As a young family, we posed for the above picture. It was a little entertaining to see our faces on a “Wanted“ poster. The name “Tombstone Gang, Wanted Dead or Alive”, was in bold print at the bottom. The poster offered a ten thousand dollar reward for the capture, dead or alive, of any and all members of our notorious “Tombstone Gang,” we were wanted for stagecoach hold up
A few short years later, the “Wanted” status of our family was no longer a joke.
It was a horrifying reality. The newspapers headlined with Infant Boy Murdered, “Infant Poisoned Experts Confirm”. They never printed our names, they just painted a picture that was no less fictional, and entertaining than the one we had posed for. Our mug shots were framed in a much more serious tale this time. The accusation was murder and our entire family and anyone who had had contact with our infant son were suspects. The investigators were the police, the children’s aid, and the coroner’s office.
This is the truth behind the fiction. This is the real picture.
My family and I suffered a near fatal encounter with these Agents of State.
Our first-born son was born with Potters syndrome. Potters syndrome is a fatal kidney disorder.
We were encouraged to try again. We did and our little girl was still born less than a year later.
(Insert obit here) Stryker Ocean (Insert Awnye Rose)
Our doctors assured us that these things sometimes happen. Potters Sequence is rare and doesn’t happen twice in the same family. As to the loss of our daughter, well some people have still-births, often the answer is never found. It would be best to just try again. The doctors assured us that we would get genetic testing. We would receive the best care they had to offer. We trusted the doctors to take care of us.
True to the Doctors word we had a great pregnancy. Finally gave birth to a healthy little girl.
Thinking that all of our problems were behind us, and fueled by a deep desire for a son. We then gave birth to another little boy. We named him Stryker, after his brother. I guess we had never gotten over holding our first-born son, as he died in our arms so shortly after his birth. Perhaps, I wanted to see my Dad, and my Mom (my heros, and the best grandparents ever) scamper around after a little boy with us. My husband had dreams of puttering around in his garage with his little apprentice. We had so many hopes and dreams for the little boy we had lost. The only way to ease such a tremendous grief seemed to be to try yet again. My husband is a master plumber, we had started a plumbing company. We wanted to paint "and Sons" on the truck, if and when our boys showed an interest. Those hopes and dreams stayed with us. They gave us hope.
We were ecstatic and more than a little scared when we found out we were pregnant again. We had some minor problems with the pregnancy. I was very ill with morning, noon and night sickness for the whole pregnancy. July 12, 2005 I attended a regularly scheduled appointment at the high-risk clinic at our local children’s hospital. I had an ultrasound. The ultra sound did not go well. My son scored a 2 out of 8. The ultrasound technician had drawn a picture of my son that looked like he was on the end of a hangman's noose. She wrote "neck hyper-flexed during examination" unstable lie. I was left in that room for more than an hour. Of course I read the report she had left on the table.
I sat in terror, awaiting the "doctor". You see, my son that had passed away at 22 minutes scored 6 out of 8 on all of his ultrasounds, and it was known that he was going to die at birth. When the doctor finally came in, I believe I was in a state of shock, when she looked at the paper and said, I think we need to do a repeat scan, we'll try to fit you in tomorrow.
I left the hospital, tears streaming down my face. I could barely catch my breath. I had lost two pregnancies. Tomorrow could be to late. Was this what they call "high risk"? I was in such a state, I damaged my car on a pole in the parking garage. I drove straight to my Mom's. She comforted me until my husband came home from work. Collectively, we called the hospital back. They agreed to have me brought back in. They induced my labour.
On the 13th of July I gave birth to a "healthy little boy", who had narrowly escaped being asphyxiated by the umbilical cord that was wrapped around his neck. I wonder if this was the cause of the hypoxic ischemic brain damage of a terminal nature they found on his final examinations. Within hours of our son’s birth he developed serious complications. He spent nearly ten days intensive care. Finally he was released to our care. We had some concerns over his breathing. We were told that is normal behaviours for a premature baby. We had some concern that his urine smelled very strong. He also had a slight body odour. he did not smell fresh within a hour of bathing him. He had one episode where he seemed a little floppy. But had returned to normal, with no apparent issues. I had planned to talk to his doctor at his 6-week check up. He died the day before his appointment. The social worker involved with this case later stated that my son missed a doctor appointment. This was negligent on our part.
I awoke at approximately 3 am for his morning feed. I touched his cheek, he didn’t look right. He was cold, white. I picked him up, I think I might have wet myself, then I ran with him in my arms. I was screaming for my husband. Dennis took Stryker from me. He started CPR. I called 911. As my husband tried to breathe his own life into our son, I was describing to a 911 operator that my son was dead. The realization of his death, hit me at that moment. My son was DEAD. He wasn't sleeping, he wasn't breathing. He was cold, white, stiff. As I was looking at my son, in his father’s arms, I knew then. I had seen this before. We had held our first-born son, as he died. I was now beginning to understand that this son, named after his brother for his strength, had also passed away. I wanted to be holding my son, I wanted to be giving him CPR, for a few moments in the depths of grief I wonder if I could have saved him. If I had given him CPR, rather than picking him up and running with him in my arms, screaming like a fool. How many seconds, minutes did it take me to understand what was happening? I had been trained to stay calm. Did I kill our son by not doing what I was trained to do? Seconds are very important, I know that and yet I still panicked. The reality is I think he was gone before we started. There was nothing we could do. When the ambulance showed up we knew every moment counted and we meet the paramedics at the door we placed our son in their arms. They tried to revive him on the doorstep inside our house. They continued to try to revive him in the ambulance. When the ambulance left, with sirens blaring, we still felt hopeful. We followed behind in the police cruiser.
Thankfully, our neighbour, a very close friend was able to come watch our other children as we followed the ambulance to the hospital. What seemed like hours, but was surely quite less, we were told that our son was pronounced dead upon arrival. We were lead into a small room, to say our goodbyes. We had a police escort. We later learned that our last moments with our son were timed on a stopwatch. Our reactions were closely documented and scrutinized by the police escort.
We were then escorted to another room where we were able to make necessary phone calls. We called home. There was no answer. We then called our parents. The next hours were a series of confusion. We were told we could not go home. Our house was a crime scene. We could not have our vehicles, they too could be crime scenes. My husband had no wallet. I was in a night-gown. No purse. We were not happy with these inconveniences but understood that the police had a job to do.
When we left the hospital we went to our friends house that was two doors down. We were told that our kids had been kicked out of the house. An officer had told our sitter, to get out. She told them that there were two kids sleeping upstairs, to which the officer replied "There are more kids in here?", get them out of here. Quickly. my friend dumped the stuffed animals off of the change pad on my daughter’s dresser into her crib. And proceeded to change her. We were later accused of providing an "unsafe sleep environment" for our 18 month old. Simple questions, common sense along with proper recording of these events would have saved us a lot of grief in the family court.
We were standing on our friends front lawn, in the early morning after our son's death on September 6, 2005. There were lots of tears, anger, frustration. Hopelessness. Our family was just arriving when the crime scene tapes were being wrapped around our home. We saw the Mobile Command truck pull in. There were police cars everywhere. The rest of the neighbours were starting to come out of their homes.
The lead detective approached us. We gave our medical history. We described Stryker's birth, in detail. We described his neonatal course the best we could. We told them that something must have been missed or overlooked at the hospital. The Coroner then approached. We told him the same thing. Dr Khambaliha assured us that he would look at our son very carefully. He would do his best to give us an answer. I asked him not to send our son to McMaster. I told him, I had lost two other children. McMaster was unable to give us any real explanation. It was past time for a second opinion. We had advised the coroner that our son had been part of a study at the hospital. There should be placenta, cord blood, and samples of his blood on file. Perhaps that could provide an answer. Two years later we were advised that those samples were either lost, or mislabeled. The coroner’s office did not issue warrants for those materials. We were shocked to learn that they did not even test his newborn blood spot, a sample that is taken from every infant at birth.
We went to the police station. We gave our statements. We meet with the coroner, we asked him to review our history and told him how we had fought for genetic testing and were refused. We discussed our feelings that something had simply been missed or overlooked in terms of our care in hospital.
We gave all the information we could, then went to my parents home. We had barely finished having a coffee, when the police called and told us to go down to the Station to give them statements. We left right away. We were interrogated for nearly four hours.
We just got back to my parents home, The children’s aid had just left. We were told that the worker was horrible. She had all but stripped our 18 month old to look for signs of abuse. She had diagnosed our daughter’s birth-mark as a bruise. Our 13 year old was picked up from school. The police wanted to question her too. Once our daughter arrived at my Mom's the Police and the Social worker had returned to get our daughter for "her statement". After just returning from four hours of interrogation we were not allowing her to go into that alone. Our daughter was only 13, her baby brother had just died, where was the compassion? After speaking with the Police, we understood that it was probably best that we, her parents, not be there, while she was "giving her statement/interrogated". We had nothing to hide, so we agreed to let her give a statement. Our daughter agreed that she would be willing to go, but she did not want to go in the police car, without someone else there. We explained that we were not allowed to go with her. Our daughter asked for her Grandfather, or Uncle, to be able to accompany her. My Dad said he would drive her, and go with her. This agreement was accepted by the police and the social worker. When they got down to the Station, my father was forcefully not allowed to accompany my daughter. This was against our wishes and our daughter's. We no longer trusted the Police or the Society after this. We view this as the first of many breaches of trust, and abuses of authority.
We had several calls from the police, answered all their questions. We even made arrangements to get the police back into our home, when they had locked themselves out. IMAGINE, at this point we were still in our nightclothes, our son had died, our family interrogated by police, CAS, coroners. We had to make arrangements to get them keys to our house. It was fairly difficult, considering our keys were inside our home. We were later described in the press as being uncooperative, from the very beginning.
We were allowed back into our home later that evening. That house never felt like home again. Over the next few days we answered more questions. We had our home viewed again by the CAS worker. Ida Calzonetti questioned us again about our history. Our losses. She insulted us by insinuating our son got sick after birth, because he was left alone in a hospital room with his mother. She further said that "Pnumothorax" is a lung condition that doesn’t just happen. Hyperbilirubinemia (severe jaundice) is a toxic reaction. Did I give my son anything unusual in hospital, while I was alone with him?
So, at this point we insisted any further contact would have to go through our lawyer. We were described from that point on as uncooperative. If birth marks, (my husband and daughter have matching birthmarks on their torsos) If birth marks are bruises, and neonatal jaundice is Munchausen's... We had no choice. We started calling Lawyers. The Lawyers sent letters.
We were going to lawyers appointments, fearing apprehension of our grieving children and making funeral arrangements at the same time. We signed release forms for our medical records. We felt certain once the CAS talked to our doctors, the CAS would realize that we had just had very bad luck trying to have babies. Perhaps they would raise concerns about the medical care we had received and help us get the extra testing we felt we needed. I now wonder if this hospital uses the CAS to cover up their mistakes, or at least ensure that family, criminal court proceedings are initiated to draw out the legal timeframes to initiate proceedings against them. Perhaps if the Medical professionals involved with our care had ever meet with us or alternately the risk management team answered the questions we posed in our letters we would not feel this way.
(Insert obit here) Stryker Eoghans
The day after my son died the newspaper had a story on André Marin’s office successful petitioning the government to implement expanded newborn screening in the Province of Ontario. They sent out an information package on MCAD and a whole host of inborn errors that if caught early are easily treatable. I renewed my fight for genetic testing. I had written to the Ombudsman’s office. They gave us great information. They advised of testing available to us. The samples of blood the coroner’s office did not bother to test, came back positive a year later. They gave us an answer. The findings of Galactosemia UT and Biotinidase deficiency are entirely consistent with our son's conditions in hospital and Stryker's autopsy findings. It connects all the dots. The medical professionals refused to accept the test results I wonder if this information had been available at the start, none of this would ever have happened.
We made delivery plans at new hospital. We responded to an article written by Paul Wilson in the Hamilton Spectator. He did a story on us. It was printed on January 30, 2006. It was our hope that some doctor somewhere would take one look at our history and rush in with all the answers. How desperately naive I was.
Then all hell broke loose.
On Feb 1, 2006 The Children’s Aid came to our door. They arrived with several police officers. Our kids were apprehended. My husband worked days, I worked evenings. When I arrived home from work, my husband looked like hell. I thought oh my god, its happened again. Someone else has died. I sunk to the floor. Is it one of the kids, my parents?
Dennis said, “Moe, they've taken them.” He explained how the social worker, and several large officers came to the door at around eight o'clock, he packed their bags and the kids are gone. He was absolutely crushed, and so was I. I remember being very mad at him. You just let them march in here and take them? You packed their bags? I know if I had been home they would have had to shoot me. My husband explained that there was nothing he could do, they were going to take the kids regardless, so he tried to make it as easy as he could for the kids' sake. My husband described that our teen daughter was distraught, screaming, crying. Our toddler was simply confused. My husband is a mountain of strength that was very close to crumbling after this. This is one experience I am glad not to have had to share with him. How weak of me.
What had we done? There have never been any concerns. Then he told me. It has something to do with Stryker, they think we did something to him.
We went through soul-searing hell for more than a year. As did our kids.
In the end it was all a series of mistakes that no one will look at. No one will admit to.
We were dragged through the threats of criminal court. We were destroyed in the media for more than a week during April of 2006. We were dragged through the Family Courts.
The expert reports took more than a year to come back. Essentially they amounted to we have an unusual finding on a test result. Until you, the parents, can explain that finding we are going to destroy you and your family. In meeting after meeting we heard “an absence of evidence does not mean something did not happen.” Every lab test proves a bias. There are four possible results for every lab test. And on and on they went. Contamination of samples cannot be ruled out. Yet they still stated a cause of death that could not reasonably be supported by the facts. The coroner's office labeled our son's death as methanol and formic acid poisoning at the same time they had those chemicals documented as in use at autopsy. They noted that our son had hyponaturemia (low sodium). The death review committee report from the year in which my son's death was reviewed stated that this cause of death was being caused “accidentally” by improper use of IV fluids in hospitals. So we feel that someone damn well knew something. We have no faith in the coroners system. Our case happened while the Goudge inquiry was still in the investigative stage. Once we read the honourable justice Goudge's report, we knew we were not alone in our fight for justice for our son.
Our expert reports state the accusation of methanol/formic acid poisoning was a contamination of samples during our son’s final tests. A common lab error. The genetic tests we had done, at the urging of the ombudsman's office came back positive for inborn errors of metabolism. Our son had a metabolic problem. His medical records prove that there were serious issues. Yet the coroner stated that my son was previously well. How could any child with a life span of one month and twenty three days be described as previously well, when his last prenatal ultrasound was very poor? He was born premature with the umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck, he had his lungs collapse, he had respiratory and metabolic acidosis. He had serious jaundice. He had anemia. He had spent two of the seven weeks he was alive in neonatal intensive care. Other findings of the final tests showed several known hospital infections that were discounted as contamination. If known hospital acquired infections are contamination, and chemicals in use on the table are not, I want to know, what the hell is up with that? If this is a description of previously well infant, what do they call sick? It seems as if medical reports were carefully balanced to protect the hospital. I have written that statement more times than I can count. We still have no satisfaction. Our son's medical report can be found on line by Googling his name. Stryker Burke (pdf).
The Lead Detective claimed in the press that we had been uncooperative, from the start. I hated this detective for several years. Detective George Lasso was a chemical engineer, prior to joining the police force. When we went to the Family court trial, I noted his remarks that this could be contamination, this could be an inborn error. He did not feel comfortable pressing charges. He was not on the witness list for our trial. Why were those opinions not disclosed in the family court earlier?
The reports of the Coroners office were instrumental in separating us from our children. Initially the coroner's office said our son's death was non-accidental. They later changed the findings to undetermined. This is just a small portion of the damage we witnessed, as our children suffered. Initially, our thirteen year old was placed with White Rabbit group home, I understand this to be a psychiatric group home. Ran by a single 26-year-old female. She was housed with five other girls. Less than a block away from the home she was apprehended from. The next time I saw my oldest girl she said she had spent three days in a closet of this home, screaming that she wanted HOME, or her grandparents, who were foster parents for 20 years. My beautiful blond-haired daughter had purple hair and black nails with lice-infested hair tucked under a cheap cap when I saw her five days later. The social worker pegged her as a dark child in need of their care because she had read "Harry Potter books" when she locked herself in the closet. She was deemed as a child into "WITCHCRAFT" in need of psychological intervention. There was not a child on the planet that was not into Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer during this time. It was the pop culture fad. I just about went nuts at these crazy allegations against my child. I wanted to scream out to my daughter to be very careful with this new stranger who was smiling at her, working on befriending her, yet destroying her behind her back. I knew if I did, it would be the last time I would be able to see her. So I just had to rely on knowing my daughter was smart, a good judge of character, she would know instinctively not to trust this worker.
I advised the lawyer that if what this social worker was saying was going to be taken seriously, then I expected her to have all of my daughter's teachers brought up on charges for neglecting to see such a troubled child in their classrooms for the last 10 years and failing to report it. I never heard another word about these false allegations.
Our 18-month-old baby girl was filthy, feverish, and we were not allowed to give her a drink. We were accused of poisoning one of our kids to death. Her nails were caked with dirt. Her curls had been shorn. She was dressed like a homeless child. Where were her name-brand rompers my husband packed in a hurry? I demanded a thermometer. I was refused. After she screamed for an hour, tears running down her hot red face. I held her with her face pointing to the social worker behind the glass. Please stop this torture.., she knew we had juice in our bags. She refused us the ability to give my child the juice she wanted. It was sealed. Bought fresh from the store. We even attached the bill to the bag. An hour later the social worker sent someone out to the "car" to get her some sort of stale juice. Later, we received records that our daughter had been seen by the CAS doctors prior to our meeting with our kids. Our daughter was feverish, the recommendation was lots of fluids. This is documented. In less than a month of being in "care" our 18-month-old witnessed abuse in the foster home. They removed my barely speaking daughter from a foster home because of "alleged" spousal, and child abuse within that foster home, reported by a natural child of the couple. Yet upon the same date, this social worker reported, our daughter says "Daddy hits mommy," and enters that into court record against US. (again documented).
This is the moment my husband, and parents knew we were in hell, with no escape.
My husband and I view our children's abduction by the society as the only time "we neglected, failed to protect them." In the five days that my girls were taken we did not know where they were. They remained in “care” for a month. Then they were placed with family for more than a year.
During this nightmare we had our newborn son. He was ripped from our arms at birth. He developed the same conditions within the same time frame as our previous son did. He was apprehended after a c-section birth. We were denied the opportunity to hold him after he was born. Yet he suffered the exact same complications in the exact same time frame. We wrote letters to our son's pediatricians outlining our concerns. The doctor (Dr Peer) replied by calling the children's aid and saying there might be something wrong with this baby, we just don’t know. The mother is trying to prove that the doctors are not doing their jobs, so the mother may have Munchausen's. It took two years for the Doctors to admit that our son is allergic to Cladisporium mold. This mold is a common additive to drugs and vaccines. Our son's genetic test results appear to be abnormal. We have fought for minimal medical care. Our concerns are dismissed. We no longer trust anyone. I am now getting very mad. I am writing to anyone who would listen. There is something seriously wrong here. We no longer trust anyone.
Why would we?
The children’s aid continued to harass us to sign blank medical release forms for more than a year. They would never explain what information they wanted from who. When we refused to sign the forms, they threatened to have our children permanently removed.
In the end the children’s aid had been given access to our home, our kids, their bodies, our minds, our hearts, our souls, our computers yet they still wanted more. The straw that broke our backs was their repeated demands for hair testing. They actually wanted to physically wanted to rip our hair out. They even alluded that they might return the kids if we agreed to the test. My husband and I argued about doing these damn tests for a few weeks. I told my husband, lets just do it. We have nothing to hide. My husband said we have had nothing to hide since the beginning and look what they have done to us. We asked a lot of questions about the test. Who does them, how accurate, what recourse do we have if we feel the test is inaccurate. We got no answers. We had heard from other parents not to do the tests because they sent them to Germany and the results take years to get back. The children's aid would keep the kids until the results come back. We did not want to take those risks as there was no reason for them to label us as alcoholics or drug addicts. We did not have a history of those issues.
