by Terri LaPoint
Health Impact News
Cassaundra Brown is heartbroken because she is missing her twins’ first Christmas. Instead of watching 9 month old Arianna and Dominick delight in the Christmas lights and new toys and pretty bows, she and Warnell Ludington are caught in desperate fight for their babies with DCFS, the child protective services department in Illinois, over what they believe in their hearts is a misdiagnosis.
Cassaundra says, “I can’t even believe this is happening.”
The crux of the twins’ removal from their parents allegedly lies in an accusation of Shaken Baby Syndrome, a diagnosis which is surrounded by growing skepticism by medical experts, and which does not take into account Arianna’s history of medical complications since her birth. Though the parents have reportedly not been charged with any crime, their children have been seized by the state; and they are only permitted to see them for two hours per week.
Separated from Infants During First Christmas
Their visit this week was cancelled because the foster parents are out of town for the Christmas holidays.
This foster home is allegedly the twins’ fourth foster home in five months.
Their parents are grieving because they are “missing out on every first,” and just want their babies back.
Premature Twins born to Mother not Expected to Conceive due to Health Conditions
Their story began when Cassaundra and Army Reserve Sergeant Warnell Ludington, both mental health counselors, met at their job at Northern Illinois Academy, a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility, and fell in love.
Cassie “always wanted twins,” but her own health history had led her doctors to conclude that she would never bear children. She suffers from terminal Systemic Lupus E and anemia, among other illnesses, and has a family history of bone density issues. When she and Warnell found out that they were expecting twins, they were ecstatic. Cassaundra told us that it was a dream come true.
The twins were born five weeks prematurely on March 14, 2014. Cassaundra later found out that they had been diagnosed with IUGR, Intrauterine Growth Retardation, prompting the doctors to call for a c-section. Dominick is the larger of twins, and was born without incident. He went right away to his mother’s arms.
Arianna was born next and was pulled by her feet out from under her mother’s ribs. According to both her mother and father, she screamed right away, and then was silent. She was quickly given oxygen and taken to the NICU. It would be 12 hours before her mother would see her.
After their births, Dominick was fairly healthy, but his smaller twin sister has experienced a number of issues right from the start. According to their maternal grandmother, Jackie Heard, Dominick has always been “happy as a lark,” while “all Arianna did was scream early on.” Her parents say that she did not like lying on her back or stomach and would scream in pain. Early photographs show that she often cried when she was on her back, even when held in that position.
Vitamin D Deficiency and 5 Vaccines Given on One Day
Both babies were reportedly born with a Vitamin D deficiency and abnormal blood counts, which the parents report they only learned months later when they got the babies’ records.
Records show that both babies received the recommended vaccinations. At birth, Dominick received the standard Vitamin K shot, but Arianna did not, even though they were preemies.
At 2 months of age, they received the DTaP, Polio, Hepatitis B, Hib, and Pneumococcal vaccines all on the same day, May 15.
She also had feeding issues, beginning in her time in the NICU. Communication within the hospital was confusing. The NICU staff said that Arianna could not be given her mother’s milk, because of the medications that Cassaundra took for her illnesses. At the same time, she breastfed Dominick in their room with full approval from the staff. Doctors changed Arianna’s formula four times, and she was diagnosed with GERD, and had difficulty with bowel movements and gas, as well as lots of choking and throwing up.
Cassaundra reports that Arianna often shook her head from side to side, and that she told the doctor that she believed something was wrong with her eyes. Numerous times during Arianna’s first few months, Cassie and Warnell report that she brought concerns to her pediatrician, Dr. Kleinfeld, only to be assured that it was simply normal feeding problems and that it was all OK. The parents report to Health Impact News that they did not believe that everything was fine.
Emergency Room Visit
The babies were sick in late June, but it was on July 7 that the family’s world turned upside down.
Warnell cared for the babies while Cassaundra was at work that afternoon. The twins were in the living room, alternating their fussy periods, while Warnell went to the kitchen to prepare a bottle. He reports hearing a “blood-curdling scream” from the living room, and he ran to to Arianna. He says that she spit up, but it was different from usual.
She appeared to have a seizure and then went limp, with shallow breathing. He immediately began CPR but she was unresponsive. He loaded the babies into the car seats for the harried three minute drive to the hospital. He placed Arianna’s seat in the front so that he could maintain two-finger chest compressions during the drive. Twice on the way, he had to slam on the brakes.
In the emergency room at Rush Copley Hospital, she finally became responsive. The doctors ran tests and found that there was bleeding on the brain as well as healing fractures on ribs 6 and 7.
Cassaundra arrived at the hospital to be told that Warnell was accused of Shaken Baby Syndrome, and that Arianna was to be flown by helicopter to Loyola Children’s Hospital.
