LAYTON, Utah — After doctors worked for weeks to determine what was wrong with a baby who was not getting adequate nutrition, investigators say they learned the baby was healthy and his relatives were faking his symptoms and compromising his health.
Jessica Gutierrez, 25, and Rebecca Day, 57, each face one count of child abuse as a second-degree felony after Gutierrez’s infant son spent weeks in a hospital struggling to gain weight.
According to a statement of probable cause, the baby was born May 27, and by July 7 he was taken to the hospital. His mother and grandma told doctors he had a fever and would vomit after every feeding. The child was 6 pounds 15 ounces at birth, and he only weighed 7 pounds 14 ounces when he was brought into the hospital.
The baby was sent home after being observed and treated, but two days later the mother brought him back reporting the same symptoms of fever and vomiting after every feeding.
Over the next few weeks, the baby underwent a wide variety of tests and medical procedures, many of which are described as invasive and painful. He had surgical procedures to install various feeding tubes and suffered other stresses as several doctors and specialists all tried in vain to figure out why the boy wasn’t gaining weight.
During his time in the hospital, the boy’s relatives were adamant that they be with the boy 24 hours a day and that they be the ones to feed him. They would not allow any medical personnel to feed the baby through anything other than the feeding tubes.
Several times during the stay, complications arose with the feeding tubes. In one instance it was kinked, while in another it appeared to have been sliced. Another time the mother claimed the baby had pulled a tube out, something doctors claim would have been impossible for a child that age. A few times the mother displayed formula on a rag as evidence the baby had vomited after eating.
Perplexed, doctors ultimately began to suspect the boy’s symptoms were fabricated. While the boy’s mother was away from the hospital, staff fed the child orally and found he had no issues with vomiting.
At one point the mother claimed her baby had vomited 30 millilitres of formula, but doctors knew for a fact the baby had only consumed five. They believe the woman did not feed the boy, but instead simply put formula on a rag to make the nurses believe he had eaten and then vomited. None of the medical staff witnessed the alleged vomiting during the family’s stay, and the PC statement said they were deceived by the mother and grandmother’s reports.
A pediatrician specializing in child abuse reviewed the case and submitted their opinion that the child was not sick and that this was a case of what is called “pediatric condition falsification.”
The mother and grandma expressed outrage when confronted with the allegations and demanded the baby be transferred, which the specialist said is “classic behavior” in PCF cases.
The specialist states PCF is, “often motivated by the perpetrator’s desire or even addiction to the attention received from medical professionals while the child is undergoing numerous tests and doctors seem baffled by their inability to determine a medical cause for the falsified symptoms reported by the perpetrator.”
PCF suspects are generally the child’s mother and will often go to great lengths to make their child seem more unwell than they actually are.
The court documents allege the baby underwent severe harm and failed to thrive solely because of the actions of his caretakers. The child will have permanent scarring as a result of a surgery to place a Broviac line.
Since the child was removed from his mother’s care, he has not had any issues with feeding and has gained weight.
Gutierrez and Day are scheduled to appear in court July 22.