A baby removed from her parents after suspicions of abuse in fact suffers from a rare illness, a family court has found.
The family asked to be identified in order to raise awareness of their child’s condition.
Effie, is now approaching her first birthday, was admitted to hospital last summer. Her parents, both in their early 20s, said she had collapsed. Doctors found her unresponsive and struggling to breathe and she suffered a number of seizures.
A CT scan revealed that the baby had ‘bilateral chronic subdural hygromas’ (accumulations of fluid on the brain) and she underwent treatment to relieve the resulting pressure. There were no bone fractures but there was an abnormality of one rib, some bruises and retinal haemorrhaging – none externally visible however.
Effie was made the subject of an emergency protection order and the Police began an investigation. In the Family Court sitting at Milton Keynes, Her Honour Judge Venables conducted a fact-finding hearing. She noted that:
“Both parents have cooperated with all channels of enquiry.”
Effie was finally discharged from the children’s ward and placed in foster care, where she has remained ever since.
Judge Venables explained:
“Effie is now reported to be thriving. It would appear she has suffered no long term consequences from these medical events.”
A police offer noted that while both parents seemed distressed, the father, Craig, seemed especially agitated and he was arrested on suspicion of posing a threat to his daughter.
He later apologised for his behaviour, saying he had been scared.
Social workers at Buckinghamshire Council believed the baby’s symptoms had been caused by her father shaking her and applied for Effie to be taken into long-term care.
During the course of the proceedings, however, an entirely different explanation for Effie’s injuries emerged. Her mother Carla was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes abnormally thin skin prone to bruising, as well as fragile internal organs. As a result Effie was examined and found to also be suffering from the Syndrome.
In a lengthy ruling, Judge Venable considered the detailed medical evidence received from a numer of experts.
“The local authority seeks permission to withdraw their application for a care order. They do so on the basis that the evolving medical evidence would no longer enable them to make out the threshold [establish that there was need for Effie to be permanently removed from her parents and placed in care]”.
She granted permission, saying there was “no solid advantage” to the care proceedings continuing.
She also acknowledged the fortitude of Effie’s young parents, saying:
“I would also like to commend these 2 young parents for the extraordinarily dignified way in which they have conducted themselves over the course of this hearing. They have been required to listen to a mountain of medical evidence relating to their young and vulnerable daughter all of which served to confirm that she has a life changing diagnosis which will significantly impact on her health, lifestyle and likely longevity.”
The ruling is here.
Image by Taber Andrew Bain via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence