The Misdiagnosis Of A Child That Changed Everything Forever

In May 2015, Lorina and Jason Troy of Texas had just welcomed a new baby boy into the world. But when the child’s head kept growing, so did their concern. Appointments with medical specialists kept leading them to the same wrong answer.

When Lorina’s second son, JJ, was born, she had no idea there was any potential problem with her child. She did not know that an ultrasound near the end of her pregnancy had shown JJ’s head to be two weeks larger than normal. No doctor mentioned there being any abnormalities when JJ was born, even though his head was still bigger than usual. Even after his birth no medical personnel said anything about JJ’s head continuing to grow. Lorina was concerned but not alarmed. 

However, when JJ started vomiting a lot, Lorina took him to their pediatrician where he was diagnosed as having a stomach virus. They were simply sent home with instructions to keep him hydrated. But the vomiting didn’t stop. Lorina took JJ to an urgent care facility and eventually a children’s hospital. All agreed it was just a stomach bug even though JJ’s head had continued to swell along with the stomach upset.

Eventually, Lorina managed to get the doctors to do an MRI on JJ. They discovered there was a fluid build-up in her son’s cranium. This can be a sign of head trauma and they immediately assumed the worst and accused Lorina’s family of child abuse. She asked for a second opinion but was denied. She said, “I told him, my son has never been hurt in any way, could this be anything else? And he told me, yes, but since he’s a baby and can’t talk, we are just going to go with abuse and walked away.” So Lorina’s children were taken from her and placed in foster care.

Soon after, her husband Jason, was charged with two felony charges of child abuse, which carry a sentence between five and 99 years. These charges caused him to immediately lose his top-secret government job. The couple searched for a lawyer who would take the case. They were forced to sell their home to pay for attorney expenses. The Troy family ultimately ended up losing over $80,000 in fees, medical expenses, and lost wages.

Over the following two years, JJ was seen by numerous doctors but continued to be misdiagnosed. Eventually, a doctor in Maryland discovered JJ had Benign External Hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a condition where cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the cranium, causing an enlarged head among other symptoms like vomiting, seizures, and breathing difficulties. It can be present at birth and is the result of genetic abnormalities, problems with fetal development, or complications at birth.

With the new diagnosis, the charges were dropped, and the parents were reunited with their children. But they feel the medical and legal systems have failed them. How was it possible for two loving parents to so quickly be labeled abusers and have their children taken away?

In the mid-1970s, new theories on child abuse were being formed. Infant cranial injury inflicted by blunt force trauma, shaking, or a combination of forces came to be known as “shaken baby syndrome” (SBS), more often today referred to as “inflicted or abusive head trauma.” The idea that certain head injuries were indicative of child abuse grew and soon a new sub-specialty in pediatrics formed: child abuse pediatricians. 

The child abuse pediatrician became the linchpin in a successful child abuse prosecution; in so doing they took on the conflicting roles of health care provider, investigator, medical expert, accuser, key prosecution witness, promoter of the prime hypothesis, and defender of their own past medical decision making regarding abuse. Without their testimony regarding the prime hypothesis there could be no convictions. 

For whatever reasons, over the years, these specialists began to hold more power over the medical establishment to the point of being considered almost infallible. Today, colleagues are reluctant to contradict any findings made by child abuse pediatricians, so getting second opinions can often be difficult. That is a large reason JJ’s diagnosis came from a doctor from another state. And the legal system sees these specialists as experts in their field. Therefore, there is no reason to question their determinations or authority. This has increasingly led to child abuse pediatricians misdiagnosing accidental injuries, dermatological issues, and developmental disorders as abuse when they were not. 

The Troy family is trying to heal from the trauma of separation, legal battles, and financial loss. Lorina has become an advocate for families like hers that have experienced devastating results from a child’s misdiagnosis. She lobbies lawmakers in Texas, California, and Washington D.C. to change laws on getting second medical opinions and the role of CPS in instances like these. She also talks to the press to raise awareness of Hydrocephalus and stories of misdiagnosis like hers and many other families across the country. Lorina says, “Our strength came from our faith, our prayer, and the love and support of family and friends. But we went through the most challenging events of our lives, and it has strengthened us.” She has now written a book, titled “Miracles of Faith,” that goes into the details of her family’s journey through the medical and legal systems and how their faith saw them through it all. It is available directly through the publishing company, Westbow Press, A Division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan