What began as a serious fall at age 5 was the start of numerous medical problems for Mary Welch’s son.
By the time he turned 11, he had undergone repeated brain surgeries, had a feeding tube inserted, and had reportedly suffered from normal pressure hydrocephalus (excessive fluid on the brain), migraines, asthma, epilepsy and muscular tightness that required the use of leg braces.
View the full investigative report on Munchausen syndrome by proxy here.
Since being removed from his mother’s care, the boy, now 12, has been weaned from the 15 medications he had been taking and is a normal, healthy boy, investigators say.
September 2008: A bad fall
Welch’s 5-year-old son suffers a head injury after falling from a second-story half-wall while at a party with his mother in Keller.
He is hospitalized for four days for observation but is given a good prognosis. Despite this, investigators allege that Welch told others that he had been in a 13-hour coma, had suffered a brain injury and was now permanently disabled.
December 2011: Boy undergoes repeated brain surgeries
In one month, Welch’s son, now 8, undergoes three surgeries at a Minnesota hospital for placement of an intercranial pressure monitor, a lumbar drain and a brain shunt. Welch said she took her son to Minnesota after referrals from doctors in Texas, but doctors interviewed in Texas as part of the investigation said they made no such referrals.
Welch later told investigators that before the shunt was placed, her son was not walking and could not communicate because of his deteriorating health.
The Minnesota doctor who ordered the surgeries later told investigators that he did so based solely on the medical history Welch provided.
January 2012: A visit to Cook Children’s
Welch takes her son to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth after his brain shunt becomes infected.
A neurosurgeon later tells investigators that he was shocked to see that the boy had a brain shunt, as the doctor had seen no reason for one when he examined the boy in the summer of 2011.
Doctors clamp off the shunt to see whether the boy can function normally without it. When he does, the doctors give him a physical exam and find no signs of normal pressure hydrocephalus, according to an affidavit.
The doctors remove the shunt over the protests of Welch and refuse to replace it.
February 2012: Another shunt surgery
Welch takes her son back to Minnesota, where another brain shunt is inserted.
January 2013: More surgeries in Minnesota
Welch’s son, then 9, undergoes surgery in Minnesota for treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease and placement of a feeding tube.
The surgery was done after Welch said her son had been diagnosed in Texas with vocal cord irritation due to reflux, an affidavit states.
Doctors in Texas later tell investigators that the boy had been tested for possible reflux problems at the mother’s insistence but that all tests came back normal.
May 9, 2013: Report filed with CPS
A staff member at the boy’s school files a report with CPS, concerned that Welch may be subjecting him to unnecessary medical procedures.
The employee reports he became most concerned after the boy received a feeding tube yet never used it to eat.
May 2014: Welch is arrested
Welch is arrested. She is indicted in December 2014, accused of criminal attempt injury to a child with serious bodily injury and endangering a child.
Oct. 29, 2015: New charges in Johnson County
Welch and her mother, Deborah Baker, are indicted in Johnson County on charges of theft of $2,500 to $30,000 while in a contractual relationship with the state government. Welch had previously lived in Alvarado but now lives in Burleson, court records show.
The Texas Attorney General’s office, which conducted the investigation, accuses Baker of fraudulently obtaining almost $8,000 by submitting false bills to Medicaid for times when she was not caring for her grandson. Welch is alleged to have signed the false timesheets.
Nov. 10, 2015: Tarrant County charge dismissed
Prosecutors dismiss the criminal charge against Welch, now 42, saying in a motion that the appropriate venue for prosecuting the case is in Ramsey County, Minn., where the boy’s surgeries took place.
The two counties are now in discussions about whether Welch will be charged there.
Mike Heiskell, Welch’s defense attorney, said he believes that the brain shunt, which remains in place, was and continues to be needed and has led to “vast improvements” for the boy.
An arrest warrant affidavit says the shunt was not removed because of risks associated with a removal surgery.
Heiskell called the still-pending Johnson County charge against Welch a “back-door way of trying to charge her with some misconduct here.”
Welch and her ex-husband, who are in a custody battle, currently are allowed only supervised visits with their two children, who reside with their maternal grandmother.