A Lebanon, Missouri, mom is fighting to regain custody of her five children after she says a doctor misdiagnosed her 2-month-old baby girl’s complex medical conditions as child abuse.
Rebecca J. Wanosik, and her husband Anthony, lost custody of her children on April 20 after her youngest child, Zeydn, suffered a broken arm and fractured ribs, NBC News reported. Her five children - aged 2 months old to 8 years old were placed in foster care.
However, a new diagnosis from a prominent Boston endocrinologist has Rebecca and Anthony hopeful that their family will be reunited.
Dr. Michael F. Holick diagnosed Zeydn with infantile rickets, caused by a vitamin D deficiency and a connective tissue disorder. He said the “catastrophic” combination explains the child’s injuries.
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Rebecca believes that -- because of her tattoos, piercings, low income and alternative child-rearing style -- doctors discriminated against her.
"They probably look at me as though the kids are stupid and I am no better," she told NBC News.
"But we have never had child services here," she added. "We have never had any domestic disputes, not even a 911 call. We are squeaky clean."
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The mother-of-five admitted that she was not eating right when she was pregnant with Zeydn and believes that contributed to her baby’s unique medical condition.
"She was a fussy baby, but I was breastfeeding her and not watching what I was eating," Rebecca said. "I cut dairy and spice out of the diet, which according to Dr. Holick, didn't help, but I didn't know that."
Rebecca also said that her doctor at the time didn’t mention vitamin D supplements, which are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to NBC News.
She first noticed something was wrong on Jan. 16. Rebecca said she could hear a “popping and cracking” noise near Zeydn’s ribs.
"The doctor said it was normal in an infant and that I shouldn't worry," she said.
On Feb. 24, Rebecca said she lifted the baby girl’s arm to wave goodbye to her brother and Zeydn began to cry. Zeydn was taken to the hospital where they saw a doctor unfamiliar with the family. Scans revealed fractures and the doctor notified the authorities.
"I felt physically sick, I was so distraught," Rebecca said.
Anthony, Zeydn's biological father and the other four kids' stepfather, was blamed for the child’s injuries.
"I felt downright mortified when I heard that the allegations," said Anthony, who is an Army combat engineer. "Not only did they say that I hurt the baby, but they also said my wife was aware of it.
"There is no way I hurt this baby. I have been waiting a long time to have a child of my own, and I even cried when she was born."
Determined to prove her husband’s innocence, Rebecca began searching the internet for information about brittle bones.
“The first thing she found was vitamin D and rickets, so she got herself tested," the family's attorney said.
In April, Dr. Holick examined Rebecca and said that her vitamin D level was “almost undetectable” and “low enough for rickets.”
Holick, who is a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at the Boston University School of Medicine, believes the baby’s scans that prompted child abuse charges probably showed older “healing fractures.” He suspects the fractures may have been from birth.
"Child abuse experts … are not experienced in metabolic disease," Holick told NBC News.
Holick diagnosed Rebecca and Zeydn with a form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The condition is genetic and can cause joint hypermobility.
"A combination of the two (conditions) caused the fractures," Holick said. "It likely happened in the birthing process, but even moving her in the crib could have caused it."
Rebecca later discovered that her mother, grandmother and one of her other four children have the disease as well. She hopes that the diagnosis will help her regain custody of her children and reunite the family.
"Our children have suffered enough, and it is time to rebuild our lives to establish a new sense of normalcy together," she said. "It is time to start healing."
Nick Mebruer, a Lebanon attorney who was appointed guardian for Zeydn, said he “remains open” to new evidence.
"Our system allows you due process," Mebruer told NBC News. "I would want to pay attention to what develops if something is contrary to what we thought along the way.
"The whole process is designed to safely put the family back together. The goal in every case is for unification."