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Social Workers Diagnose Abuse Instead of Genetic Disease

October 25, 2014 permalink

Texas parents Ricardo Victorino Jr and Sabrina Vera had their infant son Jaiden seized by CPS when he fractured his femur (thigh). The parents have also been charged with criminal child abuse. Investigation has determined that the boy suffers from a bone condition, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, inherited from his unsuspecting mother. One irony - the mother is a former CPS caseworker.



Couple say genetic disease is cause of child's injuries, not abuse

Ricardo Victorino Jr, Sabrina Vera and Jaiden Victorino
Portrait of Ricardo Victorino Jr. and Sabrina Vera with a photo of their son Jaiden Victorino Monday Oct. 20, 2014 at their home in La Pryor, Tx. Jaiden was removed by Child Protective Services for what appeared to be injury to a child. Jaiden suffers from a genetic disorder that results in broken bones.
Edward A. Ornelas, San Antonio Express-News

LA PRYOR — A mother of a 6-month-old says the state is wrongly accusing her of child abuse, although a doctor has confirmed her son suffers from a rare genetic disease that makes him prone to broken bones.

Ehler-Danlos syndrome, or EDS, can cause weak bones in infants and leave them vulnerable to fractures, even with normal handling, says Dr. Golder Wilson, a Dallas geneticist who's scheduled to testify at a court hearing today on behalf of the mother, Sabrina Vera.

Vera is charged with felony injury to a child and her son, Jaiden, was removed by Child Protective Services.

Vera, 26, and her partner, Jaiden's father, Ricardo Victorino, 30, were bewildered about their son's injuries until they learned about the disease.

Wilson diagnosed Jaiden with EDS after examining him last month, finding telltale symptoms — eye discoloration, hyper-flexibility and unusually stretchy skin.

There are at least two other families in Texas who have gone through ordeals strikingly similar to what the La Pryor couple are experiencing — mysterious bone fractures in their babies, allegations of child abuse followed by criminal charges of injury to a child.

In both cases, the charges later were dropped after the children were diagnosed with EDS by Wilson. Both families appeared on Katie Couric's talk show in 2013 to tell their stories and spread the word about EDS.

Vera hopes the charges will be dropped in her case as well, and she can bring her son home.

In June, when Jaiden was 2 months old, Vera and Victorino noticed one of his legs looked swollen and floppy.

The baby had cried a lot ever since they brought him home from the hospital, where he'd spent a month in intensive care for aspirating meconium, an infant's first stool, during delivery. But this was different.

“Every time we'd touch his knee, he'd cry out,” Victorino said.

So the couple rushed him to a hospital in Uvalde. There, an X-ray showed Jaiden had a fractured thigh bone.

The baby was taken to University Hospital in San Antonio. Scans done there and at the Center for Miracles revealed bone fractures all over his body.

CPS was called in, and the verdict was swift: Jaiden was a victim of child abuse.

“It's been a living, breathing nightmare every since,” Vera said.

Child Protective Services declined to comment on the case, spokeswoman Mary Walker said Tuesday.

Vera and her mother were recently diagnosed with moderate forms of EDS by Wilson. Vera had no idea her own hyper-flexibility — to demonstrate, she can pull her thumb down until it touches her forearm — put her son at risk for fractures.

Ironically, Vera was employed for 21/2 years by CPS as a caseworker in the foster care system before her arrest.

The problem, said Wilson, is that many in the legal, medical and child welfare communities don't know about the disease and how it can masquerade as child abuse.

At least seven families in the U.S. have become ensnared in the legal system because their children have EDS, he said.

“There are some real injustices happening because of gaps in medical knowledge,” he said.

Dennis Moreno, Vera's attorney, said CPS is fighting the EDS diagnosis.

Vera said that when the X-rays came back showing the fractures in her son's body, the idea he'd been abused was a foregone conclusion on the part of hospital personnel and CPS.

“Everyone looked at us like we were monsters,” she said, sitting in her modest but immaculate home in La Pryor, where pictures of Jaiden decorate a living room wall and the cheery nursery, decorated with drawings of giraffes.

When CPS first removed Jaiden, he was placed with Vera's mother, and the couple only could see him with supervision three days a week. After a court hearing, Vera was arrested and put in jail for six days, with a $50,000 bond. After she was released, she could only see Jaiden for one hour a week at CPS headquarters in San Antonio.

Vera's mother came across the online video of the Katie Couric show, as well as a Dallas TV station report on EDS.

“We thought, maybe this is the answer,” Vera said.

They were able to have then 5-month-old Jaiden examined by Wilson in his Dallas office, who used something called the Beighton scale to diagnose the baby.

The blood test for EDA examines all 23,000 genes implicated in the connective tissue disorder spectrum, Wilson said. Jaiden's test won't be available for five months, but even a negative response won't discount the fact he has EDS.

