A Florida couple says authorities unjustly seized custody of their 3-year-old, who has cancer, for opting out of the further chemotherapy treatments.
Local authorities say that Taylor Bland-Ball and Joshua Mcadams “refused to follow up with the life saving medical care the child needs,” despite the fact that the child had been discharged from care. The parents, who skipped a follow-up appointment and instead took their son Noah to see another doctor in Kentucky, say they were simply exercising their right to get a second medical opinion and to seek alternative treatment options.
Now the parents are fighting authorities to regain custody and be reunited with their child.
“We were not trying to run from the case, there was nothing that we were trying to hide, we’re just trying to seek the best opinion for our son. We basically just feel like this is our parent rights being stomped all over,” Noah's mother, Taylor Bland-Ball, told local news station WFTS. “We just want him to be healthy and happy and with his family that's going to give him the absolute best care."
Noah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of pediatric cancer, on Apr. 4, and struggled through chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins All Children’s in St. Petersburg, Fla. According to Bland-Ball, after three days of chemo, no cancer was detected in his blood. After 10 days, Noah was discharged.
During Noah’s brief stay, Bland-Ball says she was extremely dissatisfied with the care at the hospital. She informed the medical facility that they would be seeking a second opinion, and that they hoped to find an alternative treatment with less serious side effects.
“He had vicious mood swings making him violent, making him very emotional,” she told news station KTRK. “He also started to lose his hair right away after the first treatment.”
Noah was scheduled for more chemo on Apr. 22. But according to a Facebook live video posted by Bland-Ball, she informed Johns Hopkins administrators that the family no longer required their services, as she had found another physician to evaluate Noah in Kentucky. The hospital then began to barrage the couple with phone calls for more appointments, she says.
“Instead of accepting that answer, they called us about a thousand times,” Bland-Ball said. “We were so intimidated that we knew that they were going to follow us and be crazy. We wanted our space, and we just wanted our time to get a second opinion.”
Meanwhile, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office released an alert about Noah — a “MISSING ENDANGERED CHILD,” including mugshot-like photos of Bland-Ball and McAdams. The alert further alleged that Noah’s parents failed to bring him to a “medically necessary” hospital procedure on Apr. 22.
“The parents have further refused to follow up with lifesaving medical care that the child needs.The Hillsborough County Child Protective Investigations Division has a court-authorized ‘take into custody’ order for the child,” the alert said.
Noah’s parents are now under criminal investigation for child neglect after refusing medical treatment for a child considered to be “gravely ill.” Authorities found the couple at their Kentucky motel room.
“This is an active and open investigation, but at this time the parents have not been charged with anything,” the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office tells Yahoo Lifestyle in an email. “Child Protect Investigations Division (CPID) does not and cannot comment on its investigations due to confidentiality per Florida Statute.”
Bland-Ball claims that Florida Child Protective Services then barred her and McAdams from the Kentucky hospital, had Noah discharged, and took him into custody, flying him black to Florida — allegedly without alerting his parents.
"We want better treatment than what we were receiving," Taylor Bland-Ball told local news station WFTS, adding that his blood tests repeatedly showed that Noah had no signs of cancer. “Obviously we were not neglecting him—you can see he was thriving. In no way were we neglectful at all.”
Although the state believes that Noah needs chemotherapy to save his life, a judge later ruled that Noah could stay with his maternal grandparents, and allowed the parents to seek a second medical opinion. The judge further granted Bland-Ball and McAdams permission to see Noah once a week for two hours.
The parents are now awaiting a decision as to whether the state will require Noah to receive chemo or not, while they also wage a legal battle to pursue alternative treatments to and to be reunited with their child.
“Imagine what’s going through his little mind right now, feeling like he hasn’t seen his mom and dad,” she said in the Facebook video, adding that, because she works as a birth doula and not in a 9-5 office job, Noah is used to spending a lot of time wit his mom. “At the hospital he told us, ‘Mommy, daddy I’ve been crying and screaming for you.’”
In her video, Bland-Ball details the “questionable” care Noah received at both Johns Hopkins All Children’s and University of Kentucky Chandler, adding that she and McAdams were treated like “criminals.” Although the couple began giving Noah CBD oil, fresh foods and clean alkaline water on their own, Bland-Ball went on to dispel misinformation that they were seeking wonky “natural remedies” to treat him.
“We’re not trying to treat him with just vitamins, supplements, certain types of food, magical tea or even fairy dust and prayer — that is not what we’re trying to treat him with. We’re trying to treat him with proven protocols,” she says in the 30-minute video.
Bland-Ball has started a social media campaign with the hashtag “MedicalFreedomforNoah,” avidly updating people on Noah’s case on Facebook. Protesters have joined Noah’s parents to protest outside of Johns Hopkins, where Noah is allegedly being prepped for chemo without his parents’ consent. Johns Hopkins denied a request for comment about Noah’s case, but released the following statement: “Our first priority at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital is always the safety and privacy of patients and families. With that in mind, we strictly observe privacy laws, including HIPAA.”
The family’s attorney, Michael Minardi, said that authorities have to consider different options for people, and that parents should have that right.
"They're saying that this child is in immediate danger when the fact that there is…no cancer showing in his blood and there is no indication that at any point in time… that any cancer is going to come back in his body," Minardi told Good Morning America.
However, Dr. Bijal Shah, head of the Moffitt Cancer Center's Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Program in Tampa, told Good Morning America that Noah’s blood tests don’t necessarily prove that he is in remission. "We have no way of saying that he is cured of leukemia this early in therapy," said Shah, who is not treating Noah. “The overwhelming likelihood is that without further therapy this child will relapse.”
According to Shah, chemotherapy is the protocol for treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia, adding that it has a 90 percent cure rate for patients with a standard risk who follow the treatment plan. (Critics, though, have pointed out that the statistic provided only refers to the percentage of children who live at least five years after their leukemia is diagnosed.)
“This is not about whether we’re choosing alternative therapies, natural therapies,” Bland-Ball told KTRK. “This is about our rights as parents to seek other options.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: