PHOENIX (AP) — An 11-year-old girl who whose mother took her from a Phoenix hospital where she was receiving treatment for leukemia appeared to be safe and healthy in an interview broadcast today.
Phoenix police have been searching for Emily Bracamontes since her mother took her from Phoenix Children’s Hospital on Nov. 28. Authorities say she could die from an infection because she had a catheter inserted into her heart to provide medication.
Emily and mother Norma Bracamontes appeared today on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Norma Bracamontes blames the hospital for an infection that led to her daughter’s right arm being amputated and for intimidating the family over hospital bills.
Emily says she feels well because the doctors at the unidentified Mexican clinic “love me so much.”
5:22am 12/6/12 — Dad Claims Girl Taken From Hospital Is Safe, Being Treated
PHOENIX (AP) — The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of a sick girl with leukemia deepened Wednesday after her father said his 11-year-old daughter is being treated in Mexico and authorities considered bringing child neglect charges against the family.
Phoenix police have been looking for Emily since surveillance video one week ago showed the girl’s mother walking her out of Phoenix Children’s Hospital a day before the child was set to be released.Authorities are searching for the girl in Arizona, California and Mexico, where the family has relatives, as doctors say she could contract a potentially deadly infection if not returned for treatment.
The girl underwent about a month of chemotherapy and had been treated for an infection that forced doctors to amputate her arm, police said. Doctors had inserted a tube through her chest to deliver medications through her heart. Her mother unhooked the tubing from an IV and left with the girl, leaving her susceptible to infection.
Phoenix police said the parents could face criminal neglect charges if they didn’t return the girl.
U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped the father, Luis Bracamontes, 46, as he crossed into Arizona from Mexico over the weekend, but the man denied any involvement in removing his daughter from the hospital and said he didn’t know where she was.
However, in an interview this week with NBC News, Bracamontes said his daughter was safe and being treated by doctors in Mexico.
“She is well and she is fine,” he said while declining to reveal where the girl was being treated.
Bracamontes blames the Phoenix hospital for the loss of his daughter’s arm and says the family was being pressured over mounting medical bills. He displayed photos of the girl both before and after the surgery and talked on his mobile phone to a girl and a woman he claimed were his daughter and wife.
The hospital cannot comment on Emily’s condition due to health privacy laws, but in a statement Wednesday said decisions about patient care are not based on ability to pay.
“Phoenix Children’s Hospital is deeply concerned about Emily’s safety and well-being and continues to cooperate with law enforcement,” the hospital statement read. “If Emily’s family has questions about her care, we encourage open communication and discussion of options with the care team.”
The girl’s grandfather, Luis Bracamontes, said he has not talked to his son in 15 days and doesn’t know where the girl is — including if she is even in Mexico.
“We are worried because we don’t know what’s going on,” said Bracamontes, 76, in Spanish from his home in San Jose, Calif.
He doesn’t know why the girl was taken from the hospital but said the amputation might have had something to do with it. He said some of his relatives are assuring him that the girl is fine and getting good medical attention.
Bracamontes said his son sometimes lived in San Jose and sometimes in Phoenix. The family is originally from Mexico.
Phoenix police, meanwhile, say the story of the girl’s father raises even more red flags.
“We’re in the same spot we were in last Thursday when we began looking for her,” police Sgt. Steve Martos said Wednesday. “We understand the right of a parent to change doctors, to change hospitals, we’re not challenging that. We just want to make sure that Emily is getting the right medical attention that she requires to prevent this potential horrific ending.”
Martos said doctors in Phoenix told authorities that if Emily’s catheter is not tended to, it could make her susceptible to a deadly infection that could kill her in a matter of days.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said Emily’s immune system is already compromised from the cancer and chemotherapy.
“If bacteria get into the blood stream, that can cause a serious infection,” Schaffner said.
The open catheter could serve as a pathway for bacteria, he said, adding that a potentially deadly infection is not only possible, but likely.
Martos said the father’s story only adds to investigators’ bewilderment that began when the mother inexplicably removed the child from the hospital. He said surveillance video shows the mother and child getting into a dark-colored minivan, but the license plates on the car were registered to a different vehicle.
“It all just makes us even more curious that they’re unwilling to provide us with basic information to confirm what he is saying, and they’re still trying to hide Emily,” Martos said. “There’s certainly the potential for some criminal charges.”
“So we’re going to continue looking for her until we either run out of leads or she is found,” he added. “We can’t just drop it.”
Associated Press writer Brady McCombs contributed to this report from Salt Lake City.
6:04am 12/4/12 — Girl May Die If Not Returned to Hospital
By Brian Skoloff/The Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — Authorities are looking for an 11-year-old girl with leukemia and a heart catheter who they say could die in a matter of days if she isn’t brought back to a hospital after her parents inexplicably took her out of the facility last week.
Authorities say the girl, Emily, had been receiving chemotherapy at Phoenix Children’s Hospital for about a month, Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said Monday.
An infection forced doctors to amputate her right arm and insert a catheter in her heart. The device was set to be taken out before her mother removed an IV from the girl, changed her clothes, and walked her out of the hospital Wednesday night.
Police said if the catheter is left in too long, it could lead to a deadly infection.
“If she contracts an infection, it really could just be a matter of days that could result in the young girl’s death,” Martos said. “It’s pretty serious.”
Authorities had been stymied by health privacy laws that kept them from releasing the parents’ names, but police said Monday that U.S. Border Patrol stopped the girl’s father, Luis Bracamontes, 46, as he crossed into Arizona from Mexico over the weekend.
Martos said the man provided no clues to the girl’s whereabouts and denied having any involvement in removing her from the hospital. Police released his name, along with that of the girl’s mother, Norma Bracamontes, 35, in hopes it will help locate the child.
Neither parent is charged with a crime yet, but authorities want the child brought back to the hospital before it’s too late, Martos said.
He said the family lives a “nomadic” life without a permanent residence, but they have relatives in Arizona, California and Mexico, none of whom have been able to provide police with information about their whereabouts.
The girl’s father is a Mexican citizen with a U.S. resident alien identification card. The child and her mother are U.S. citizens, Martos said.
Phoenix Children’s Hospital spokeswoman Jane Walton declined comment, citing health privacy laws.
Authorities don’t know why the child’s parents took her from the hospital, but speculate they might have been concerned with paying the bill.
Surveillance footage shows the mother pushing an IV stand through a hospital hallway. The girl with her right arm removed above the elbow and wrapped in a bandage is seen walking beside her.
“We just don’t know what their intent was,” Martos said. “But this could become extremely serious if she contracts an infection … Our primary concern is she get the proper medical care so we can prevent obviously the worst case scenario here.”