“There are still genes the sequencing doesn't cover, so you could miss the mutation,” he said. “You have to look at a group of genes. ... That's the fallacy that the courts or CPS are falling into, aided and abetted by geneticists, saying, 'Well, if it's not medical, it must be abuse.'”

He said that spiral fractures — such as the one in Jaiden's femur — are traditionally seen as a sign of abuse, because they involve a twisting, not a simple break.

“But that fact is these bones are really soft in these babies,” Wilson said. “You can cause that twist just by the way you grab the ankles and lift to change a diaper.”

That Jaiden hasn't experienced any more fractures since being removed from his home doesn't prove Vera's guilt, Wilson added. A number of things could account for that — more careful handling in light of his disease, or increased muscle resistance that develops simply because he's growing.

Many adults and babies with EDS also have vitamin D deficiency, he said; as Jaiden eats and drinks milk, his muscles will grow stronger.

Other than her one-hour visit with her son once a week, Vera only gets to see the pictures her mother texts her.

“I miss him, every single day,” she said, standing next to his empty crib, tears in her eyes. “We're speaking out now just so this doesn't happen to another family.”

Source: San Antonio Express News

But the judge sided with CPS, keeping the baby away from mom and dad.



Judge rules that infant must stay away from parents

Sabrina Vera, Maria Victorino, Dennis Moreno and Ricardo Victorino Jr
Sabrina Vera, (from left), speaks as Maria Victorino (Ricardo's mother), attorney Dennis Moreno, and Ricardo Victorino Jr., listen outside the Zavala County Courthouse Wednesday Oct. 22, 2014 in Crystal City, Tx. Sabrina and Ricardo's son Jaiden Victorino was removed by Child Protective Services for what appeared to be injury to a child. Jaiden has been diagnosed with Ehler-Danlos syndrome or EDS, a rare genetic disease that makes him prone to broken bones.
Edward A. Ornelas, San Antonio Express-News

CRYSTAL CITY — A district court judge in Zavala County apparently wasn't swayed by the argument that a genetic tissue disease caused multiple bone fractures in then-2-month-old Jaiden Victorino.

Judge Amado Abascal granted the request of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that the now-6-month-old be placed under the care of the state and not be returned to his parents, at least for the time being.

A lawyer for the state argued that it was likely abuse, not a connective tissue disease called EDS, that accounted for the fractures to the child's thigh, ribs and elsewhere in June.

“Placing the child back at home at this time is contrary to the child's welfare,” the judge said.

Jaiden will remain with his maternal grandmother, Dora Mirelez, while his parents, Sabrina Vera, 26, and Ricardo Victorino, 30, of La Pryor, undergo psychological evaluations, parenting classes, counseling and other services.

They will be allowed a supervised visit with their son one hour a week in the Uvalde office of Child Protective Services, where, oddly enough, Vera was a foster care caseworker until she went on maternity leave.

Vera has been identified by CPS as the alleged abuser and is charged with second-degree injury to a child.

She has steadfastly denied that she injured Jaiden.

The couple contend that, based on the findings of a Dallas geneticist, Jaiden has Ehler-Danlos syndrome, which can cause weak bones in infants and leave them vulnerable to fractures, even with normal handling.

Dr. Golder Wilson, the geneticist who specializes in EDS, testified by phone Wednesday on behalf of Vera. He also found that Vera and her mother have a moderate form of EDS.

The couple had an in-depth $9,000 gene-sequencing test performed on Jaiden, the results of which should be available in January or February. It may provide definitive proof of whether he has EDS.

The state argued that there was no evidence that Jaiden had many of the classic symptoms of EDS or that the disorder played a role in his injuries.

The attorney said in her closing argument that Jaiden suffered no apparent fractures in his three weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Jaiden needed care immediately after his birth for aspirating meconium, an infant's first stool, during delivery.

Nor did Jaiden have any injuries in the first five weeks under his parents' care or in the care of his grandmother after CPS stepped in, officials testified.

His fractures apparently happened only in one period in June. This served to implicate his parents in committing physical abuse, in particular Vera, CPS concluded.

A polygraph test that Vera reportedly failed was not introduced in court.

In testimony, state investigators repeatedly mentioned Vera's seeming lack of emotion when Jaiden was in the hospital after the femur fracture was discovered and that she didn't pick him up for more than seven hours.

Vera's attorney said he was surprised that Wilson's testimony didn't convince the judge that Jaiden hadn't been abused.

“Other counties have summarily dismissed findings of abuse when medical evidence of EDS was presented, but for whatever reason, this judge decided not to,” Dennis Moreno said. “He had to rule what he thinks is the best interest of the child.”

The judge set another hearing for Dec. 10 to see if the parents are in compliance with the required services.

The couple said they will do “whatever it takes” to get their son back.

“We're just going to go forward,” Victorino said after the ruling.

Moreno said he plans to submit the medical evidence about EDS to the Zavala County district attorney's office. “I expect her charges will be dismissed,” he said.

Source: San Antonio Express-News