Last year, NBC News along with the Houston Chronicle did a yearlong investigation highlighting the plight of parents accused of child abuse based on mistaken or overstated reports by doctors. They received hundreds of stories from all over the country just like Lorina Troy’s.
When Lorina’s second son, JJ, was born, she had no idea there was any potential problem with her child. She did not know that an ultrasound near the end of her pregnancy had shown JJ’s head to be two weeks larger than normal. No doctor mentioned there being any abnormalities when JJ was born, even though his head was still bigger than usual. Even after his birth no medical personnel said anything about JJ’s head continuing to grow. Lorina thought she had a perfectly healthy baby.
Sometime after returning home with JJ, he started vomiting a lot. Lorina took him to their pediatrician where he was diagnosed as having a stomach virus. They were simply sent home with some Pedialyte®. But the vomiting didn’t stop. Lorina took JJ to an urgent care facility and eventually a children’s hospital. All agreed it was just a stomach bug.
Eventually, Lorina managed to get the doctors to do an MRI on JJ. They discovered there was a fluid build-up in her son’s cranium. They immediately assumed the worst and accused Lorina’s family of child abuse. Lorina said to the doctor, “My son has never been hurt in any way, could this be something else?’ And he told me, ‘Yes, but since he’s a baby and can’t talk, we’re just going to go with abuse’ and he just walked away.” She asked for a second opinion but was denied. So, in May 2015, Lorina’s children were taken from her and placed in foster care for five months.
“As a mother, you get so used to seeing your children everyday – you know they’re smiling and laughing – and that was what was so hard. You just come home to an empty house, and your children… they’re just not there,” Lorina said
JJ’s father, Jason, who worked at a top-secret government contractor job, was charged with felony child abuse. This caused him to lose his job. Neither he nor Lorina had any criminal record or prior involvement with Child Protective Services (CPS). But now, Lorina was only able to see her children for 2 hours twice a week at a visitation center.
The family went through several attorneys trying to find one that would defend Jason’s innocence, discover their son’s correct diagnosis, and give Jason a way to restore his reputation. Despite selling their house to cover attorneys’ fees, Lorina’s family ended up losing over $80,000 in fees, medical expenses, and lost wages.
Over the following two years, JJ was seen by numerous doctors but continued to be misdiagnosed. Eventually, it was discovered he had Benign External Hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a condition where cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the cranium, causing an enlarged head among other symptoms like vomiting, seizures, and breathing difficulties. It can be present at birth and is the result of genetic abnormalities, problems with fetal development, or complications at birth. Hydrocephalus is a relatively common neuropediatric condition, affecting about 1 in every 500 babies in the U.S. Unfortunately, a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the head can also be a symptom of a traumatic brain injury, most often caused in babies by severe blows to the head. This can be interpreted as physical abuse if other symptoms are not considered, as in Lorina’s family’s case.
It’s very important to Lorina to make physicians, hospitals, judges, law enforcement and CPS aware that children can easily and quickly be misdiagnosed with child abuse when the child can have a medical condition. She believes a nationwide law needs to be passed that would give a parent the right to get a second opinion on their child’s health from a medical expert, especially when there is no evidence of child abuse.
Lorina is now working with Texas lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow parents to get a second opinion from an independent medical expert before a child can be taken out of the home. But she’s not stopping with Texas. Lorina is already meeting with representatives in California, and Washington D.C. and she plans to make her way around the country raising awareness about her family’s case. “Families are contacting me in Oregon, Arizona, California, Texas, Tennessee, just all over. Florida, New York, New Jersey… it’s crazy, like it’s everywhere,” Lorina said. Her book, Miracles of Faith, details her family’s ordeal through the medical and legal systems.