Child Protection Services Take Custody of Children
The family was devastated when both twins were taken into DCFS custody on July 10.
Cassaundra believes that if the doctors had listened to her as they expressed concerns about Arianna’s health, they wouldn’t be in this situation. She felt in her heart that something was wrong, but her concerns were dismissed.
There is a family history of osteopenia, or low bone density, on her side. According to researcher Waney Squire, in his study entitled Shaken Baby Syndrome , prematurity itself predisposes to osteopenia. Though Cassie’s medications were modified after she learned that she was pregnant, she was prescribed some before that time that are contraindicated in pregnancy. Despite Arianna’s screams of pain when she was on her back, no x-rays were ever done until the July 7 admission to the hospital.
Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Controversial Diagnosis Under Fire
Shaken Baby Syndrome as a diagnosis has come under recent fire, even among medical experts. Emily Bazelon writes in the New York Times , and PubMed  confirms, that the experiments conducted that form the basis for the diagnosis were done on monkeys, not babies, who were not actually shaken, but subjected to such high velocity impacts that they cannot cannot even occur with shaking. According to the study which challenges the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome, “These forces, if present, would invariably cause neck trauma, which is conspicuously absent in most babies allegedly injured by shaking.”
Hospital records show no reports of any neck injury in Arianna.
According to law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer, a federal judge has condemned the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome as being “more an article of faith than a proposition of science.” (See: Finally, a Judge Calls Shaken Baby Diagnosis an “Article of Faith” And frees Jennifer Del Prete, who was sentenced for murder 10 years ago .)
Twins Now Have no Emotional Stability Since Being Placed in Foster Care
Since DCFS has seized custody of the twins, there has reportedly been no stability. They are currently in the fourth foster home since they were taken from their parents, and none of the homes have been with relatives, despite the federal law that relative placement should receive priority.
What kind of emotional damage is potentially happening to these babies?
Many childcare experts teach that bonding and attachment are crucial components of emotional health. Any time a child is separated from the biological parents, there is trauma caused to the child. How much greater is that trauma when children are shifted from pillar to post, with no continuity of care?
Carla Hartley, director of Ancient Art Midwifery Institute , tells Health Impact News that such treatment inevitably leads to “confusion.” According to Hartley:
“babies are hard wired to their mothers biologically. They have no mechanism for dealing with strangers acting as mothers in terms of biology. It is mother’s smell and voice they crave. In the animal world no one questions the ill effects of being taken from mother. How will babies learn to trust? All biological bonds have been broken and must be restored.”
The babies’ grandmother, Jackie, reports that the twins light up when they see their parents, even though it is only for a mere two hours per week. She said that Arianna screams hysterically when her mom and dad start putting their coats on them and putting them in their car seats to leave. Dominick doesn’t react as passionately, but he is still sad. However, she says that the social worker told the family that the babies only cry because they are being taken away from their toys, an observation that doesn’t coincide with reality or scientific research.
Jackie says that she doesn’t get to see them as much as Cassaundra and Warnell, but they still recognize her voice and know who she is. This is consistent with evidence from pre- and perinatal psychology which shows that babies later recognize the voices of those they heard frequently while they were still in the womb. They heard Jackie’s voice often both before and after they were born.
Parents Lose Jobs and Potential Careers
Both she and Warnell lost their jobs as mental health counselors two months after their babies were taken, because of being in the midst of a DCFS case. Warnell, who served in Kuwait during his decade long military career, is currently in a Master’s program in clinical psychology, but the accusations by DCFS have not only taken his beloved children. They also jeopardize his future career.
Their lives have become a nightmare, all because of what they say is a misdiagnosis. They have repeatedly asked for tests to be done that would prove that this is a misdiagnosis, but have reportedly faced resistance and delays at every turn.
By all accounts, Arianna and Dominick are loved and wanted by their parents. Jackie grew passionate as she spoke of how much they all love her grandbabies, telling me, “She ain’t hurt that baby, and that boy ain’t hurt that baby!” She is completely convinced of their innocence. According to her, “our babies have been kidnapped by the state of Illinois.” Cassaundra says that she is “shocked – we don’t understand any of this.” She says that she cries every day for her children. She knows that she isn’t promised forever, because of her health, but she pleads, “Give me today!”
Family Wants Public Awareness and Support
The adjudicatory hearing, or trial, is set for mid-March, and has already been rescheduled three times.
The family has a Facebook page set up for supporters to learn more: AriannaDominick Medically Kidnapped . They ask for people to pray.
The Governor of Illinois is Pat Quinn. Contact him here .
The State Senator for the Family is Linda Holmes. Contact her here .
The State Representative for the Family is Stephanie A Kifowit. Contact her here .
Ask local media in Chicago to also cover this story.
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