Crime

Texas mom accused of making up toddler’s medical problems, forcing unneeded surgery

A Texas woman was arrested on suspicion of faking medical conditions for her 4-year-old son and forcing him to have unnecessary procedures at various DFW medical facilities, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Megan Gee was arrested Wednesday in Wichita Falls, where she and her son live, and was charged with causing serious bodily injury to a child. She is accused of injuring her son through medical child abuse, better known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, according to a Tarrant County arrest warrant affidavit.

Michael Weber, an investigator with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, started investigating Gee after he was transferred the case in May. Weber detailed Gee’s alleged abuse in the affidavit, which was filed in Tarrant County Court on Wednesday.

Over four years, Gee’s son was put on 77 different medicines and hospitalized or taken to a doctor’s office 227 times, according to the affidavit. At 4 years old, he had spent at least 33% of his life in a medical facility and had a gastric feeding tube surgically inserted in his stomach.

Multiple doctors told Weber the child showed little to no symptoms of the many illnesses his mother insisted he had, the affidavit said.

Gee’s 4-year-old son was previously put into foster care during a Child Protective Services investigation in June 2017, but he was returned to his mother’s care when the investigation closed, according to the affidavit.

Gee was released on a $25,000 bail on Thursday, according to Wichita County jail records. She couldn’t be reached for comment and didn’t have an attorney listed on record.

Reports of abuse

Three doctors filed reports with CPS alleging Gee was medically abusing her son between 2016 and 2017.

Dr. Kenneth Sultemeier at Clinics of North Texas in Wichita Falls filed the first report with CPS in January 2016. Sultemeier said Gee took her son to the emergency room multiple times and told doctors he was throwing up and had diarrhea, according to the affidavit. On each visit, the boy did not show any of those symptoms at the hospital.

Meanwhile, Gee was also taking her son to Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth for treatment, according to the affidavit. Over five months, she told doctors at Cook Children’s that her son had increasingly serious ailments, including constipation, seizures and vomiting. Tests for various diseases turned up negative.

Dr. Lyn Hunt was one of Gee’s son’s doctors at Cook Children’s. She has since retired after 38 years at the hospital. In an interview with the Star-Telegram, she said she has seen 15 to 20 Munchausen by proxy cases in her time at Cook’s.

“It’s difficult as a pediatrician because you rely on the parents’ statements about what’s going on with their child,” she said. “And if the parent is not honest, then you may do things that are not necessary to try and help the child.”

In February 2016, Gee told Hunt and other doctors at Cook’s that her son was not eating — she asked them to surgically put in a feeding tube so he could get the nutrients he needed. In March 2016, about two months after Sultemeier’s CPS report, Hunt surgically inserted a feeding tube into the child’s stomach, the affidavit states.

“If a mother tells you, ‘My child is not eating, he does all these things,’ and you’ve exhausted all the other possibilities, then a feeding tube is a way to get nutrition to a child that refuses to eat or can’t eat or vomits everything they eat,” Hunt said.

Between the time Gee was referred to Hunt and the feeding tube placement — a period of about three months — Gee called Hunt’s office 42 times, according to the affidavit.

Hunt and a nurse practitioner on Gee’s case told the detective they did not know CPS was conducting an investigation into Gee for possibly falsifying her son’s medical history. Hunt said if she had known Gee was being investigated, she would not have placed the feeding tube in Gee’s son, according to the affidavit.

When a parent is falsifying medical problems for their children, they may go to multiple doctors in various specialties, telling each one that their child has different problems, Hunt said.

“It’s fairly easy to be chasing a rabbit in your area and someone else is chasing a rabbit in their area,” she said. “And it’s easy for the child to be overly tested, because you rely on the parent to tell you what’s going on.”

After doctors at Cook Children’s put in the feeding tube, another doctor at United Regional Hospital in Wichita Falls made a CPS report concerning Gee. A case manager at the hospital said she was concerned that Gee was making up her son’s symptoms.

The complaint was closed quickly, the affidavit said.

“It appears the investigator ruled out the allegation without ever having a face to face interview with any doctor,” the affidavit said.

In the affidavit, Weber noted that CPS investigators do not receive any training on abuse via Munchausen syndrome by proxy. In Munchausen by proxy, experts say caregivers often exaggerate or create medical symptoms in a child to gain attention.

CPS caseworkers are introduced to Munchausen by proxy during an initial three-month training program, during which a case scenario is discussed, CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said. She said these cases are extremely rare and the vast majority of caseworkers will never work a Munchausen case.

“With a condition as rare as this, that can be difficult to detect, it makes sense to use agency-wide resources instead of trying to extensively train thousands of caseworkers,” Gonzales said in a statement via email.

Some of those resources include consulting the Department of Family and Protective Services, medical professionals, law enforcement, child advocacy center staff and nurse consultants. CPS caseworkers can also use the Forensic Assessment Center Network for consultations with child abuse doctors on Munchausen and other medical cases, Gonzales said.

Gonzales said CPS could not comment on Gee’s case specifically, as CPS records are confidential.

‘A very sick child’

In June 2017, Gee took her son to Cook Children’s hospital and said he had a dilated pupil and significant seizures, according to the affidavit. A CPS investigator monitored the child’s progress while he stayed at the hospital for a week. During that time, doctors saw no sign of seizures. They also weaned him off four medications prescribed for reflux and saw no symptoms.

When he was released from the hospital, the child was put into foster care. A CPS investigator interviewed Gee, who “paint(ed) the victim as a very sick child,” the affidavit said.

In foster care, the child did not have any symptoms previously described by his mother, the affidavit stated. A woman who fostered the child for three months in 2017 told Weber that the boy had a hearty appetite and never had any vomiting, diarrhea, reflux or constipation issues while in her care.

After being in foster care for three months, the child was placed elsewhere. The CPS investigation into Gee ended in February 2019 and Gee retained custody of her son, according to the affidavit.

While the case was ongoing, the boy was diagnosed with autism in August 2018. His previous doctors, CPS agents and foster care parents reported the boy did not appear to be autistic, according to the affidavit.

A CPS caseworker assigned to the case told Weber she believes Gee “has transitioned from presenting false medical symptoms to presenting false developmental symptoms,” the affidavit said.

The caseworker told the detective that CPS was out of options and relied on the opinion of Gee’s counselor on whether to return the child to her.

When she first encountered Munchausen by proxy syndrome, Hunt said, it was difficult to explain to other doctors what she thought was going on because not many people had heard of the condition. As electronic medical records have become more common, doctors are able to catch medical abuse of children more easily, Hunt said.

Munchuasen by proxy syndrome has increasingly come into the public eye in the past few years. In 2015, the Star-Telegram published a three-month examination of Munchausen by proxy cases in Tarrant County.

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.
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