The CAS worker refused to give us enough information so that we could even give her any sort of informed consent. Our lawyer told us that the tests were done in Toronto. There have been false positives. We got online and checked out the process for the hair test. The first step in the process was to wash the hair with methanol/formalin the very same chemicals we were accused of poisoning our son with. We were shocked. We were beginning to feel as if we were being framed. We then looked at the Doctor who ran the lab the tests are completed at. Dr Gideon Koren according to wikapedia is a Canadian pediatrician, pharmacologist and toxicologist. We were beginning to feel that his services may be helpful but then we read further. Drug trials on infants and kids, scientific misconduct, hate letter campaign against a colleague. Presidents of Universities and Hospitals found his actions “constitute gross misconduct and allegations of research misconduct”. He was not fired, he was promoted. This was not an individual we felt comfortable putting the future of our family on the line for. We refused. We told the society to get a court order. They never did. They just used this as another opportunity to make us look uncooperative. We feel our concerns were well justified.
Our very first doctor, Dr John Watts, is the one who diagnosed our son Stryker Ocean as Potters sequence, treated our son Stryker Eoghan. There is evidence that he sat on his own patient's death review committee. I would have complained to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, but he sits on the discipline committee there. The Doctor that labeled my son's death as methanol poisoning has made that same mistake an additional two times since my son's death. This seems highly unusual, given that this diagnosis is considered to be so rare that there is no pediatric literature on the subject. Yet Dr Chitra Rao has seen three cases in Hamilton, in three years (that the public know of.). There is something wrong here. The only one to look at the possibility of a metabolic/genetic condition was Dr Jim Cairns. There is no consultation report just his word that he made a phone call. The Goudge inquiry into pediatric deaths in the province of Ontario found this doctor to be negligent, an accident waiting to happen. One of the CAS decision makers involved with this case is Mike Downs. Anyone familiar with Canada Court Watch can see what they are saying about him. Reckless, abuse of authority.
My own family lawyer said this was a set up. She closed up two areas of practice after our case. Where is she now? I wonder how damaged and afraid, one must be to take such action. And where does that leave us?
The last affidavit entered into the court was supposed to be an affidavit supporting the CAS decision to withdraw their application. In reality it was a not very thinly veiled threat that if we tried to get any further testing done, it would be viewed as child abuse, and unnecessary medical treatment. This seems more like butt covering to us. This affidavit was withdrawn, or never really put before the court. So what are we supposed to think? We feel utterly bullied into submission.
We feel as if we are being punished. We desperately need to know if our situation is the result of medical errors and omissions that we survived? An inborn error that will haunt us, or children, or grandchildren? Or just deathly allergic responses to vaccinations, that we have a family history of?
My husband and I absolutely understand that mistakes and adverse reactions can and do happen. However, when those mistakes or adverse reactions are intentionally covered up by multidisciplinary teams, when grieving, injured families are tossed to the wolves, it is time, past time, for accountability. We have spent a great deal of time studying our case.
There was no evidence of the accusations made against us. There never were any criminal charges to answer to. Just the threat. And the expense.
I have read the Goudge report. I have followed the pediatric death review inquiry very closely.
The children’s aid, was forced to return the children. Justice closed our case with a resounding "I, am, as angry as I can possibly be". He awarded us costs in the matter.
To this day, we have memorial cabinet in our living room. We have our cherished mementos of three children we have loved and lost. There are two little trains engraved with the names, and birth dates of our two boys. We also have a small jewel box that bears the name of our daughter, and her date of birth. We have surrounded them with dried flowers from their memorial services. There are blue roses, and babies breath. The flowers lived longer than the children did.
We don’t’ know why. We want those answers very desperately. Our family has paid a hell of a price trying to find them.
How can power and corruption be unleashed to consume innocents so freely?