A Dallas woman who was arrested last week claimed her 8-year-old son was so sick she brought him to see doctors 323 times; prosecutors and child welfare workers say it does not appear the child is ill.
Kaylene Bowen, 34, faces a felony charge of injury to a child after claiming her son Christopher had an allergy to milk, had terminal cancer and needed a lung transplant, among other ailments in hundreds of visits to doctors that resulted in 13 major surgeries.
“The doctors do not find Christopher to be sick,” a CPS caseworker wrote after an investigation last month.
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Christopher’s father, Ryan Crawford of North Richland Hills, said he believes Bowen suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, an illness in which a caregiver makes up symptoms about another person's medical condition to gain attention.
Crawford said he has been trying to convince authorities that the boy’s mother was lying about the child's medical condition for years.
Crawford said he met Bowen at a bar and the two began a relationship.
"I was at a club and she seemed like a nice woman,” he said. “She was pleasant, pretty. She just caught my eye."
Bowen unexpectedly got pregnant and they had Christopher in April 2009, he said.
But soon, there was trouble.
"It started eight days after he was born,” Crawford said.
Bowen claimed Christopher had a severe allergy to milk.
"Every time that he would drink milk, he would throw it up, or so she (said),” he said. “It didn't make sense because I never saw him throw up any milk."
Then, months later, in a custody hearing in Dallas County family court, he was in for another surprise.
"She started explaining to the judge that the doctors stated my son would never walk,” Crawford said. “And then she stated that he had problems continuing to eat and that he's going to need a feeding tube."
Crawford didn’t believe her.
"I was horrified,” he said. “Because from what I knew, my son was fine. He just needed — not even extra care — he was fine."
Crawford, an IT administrator, spent thousands on a lawyer.
But he said the judge believed Christopher’s mother and thought he was in denial about his son's serious medical condition.
"The issues escalated to eventually she claimed that my son was dying,” he said.
Bowen raised thousands of dollars online and claimed Christopher had terminal cancer and needed a lung transplant, heart surgery, and leg braces.
"Just so many surgeries that are just unbelievable,” Crawford said.
Some of the surgeries were at Children’s Medical Center.
In an internal review obtained by Crawford, doctors there said they became suspicious two years ago and reported their concerns to CPS, but nothing happened.
Then, just last month, Christopher's mother brought him in yet again, claiming he had had a seizure, but medical tests showed no evidence of one, the document said.
Finally, that prompted a CPS review and a criminal investigation
"He could have died,” Crawford said. “Only God saved him.”
According to the investigation, doctors now say they "do not find Christopher to be sick."
Crawford said he blames himself.
"I put myself to blame for the simple fact that if I was there from the beginning for my son, he would never have had to go through these issues,” he said, fighting back tears.
"I tried over and over and over to convince people that my son wasn't sick and that she was manipulating the system,” he said. “It didn't work. Nobody believed me."
Now, Crawford desperately wants custody of his son.
But CPS put him in foster care, at least temporarily.
A hearing is set for next week.
"I'm still fighting the system,” he said. “The system doesn't want to give me my son because they say I don't know him. But then when I question, well, he doesn't know his foster family (either), they say, 'Yeah, you're right.' That's all they say."
CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said the agency did investigate the hospital’s complaint but didn’t find enough evidence to take action.
“Our primary concern is to make sure the children are in a safe place and healthy,” she said.
Children’s Medical Center released a short statement, saying, “We work closely with state and law enforcement agencies to protect and safeguard children. We are deeply saddened by every case of child abuse.”