Contributed to TLB by: Health Impact News and Medical Kidnap
When Tai Simmons-Roper and her husband Shawn took their 4 week old baby Braxton to Greenville Memorial Hospital in South Carolina for excessive spitting up, the last thing they expected was that doctors would find multiple unexplained fractures, and that they would be thrown into jail and have their beloved new baby taken away from them by Child Protective Services. They had no way of knowing that their son had serious metabolic bone disease, nor did the Child Abuse Specialist who reported them test Braxton to rule out such conditions before reporting them for child abuse.
After later medical reports were sent to the DA confirming that Braxton actually has infantile rickets and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, all criminal charges were dropped. However, DSS (Department of Social Services) is still refusing to give custody back to his parents. Braxton’s older brother was also taken away, and DSS won’t let him go home either.
Their case is allegedly based on the medical opinion of a Child Abuse Specialist at Greenville Memorial Hospital, Dr. Mary-Fran Crosswell. Her partner, Dr. Henderson, has been involved in several cases of medical kidnapping that have been reported by Health Impact News.
Several medical experts have reportedly examined Braxton’s medical records and x-rays, and they report that findings of child abuse are not supported by the evidence. In fact, they point out that numerous clear signs of very real medical problems were missed or ignored by the Child Abuse Specialists.
Dr. Doug Benson is an Orthopedic surgeon and a recognized expert on infantile rickets and metabolic bone disorders, who states that Braxton’s low Vitamin D level of 14 is a clear indicator that the baby already had problems. He pulled no punches in his report:
To ignore a Vit. D25 level of 14 or suggest it is not relevant is as indefensible as to ignore a very low blood sugar in a comatose patient.
Early Concerns About Braxton’s Health
Braxton was born on November 25, 2014, at Greenville Memorial Hospital. Tai was happy that she was able to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) after her c-section birth with Braxton’s big brother 3 years earlier. He was a big baby – 9 lbs 5 oz, but he appeared healthy. He got a Vitamin K shot and Hepatitis B vaccine before going home from the hospital.
Tai was exclusively breastfeeding him, but they became concerned when Braxton started spitting up excessively. On December 23, there was a spot of blood in his spit up, so Tai and Shawn took him to a nearby hospital in North Carolina, where they had just moved days earlier. The doctors thought that he had pyloric stenosis and reflux, and told her to come back on Christmas Eve for an ultrasound test and other testing. They were told to come back after Christmas.
While the family visited Tai’s mother and family for Christmas, Tai noticed that there were bruises on her son’s legs. Her mother, Misty Mays, told her that it was probably from the doctors holding Braxton down for the tests, and that things like that happen sometimes.
After they returned to NC, Braxton was again spitting up with flecks of blood in it. They took him back to the hospital where they ruled out pyloric stenosis, but found meningococcal bacteria in his blood. IV antibiotics were started, and his arm was bruised from nurses inserting the IV. He was in the hospital 4 days, and his grandparents visited often. He was home again for less than 24 hours before he was again spitting up blood. His parents took him back to the hospital, and the doctors noted the bruises. That hospital referred him to Greenville Memorial Hospital in Greenville, SC.
Greenville – Where the Real Problems Began
Tai and her family were unaware that the Greenville hospital has two Pediatric Child Abuse Specialists on staff. They simply believed that Greenville was going to provide better care for their sick baby, who was the light of their lives.
Braxton’s easy bruising was becoming a pattern, and Tai’s mother, Misty Mays, had been noticing thumb size bruising on his legs and ankles wherever Braxton had been held down for testing. At one point she noticed a thumb sized bruise on his scrotum, where earlier a nurse had pressed on it during a urinalysis test. That bruise was not there when they arrived at Greenville the day before. She pointed it out to the doctor when he made rounds.
Because of the bruising, doctors decided to order x-rays. This is standard policy, set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, because they teach that:
In the absence of independently witnessed accidental trauma or a known medical cause, any bruising in a nonmobile child is highly concerning for abuse and necessitates an evaluation for child abuse.
The Pediatrics journal article is co-authored by Dr. James Anderst, who is a Child Abuse Pediatrician at the SCAN clinic at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Jaxon Adams was medically kidnapped after being seen in Anderst’s clinic. See:
The article states, while doctors evaluate the child for evidence of abuse, such children with bruising should simultaneously be evaluated by other conditions which can also cause easy bruising, including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), yet this allegedly was not done.
At the time that Tai and Shawn brought Braxton to the hospital, no one yet realized that Tai herself had EDS. Children of parents with EDS are at increased risk of having the disorder themselves, but no one at Greenville seemed interested in evaluating to see if there were any other explanations for the bruising. Naturally, the bruising was “unexplained” because the parents didn’t know that their child had a medical disorder.
Also, according to Dr. Benson:
The “easy bruisability,” particularly in an infant with a family history of problems with gastroesophageal reflux, should have been recognized as a manifestation of a possible collagen disorder or coagulopathy. The medical records reviewed did not indicate that this was ever adequately considered or tested for.
