Baby Andrei Love Spindell needs to be back in his nurturing mother's arms, but today the cost of a new medical exam to refute an imprudent diagnosis made by an Emergency Room Intern stands in the way.
Baby Andrei was born peacefully at home into the loving arms of Alexandra and Raphael Spindell. Lucky Andrei enjoyed exclusive breastfeeding for much of his first year. Avocados, coconut meats, sprouted grains and seeds, nutritional yeast, and fresh fruits were some of the nutritious foods then added to his diet.
Baby Andrei was an alert, active, happy, and healthy boy who was "always smiling," according to his grandmother. One evening Alexandra and Raphael brought 13-month-old Andrei into a hospital emergency room to learn the cause of a fever he had developed.
The intern on duty noticed that Andrei was rather small for his age, and anemic. He asked the parents what they were feeding him, and they described the breastmilk and raw vegetable diet. The doctor seemed quite taken back by the extent of breastfeeding and by the dietary ideas that were very unusual to him. He was disturbed by the child not having been vaccinated and by some other common natural parenting choices the family had made. The father's intense views of environmental protection, animal protection, and avoidance of toxins were also not easily swallowed by the intern. He decided to diagnose Andrei with "Failure to Thrive," and report the family to the New York ACS, (child protective services). He prescribed formula usage instead of breastmilk, iron supplements, and a one-month follow-up.
Knowing that breastmilk was far better for a child nutritionally and immunologically, Alexandra and Raphael chose not to replace any breastmilk with it's artificial imitation. Rather than use commercial iron supplements, they instead provided ample amounts of sea kelp and molasses; both known to provide excellent iron availability, especially with the high amounts of vitamin C in the baby's fresh fruit and vegetable diet.
When the ACS followed-up on the initial ER doctor's report, they learned that the family had not returned to that doctor. When contacted by the ACS, the Spindells demonstrated that they had gone to a family doctor rather than return to the ER. This doctor's records indicated that Andrei's iron had gone up. He had not gained a noticeable amount of weight over that time period. His head circumference was at the median, suggesting appropriate development. The ACS judged that neither the prescribed formula nor the irons supplements had been given. They decided that the family had not followed the doctor's prescriptions and took their baby away.
Poor Andrei was subjected to abrupt, sudden weaning, and parental abandonment. His usually happy mood turned to one of general distraught. He became ill twice in the following two months, as all of the below unfolded.
When allowed a hearing, the family proved to the court that the ER doctor had never asked, and thus was not aware that their child was 4 weeks premature, and thus not as small as assumed when appropriately considering gestational age. They provided WHO breastfed infant weight charts to the courts and demonstrated that their child was above the 3 percentile in weight, that his head circumference was appropriate, and that they as the parents were not so huge themselves. They demonstrated to the court the many factors detailed in medical texts as needing to be proven in order to make a diagnosis of Failure to Thrive, and showed how the doctors had done none of this. The doctor had reported to the court that the baby was protein deficient because his hair was falling out; something that no one else had ever observed. The doctor had not performed the simple blood test to prove or disprove such an accusation. The doctor also, for some reason, reported a lower weight to the court than he had written in his medical files. The doctor also suggested that the baby, who was at 12 months gestational age when seen at the ER, had a speech impediment. This doctor was neither a pediatrician nor a speech pathologist.
Sadly, the family learned that the court would not take any advice into account to override the ER intern's diagnosis of Failure to Thrive. Alexandra called many local doctors and found that no doctor would examine their child to present findings to the court that may be in contrast to those of a fellow doctor. They called and e-mailed many sources and ended up with only lactation specialist and child nutrition specialist support upon their return to court. Again this was not good enough for the judge. In the family's favor, the judge did make a ruling against the ACS for canceling an earlier hearing with Alexandra because they did not want her to tape record the meeting.
Finally, a New York lactation specialist has recommended a pediatrician to the family who is familiar with homebirth, no-vax, and vegetarian diet families. This doctor has agreed to examine baby Andrei. Just the answer the family needs, but the initial consult will be $250.00, plus the costs of any needed tests.
The court had confiscated the Spindell family's computer, putting them out of their web design and computer art business. Extra expenses also occurred as Alexandra followed her baby around from agency to agency, foster care to foster care, with bottles of pumped breastmilk she hoped he would receive. Coming from an already meager, (low impact), existence, the family simply does not have this kind of money. Their friends have provided them with good food and many other kinds of assistance, but this is beyond their means as well.
Up until income loss caused them to close their website and decrease activities, Raphael ran an informative outreach center amd organization about natural parenting practices, vegetarian and vegan diets, and animal and environmental protection practices. He and Alexandra were well versed in ultimate nutrition and the special nutritional attention needed in a vegan diet, as witnessed on the "Children of the Millennium" website they operated for many years. Here's a link to an archived page of their site: ChildrenoftheMillennium Archive.
Alexandra's court-appointed attorney tried to be helpful, but he knew no more about breastfeeding and natural parenting practices than the judge did. By grace, she recently won the heart of a law professor at NYU and now has a full law team on her defense free of charge. A medical witness is still needed however, in order to return Andrei to his mother's bosom.
The big story in the New York newspapers occurred weeks after Andrei was taken from his home. When visiting their baby in foster care, they felt horrified by the commercial infant formula and baby food being fed to their son. The father felt he simply could not tolerate the sadness and apparent weakness in his son and the devastation of their separation. He illegally took his son from the grandmother who was the foster provider at the time.
Different newspapers all had very different stories. The New York Daily News, after interviewing the grandmother, made Raphael out to be a wild tempered vegan environmentalist weirdo, although the grandmother did say that the boy was better off with his parents than he was at the foster home he was placed in before she got custody. "He came [to me] from foster care pale, traumatized, crying and shaking at night. Before that, he never cried. He was the happiest baby ever." New York Daily News Upon legal advice, Raphael returned his baby to the ACS after a couple of days, but he himself remains in hiding. The Daily News modified their story.
While the court asserts that Alexandra's case in attaining the return of her baby would be made much more simple if Raphael were to turn himself in, Raphael feels that he should be vindicated when the court, the ACS, and the doctor are proven the terrible wrongness of their actions. The judge asks how she should know that Raphael would not abduct the child again, (from his wife this time), if Andrei were to be released to his mother. All who know the family see the obvious absurdity of this idea and see it rather as the court holding the baby ransom of sorts, in no one's best interest, certainly not that of the child's.
FEEL FREE TO E-MAIL ME with questions. Linda F. Palmer, DC, author Baby Matters, infant nutrition consultant.