he began throwing up less often and frequently rejected his bottle. His mother wondered if he could be lactose intolerant. After all, her sister had been. That was the point at which Holly tried switching him to lactose-free milk. All of a sudden, the vomiting stopped and he no longer needed the reflux medicine. It was never reflux.
The pediatrician recommended delaying vaccines until the vomiting was under control and he was used to his medications. Holly readily agreed with this because her daughter had reacted to some vaccines. He was not given the typical newborn vaccines, and when they started, they were given on a spaced out schedule.
All along, Holly noticed cracking and popping in Daylan, and she says he had bowed legs. She asked her pediatrician, but she was unconcerned, saying it was normal.
Hospital Trip Turns into a Nightmare
There was a couple of weeks when Holly says that Daylan was not quite acting like himself and was waking up frequently. He was also teething. It was at the end of that 2 week period when everything came crashing down. He woke up one morning after being very fussy the night before. It was March 1, 2015, and he was 11 months old.
It was around 7 am, but unlike most mornings, Daylan did not stand up in his crib and throw his pacifier after he woke up. When Holly picked him up, she noticed that his leg was red. When she changed his diaper, he acted like he was in pain. She gave him ibuprofen, but when she tried to feed him, he refused to eat. By that point, his leg had started swelling.
She called her mom and together they took Daylan to nearby Moses Cone Medical Center. Doctors there told Holly that his femur was broken. As she racked her brain to try to figure out what could have happened, the only answer she could think of at the time was that somehow the family’s 80 lb. boxer may have stepped on him or hurt him. The children loved playing with their dog, and the dog loved them and was very protective over Daylan and Baylie. At the time, that was the only explanation that Holly could come up with.
Despite regular pediatric visits, no one had yet considered the possibility that there was more to Daylan’s symptoms.
Not knowing what caused an injury is a red flag according to American Academy of Pediatrics policy. Having no explanation triggers doctors to follow abuse protocols. At Health Impact News, we have reported on many families whose children were taken because their child had an underlying medical condition, such as infantile rickets, osteogenesis imperfecta, or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which can look like child abuse. Often the doctors who see the children in the ER, or the Child Abuse Specialist doctors, are not well trained in what other things to look for before labeling a case as abuse.
Such was the case with Daylan, and abuse protocols had already been triggered in the emergency room. Doctors at Moses Cone told Holly that they were going to have to transfer her son to Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC. She did not want him to transfer, due to a previous negative experience with Brenner, but she was told that this was in case he needed surgery. She had no idea that Brenner had a team of Child Abuse Specialists on staff.
Before the transfer, nurses attempted to draw blood from Daylan. However, the emergency room did not have the appropriate size needle for the task. After the 4th attempt to draw blood from her baby, Holly pleaded with them to stop.
Greensboro City Police and crime scene investigators showed up at Moses Cone Medical Center. Holly reports that she consented for them to go back to her house, accompanied by her fiance and her father, in order to photograph the house and the dog.
Meanwhile, Holly tried to accompany her son as he was transferred to Brenner Children’s Hospital. They told her it was against their policy, and would not allow her to go with him.
Devastated, Holly, her mother, and Baylie followed the ambulance to Brenner. They were met by security guards and police.
Baby Stops Breathing After Being Sedated – Mother Not Told
A Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon informed Holly that he was going to apply a spica cast, which is a kind of body cast used to immobilize the hips or thigh. Their plan was to sedate Daylan, do a full set of skeletal x-rays, and apply the cast.
Holly realized that they did not yet have blood work labs, because the previous hospital didn’t have the right size needle. She has a medical background as a Certified Nursing Assistant II, and has worked in triage and trauma and with stroke victims. Sedation without first having blood work did not sound like a good idea to Holly, and she let the doctor know that. She reports that the doctor reassured her that it would just be a local anesthetic, and that:
I don’t think we’ll have a problem.
He was wrong.
When she saw her son about an hour later, Holly says that he was “loopy,” disoriented, pale, and didn’t seem to recognize family members. His eyes were rolling back into his head, and his eyes appeared solid black. She says that she also noticed a lump on his shoulder that hadn’t been there before she took Daylan to Moses Cone.
The staff reportedly told the alarmed mother that this was normal and that all this would wear off in an about 20 minutes. They said that “everything went fine.”
It was not until many months later that she obtained medical records showing that he had stopped breathing and coded during the procedure, requiring resuscitation, using a jaw thrust and other measures. No one allegedly told Holly about this.
However, about 15 minutes later, doctors came in to tell her that the x-rays showed several other fractures, including a fresh clavicle break, and a fracture of the tibia and rib fractures in various stages of healing. She was stunned.
Many parents in similar situations have reported to Health Impact News that their first instinct when hearing news like this is to ask themselves who could have hurt their child. Holly is no different. As doctors and police questioned her, Holly says that she and her mother at first thought that, maybe, Daylan’s father could have hurt him, especially since doctors said that many of the fractures were older. She had left him months earlier, alleging that he had been abusive to her. She had never seen him abuse their children. However, in light of her son’s condition, she wondered if he could have hurt Daylan when he had cared for the kids while she worked.
Holly also asked the doctors if anything else could have caused the fractures. She asked to see the x-rays and records, but they refused her. She asked for doctors to run blood work to see if there could be a medical condition. Child Abuse Specialist Dr. Stacy Briggs, now Stacy Thomas, assured her that blood work was run and came back negative. Holly says that she is supposed to have all of his medical records by now. However, Holly reports that she can find no record of any such tests being run.
Experts in radiology, neurology, orthopedics, and other specialties regularly assert that there are a myriad of medical conditions which mimic child abuse. However, numerous families have reported, and medical and court documents confirm, that once a Child Abuse Specialist labels a child as being abused, doctors frequently stop looking for other possible explanations for the child’s condition. The children are then funneled into the Child Protective System, triggering the release of federal funding to the state.
Child Protective Services Steps In
On the 2nd day of Daylan’s hospitalization, Child Protective Services told her that her children would not be allowed to go home with her. Daylan was released to his grandparents’ care on March 3, and 4 year old Baylie was ordered to go home with them as well. Child Protective Service officially seized custody of both children on March 19, 2015. Holly says that she and her fiance were coerced into signing a safety plan agreement. Social workers told them that the children would go into foster care if they refused to sign. Even thought they now live with their grandparents, CPS has all the control.
In the beginning, Holly and her fiance were allowed visitation every evening to feed and bathe the children, and put them to bed. That was short-lived. By March 19, CPS cut off all visits. In court 6 days later, a judge ruled that Holly could have one hour long visit per week.
Arrested, Without a Warrant or Miranda Rights Being Read
In May, police came to arrest Holly at her home. She asked to see a warrant, but says that the officer refused to show her a warrant for her arrest. Her Miranda rights were reportedly not read to her. Holly Atkins was charged with felony “negligent omission in the care of the child [which] showed a reckless disregard for human life, and that act resulted in serious physical injury to the child.” Her bond was set at $30,000. Her parents were able to bail her out that day. Before this incident, Holly has never been in any trouble with the law before in her life.
Searching for Answers
Since that time, although doctors have allegedly not looked for any other explanation besides abuse, Holly has been searching for answers. Vitamin C and D deficiencies can predispose to brittle bones, but if Daylan was ever tested for any vitamin deficiencies, she has not seen any records of such. She knows that he was anemic, and she suspects that the ranitidine may have reduced his calcium absorption.
She has learned about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a medical condition that is often confused with child abuse. Holly has spoken with a world-renowned expert on EDS who believes that she has many signs of having EDS. She was born with a dislocated hip and has always been “double-jointed.” She reports that her children are hypermobile as well. Hypermobility is a classic symptom of EDS. The expert wants to test both Holly and Daylan; however, the courts are refusing to allow either of them to travel out of state to be tested.
Although Holly has asked for testing for other medical conditions which are often mistaken for child abuse, such as osteogenesis imperfecta and infantile rickets, her requests have fallen on deaf ears. She still does not know what his Vitamin D levels were.
All along, Daylan has shown numerous signs of some kind of brittle bone disorder, but no one made the connections. She had previously asked her pediatrician about her son’s bones cracking and popping, and the fact that he was bow-legged. Now she realizes that these are signs of brittle bone conditions, but recalls that when she questioned these signs before, she was told that the symptoms were normal. He is still very short for his age.
Conflicting Stories from Holly’s Accusers
In the beginning, Dr. Stacy Briggs, who is now known as Dr. Thomas, allegedly asserted that the injuries were from blunt force trauma. Later, the court was told that the breaks were caused by compression. Her report of how the injuries happened in the police report is allegedly “completely different” than her version of events in the adjudication hearing, according to Holly.
To date, the hospital has not released the x-rays that were taken when Daylan was sedated for the spica cast and subsequently coded. Holly has x-rays from the follow up skeletal survey from 2 weeks later. She notes that there was no sign of Daylan’s shoulder swelling when she took him to the hospital. Holly questions when the breaks occurred of his clavicle and the right posterior ribs, wondering if they could have happened while her son was being resuscitated.
When Holly’s mother questioned Dr. Briggs during a doctor visit a month later, Dr. Briggs reportedly told her mother that she was not a radiologist and does not know how to read x-rays.
While early medical reports cite “multiple bilateral healing rib fractures” involving a dozen ribs, as well as of the tibia, clavicle, and femur, a later report from a radiologist says that there are 3 broken bones, with no rib fractures at all.
The petition for removal states that the injuries occurred in a “non-ambulatory child.” However, at the time, 11 month old Daylan was very mobile – crawling, pulling up, walking with someone holding his hand, and trying to walk. His bowed legs gave him trouble, but he was quite ambulatory, and loved to follow his mother around the house.
A social worker used his mobility to accuse Holly of neglect, saying that, because she allowed her son to “free crawl” without a playpen, that meant he free crawled without supervision. Holly was incredulous:
I lived in a 700 square foot house! He was my velcro baby! [always by her side]
Mother Refuses to Throw Fiance Under the Bus
While Holly maintains that she did not hurt her baby, and there has to be a medical explanation, she also does not believe that her fiance hurt him. However, the Child Protective Services attorney reportedly told her that the only way that she would get her children back was by accusing her fiance of abuse. Another attorney reportedly said, “It’s either you or him.”
Holly told Health Impact News that she refuses to perjure herself by accusing her fiance, nor does she have any intention of throwing someone she believes to be innocent under the bus. There is no evidence that either she or her fiance harmed Daylan, and to this day, she still does not know how it happened. That is why she wants to take her son to some medical experts.
On January 26, family court held the pre-adjudication, adjudication, and disposition hearing all on the same day, even though those are theoretically supposed to be held on 3 different occasions. By this point, Holly was representing herself pro se. The court has reportedly declined to entertain the possibility of other explanations for Daylan’s condition, ignoring Holly’s evidence. Once, when she stated that she has not harmed her children, the JCITI Coordinator, a representative who is supposed to advocate for the child, reportedly exclaimed:
I don’t give a damn what you say, and nobody else in here gives a damn what you say.
Her fiance was not permitted to be a witness for her and was thrown out of court, because at one point during the proceedings, he stood up and addressed the accusations against Holly:
These are all lies!
He and Holly are now both on the child abuse registry, even though he was never questioned or given any semblance of due process.
When Holly’s family stood on the Constitution, the GAL attorney advocate Donna Michelle Wright reportedly told the family:
Amendment rights are for criminal court, not family court. This is not criminal court; it’s family court.
As it stands now, the criminal charges she faces are neglect and failure to protect her son from injury. She is not actually being charged with harming him. However, Holly could be facing 8 1/2 to 10 years in prison for injuries that appear most likely to have been caused from a kind of brittle bone condition. Holly tells Health Impact News:
I’m not the one abusing my kids; the system is.
How You Can Help
There is another hearing in criminal court at 10 am on Monday, April 4, at the Guilford County Courthouse in Greensboro, NC, at 201 S Eugene Street, in courtroom 3C. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether or not the state has enough evidence to take this to Jury Trial or not. Supporters are welcome to attend.
Because of GAL attorney advocate Donna Michelle Wright’s no contact order between Holly and her parents, her own parents will not be permitted to go to support their oldest child as she faces criminal court. Wright has reportedly told Holly that:
Your children would be better off knowing that you never existed in their life.
Another family court hearing will take place at the same address on May 20 at 9 am in courtroom 2D. The child protective services plan for adoption has been appealed.
The family is asking for prayer for justice and for their family to be reunited.
A Facebook page called Let My Babies Go has been set up for the family by supporters so that the public can follow their story.
The Senator for Holly Atkins’ district is Gladys Robinson. She may be reached at 919 715 3042, or contacted here.
Representative Cecil Brockman represents Holly’s district. He may be reached at 919 733 5825, or contacted here.
Donna Michelle Wright is the GAL attorney advocate who is determined to sever not only Holly’s contact and relationship with her children, but also every tie and contact between Holly and her parents and sister. She may be reached at 336 415 7595, or 336 324 7965, or contacted at Donna.M.Wright@nccourt.org.
Holly says that “my whole life has been destroyed,” and she is adamant that she will keep fighting for her children:
I’m not giving up on my kids, and I’m not going to back down like they think I will!
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