Child Abuse Specialist Accuses Parents of Abuse
Misty recounts that, when the results of the x-rays came back, Dr. Mary-Fran Crosswell, Child Abuse Specialist, confidently told the family that Braxton had been abused and had been shaken. She said that the baby had 2 fractures on his knees, 2 on his ankles, and “almost” had a fracture on his wrist.
She reported Tai and Shawn to Child Protective Services (DSS). While the family was still reeling in shock, Dr. Crosswell reportedly told them:
We’re going to go ahead and do a CT scan, but I can already tell you that he’s going to have brain damage.
But that was not what the scan reportedly showed. There was allegedly no brain damage at all. Tai reports that Dr. Crosswell made numerous accusations, but every time tests were done to confirm the things she accused them of, the tests would come back negative.
Also routine according to AAP policy is to perform another set of x-rays about 2 weeks after initial x-rays show multiple unexplained fractures. Misty told Health Impact News that Dr. Crosswell told her:
I’m sure when you bring him back for the follow up skeletal survey in two weeks, we’re going to find multiple fractures.
The doctor’s earlier pronouncements of doom and abuse with the brain damage had terrified the family, and grandmother Misty questioned Dr. Crosswell’s presuppositions:
Are you as sure of that as you were that he’s going to have brain damage?
There was one additional fracture found in the follow-up skeletal survey, on Braxton’s foot, where he had reportedly been held down during another test.
Reports as to the number of broken bones in Braxton vary. Tai reports that she was told that Braxton had 3 rib fractures. Misty said that DSS told her that the doctor said there were 12. Braxton’s pediatrician later mentioned the rib fractures, but Misty said that information had to have come from the hospital.
Later, both Misty and Tai report that Dr. Crosswell denied ever saying anything about rib fractures. Dr. Benson and other experts later examined the x-rays and determined that the fractures date back to Braxton’s birth, or possibly earlier. Misty and Tai theorize that, because the fractures had to have happened either in the womb or during the birth, they don’t fit the picture of child abuse, and indicated that there were problems with his bones from the very beginning. This is why they believe that Greenville Memorial Hospital swept the rib fractures under the rug.
Tai and Shawn were arrested on charges of child abuse and thrown into jail on January 5, 2015. A judge issued a no-contact order and neither parent was permitted to see their son or each other for 6 months. Fortunately, DSS obeyed the federal laws about kinship placement in this case, and permitted Braxton to go to his grandmother Misty’s home on January 2. Tai’s 4 year old son from a previous relationship was also seized by DSS, and he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents.
Indications of Real Medical Conditions, Not Abuse
Since Braxton was taken from his parents, both he and his mother have been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos/hypermobility Syndrome. Severe allergies are associated with EDS.
Shortly after Braxton was taken, the formerly breastfed baby was put on formula. The spitting up of blood only appeared a couple of times after that. Tai believes that he was very allergic to something in her diet. She never had the opportunity to try eliminating various things from her diet in order to find the culprit, which is the usual protocol if a baby is allergic to something in the breastmilk.
According to Dr. Benson, Braxton’s reflux, as well as Tai’s reflux and heartburn during pregnancy, are associated with EDS. Because of her heartburn, she reportedly took “bottles” of antacids. Most physicians see no harm in mother’s taking them for their symptoms. However, in our coverage of stories of babies who have been medically kidnapped with brittle bone type conditions, Health Impact News has seen multiple medical reports in the mothers of these babies citing high consumption of Tums type antacids. Medical expert and radiologist Dr. David Ayoub has this to say about Tums and other antacid tablets:
While generally considered safe, calcium carbonate was actually the active ingredient given to rats during research studies in the 1920s-1950s to produce rickets in the mice! Crazy but true—TUMS’ active ingredient (calcium carbonate) is a rickets-causing chemical due to its phosphate-binding properties (calcium carbonate is even used in dialysis patients to bind phosphate).
Are American Academy of Pediatrics Child Abuse Policies Leading to Medical Kidnappings?
Though the American Academy of Pediatrics cites “multiple unexplained fractures” as indicating abuse, they also indicate conditions as rickets, osteogenesis imperfecta, EDS, and metabolic bone disease. Braxton’s Vitamin D25 levels were abnormally low, at a level of 14. Levels this low are often associated with infantile rickets. Several medical experts have examined Braxton’s medical records and x-rays, and have identified infantile rickets. The Vitamin D deficiency, together with the antacid consumption, can account for another finding in Braxton’s records – inadequate mineralization.
Medical expert Dr. Marvin Miller evaluated Braxton’s x-rays and CT scan performed by Greenville Hospital on December 31, 2014, and concluded that his skull showed marked signs of inadequate mineralization of his bones.
Contrast this image with a normal newborn skull. Note how much smaller normal suture lines are in a normal infant.
Though healing rib fractures were noted by several experts in the x-rays, there was no organ damage or bruising to his chest – things that would be expected if the rib fractures were caused by abuse.
Unfortunately, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a policy that does not appear to take into account that children may have valid medical conditions, such as rickets, which account for rib fractures. In one policy paper, here, AAP states that “rib fractures are highly suggestive of child abuse.”
