Nov 11, 2016

Faith vs. medicine: Mom fights for right to care for newborn son Nhandi Ashley's religion opposes the care little Deyanta requires

November 10, 2016
Colleen Henry
WISN 12 News
Investigative Reporter

In an unusual custody battle playing out in Milwaukee, a mother is fighting to direct her baby's health care, but the state argues her religious beliefs are putting her infant at risk.

Nhandi Ashley's son Deyanta was three months premature and has been in intensive care since his birth Sept. 8. The day after his birth, Ashley said a child protective services worker came to her hospital room and informed her that her son needed a blood transfusion.

Ashley is a Jehovah's Witness. Her religion opposes blood transfusions.

"Blood is very sacred and it shouldn't be transmitted back and forth and shared between two humans," she said.

Days later, the state asked a judge to grant a protective order for baby Deyanta, claiming his mom was neglecting his medical needs.

"I just have a fear that because of my religious views, it's being interpreted as neglect," she said.

Juvenile court records are sealed. Ashley said the judge left Deyanta in her custody but granted the state control of his medical decisions. Last week, the baby's doctor wrote that Ashley "...will only consent when his condition is immediately life threatening and he is dying. Waiting for imminent death is not acceptable... (it) risks unacceptable brain and other organ damage."

The state approved a blood transfusion.

Ashley said Deyanta took a turn for the worse after the procedure.

"It was horrifying," she said. "I got calls saying my son turned blue a few times. They had to bag him, meaning disconnect the machine from his breathing tube, and hand suction the bag, including pump on his chest," she said.

Two days after the transfusion, she said Deyanta developed an infection.

"All I'm hearing from doctors and nurses is, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. We don't know what happened,'" she said.

Ashley was ordered to Children's Court on Monday. The state asked the judge to grant temporary custody of Deyanta. Ashley said the judge denied the state's request for custody but left the baby's medical decisions in the state's hands.

"I was asked by the judge, 'If your son was presented with a life or death situation where he needed this blood transfusion, would you say yes?' and I immediately told her, 'Yes.'" said Ashley. "But what I am not agreeing with is giving my son something that is not needed."

Ashley now fears the state will approve another transfusion.

"It did more harm than good, and I have a fear that consent is going to be given for another procedure that isn't needed for my son and he's going to end up dying," she said.

Confidentiality laws keep the state from commenting, but its court filing said it considers its efforts to be lifesaving interventions.

Deyanta is now two months old. He's still in intensive care at Children's Hospital, and he's nearly doubled his two-and-a-half pound birth weight. But his mom says he's still on antibiotics for the infection he got after transfusion. She's hoping he's well enough to come home by the first of the year.

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