Braxton’s ribs show flared ends which, according to Dr. Benson is “compelling evidence of a metabolic bone disease,” not abuse.
Dr. Crosswell was consistent with AAP policy that states that classical metaphyseal lesions (CMLs) found in the x-rays are a high indicator of abuse. However, Drs. Ayoub, Miller, and Hyman have stated that CMLs are actually indicators of metabolic bone disease. Many doctors believe CMLs to be fractures; however, when these lesions are examined microscopically, there is no associated hemorrhaging. Instead of being fractures, they are believed to be stages of healing of metabolic bone disease. According to Dr. Benson:
Recent study [has] demonstrated that the opinions of the past that “metaphyseal lesions” are “fractures” – which are an indication of child abuse – are unsupportable.
Further, Dr. Benson states that doctors often confuse healing of traumatic fractures with the body’s metabolic repair of inadequate mineralization.
It is not difficult to differentiate if one is familiar with traumatic fractures as well as metabolic bone disorders.
However, as many families are finding out, the doctors they encounter at many Childrens Hospitals are affiliated with Child Abuse Specialists, who specialize in finding child abuse, but who are not well versed in metabolic bone disorders or other physiological explanations for their babies’ conditions. The jump-to diagnosis is often child abuse, in accordance with AAP policies, and tests to differentiate or find other causes are often not performed.
For Braxton, his grandmother says that, once Dr. Crosswell said it was child abuse, the doctors stopped looking for any other possible cause for his symptoms, neglecting care for his real medical conditions.
Former Social Worker: Threat of Lawsuits and Loss of Grant Money Influences CPS and Doctors
A former social worker from South Carolina, who asked to remain anonymous, recently contacted Health Impact News to explain why doctors like Dr. Crosswell stop looking for other explanations once they have decided that a case is child abuse, and it’s a case of “follow the money.”
Many doctors, including Child Abuse Specialists, receive grants for their research. Millions of dollars are up for grabs. Whenever a case comes in to the hospital that the specialists can write up as child abuse, they can use that to get more grant money. However, if a doctor states that a case is child abuse, but later recants that diagnosis based on medical findings, they run the risk of lawsuits, and lawsuits on the record impact a doctor’s ability to obtain grant funding.
Rather than admit that the evidence shows a different picture than they originally thought, the grant money and their reputation influences the child abuse specialists to “stick with” an evaluation of child abuse, even if medical testing clearly shows a different explanation.
In many Medical Kidnap cases, CPS and the courts hinder parents from getting additional tests. Parents have to fight hard, and even then, some are still forbidden to get testing done for their children. Sometimes, the Child Abuse Specialists or even CPS call other doctors that the family plan to take the children to, and suddenly, mysteriously, the new doctor will no longer agree to see the child, or their evaluation changes.
Cleared of Criminal Charges, but Still Don’t Get Children Back
Fortunately, Braxton’s grandmother was not prevented from getting him evaluated outside of the Greenville system. Those results have cleared Tai and Shawn in the criminal court system, where they had faced the possibility of 35 years in prison.
However, DSS still has control of their family. Tai still wants to get her babies back, but DSS is allegedly fighting her every step of the way. The whole traumatic ordeal has led to Tai and Shawn divorcing, a sad, but all too common result of Child Protective Services involvement in a family.
Tai passed the psychological evaluation that DSS made her take, and all of her required drug tests came back clean. She lost her job making sure that she got to every parenting class that DSS required, and made 100% on the test. Yet, just as many other parents report, no matter how many hoops she jumps through, it is never enough.
In a bizarre twist, DSS has accused Tai of being negligent because her son was Vitamin D deficient.
Just before Christmas, Tai felt bullied into agreeing to a DSS settlement that would remove her name from the child abuse registry. Her family had just hired a new attorney, who asked Judge Alvin Johnson for a continuance. That was denied.
Her former attorney allegedly failed to prepare for the hearing and left her defenseless, even though there was plenty of evidence showing that she had not abused her son. She tentatively agreed to the conditions of the deal, telling the judge, “Yes, sir, at this time.” Yet, Misty reports that when her daughter, who is almost 22, got the papers in the mail to sign, the documents did not at all reflect what was in court. The things that are written on paper are things that Tai said she would never agree to. She has not signed them.
In that hearing, DSS in Pickens County, SC, awarded permanent custody of Braxton to his grandparents, Misty and her husband. Bentley’s paternal grandparents now have permanent custody of him.
How You Can Help
Misty says that she wants her daughter to have “a chance to have a decent hearing and actually be represented.” A Facebook page has been set up to support the family called Justice for Braxton.
Senators Joel Lourie and Katrina Shealey have been involved in a bipartisan investigation of the Department of Social Services. This case is one that they need to be made aware of.
Senator Lourie may be reached at (803) 212-6116 or (803) 256-2067, or contacted here.
Senator Shealey may be reached at (803) 212-6108, or contacted here.
Senator Larry Martin represents the family’s district in Pickens County and may be reached at (803) 212-6610 or (864) 306-2126, or contacted here.
The Governor of South Carolina is Nikki Haley at (803)734-2100. She can be contacted here.