The Rico Story

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The Rico Nagel Martinez Story

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My name is Cheryl Nagel, and I am the grandmother of Rico Nagel Martinez, who was born December 19th, 2012.

I am writing to tell you about my grandson, Rico, who has been taken from us and is presently a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital. Because our 22 year old daughter was unable to feed him, they hooked him up to a nasal tube, and later did two surgeries to install a gastric tube.

The reason she was unable to feed him is because Mower County Child Protective Services removed him from our home. The reason they removed him from our home is because of a cancelled a doctor’s appointment. Rico was taken right out of Lindsey’s arms by a CPS officer on January 18, 2013, in our home. Lindsey and John, our future son-in-law, live with us. It was 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, and it’s difficult to even write about because it was the worst day of our lives.

Lindsey was born in Petrosani, Romania, in 1990, and her birth mother was unable to take care of her. It was during post-Ceaucescu Romania, a devastated country. My mom and I flew to Romania and spent 6 weeks trying to get Lindsey out. It was required that we have an HIV test done on Lindsey before we left, so we had the test performed, and the test came back negative.

“May we stay strong and focused. May we assist in the safe passage of Rico. May this madness end. May we fight it with all we have.” – Pam, Rico’s Great-Aunt

But after a doctor’s appointment back home, we got the bad news: Though she had tested negative for HIV in Romania, she was re-tested in the United States and the test came back positive.

We were told Lindsey would die very young, (20% chance to live to age 2), but that her life could be “extended” by a drug called AZT. We gave her the first dose of AZT on the floor of the pharmacy.

Towards the end of being on AZT for 22 months the drug started to make Lindsey very sick. She would wake up screaming in pain sometimes 2 to 3 times a night, grabbing her ankles. This went on for over a month. We could see her muscles were deteriorating. We became alarmed. Several months earlier, I’d read an article written by Peter Duesberg, a world class scientist, about HIV, AIDS, and the side effects of AZT. We wrote to Dr. Duesberg and asked, “If Lindsey were your daughter, what would you do?” He immediately replied, sent us a sheaf of scientific papers on the effects of AZT, and wrote: “If you don’t take your daughter off AZT immediately she will die, like Kimberly Bergalis.”

I’d also read the book by Elizabeth Glaser, IN THE ABSENCE OF ANGELS, and determined that Lindsey was in fact experiencing the same side effects from the drug that both Elizabeth Glaser and her daughter experienced. Since our doctor offered us no alternative, we took a chance and took her off the drug in November of 1992. (Our doctor said, “Not much we can do. It’s the HIV infection.”)

Within three nights, the leg cramps stopped, and Lindsey immediately started eating foods that she before hated. Within a month, she gained 26% of her body weight, and started thriving and growing.

She not only outlived every prediction the doctors had made, she actually is, as far as we know, the only survivor of the pediatric HIV patients from that era. We knew several of these children personally. They are all gone, yet Lindsey, who didn’t take any more meds, survived.

Over the years, Lindsey never went to the hospital, never got sick any longer than her classmates, had no symptoms of AIDS, and lived a normal life.

Meet Rico! Click image to watch video.

Meet Rico! Click image to watch video.

The nightmare started all over again when Lindsey gave birth to Rico.

Rico had meconium in his lungs and they thought he had an infection, so at first all we knew was that he would be placed on an antibiotic, and had to go to the NICU for awhile.

The same day Rico was born, while Lindsey was resting, three figures appeared at the foot of her bed. It was an infectious disease doctor, a lawyer and a social worker. They told her that unless she consented to being tested for HIV, and allowed them to test Rico for HIV, they were going to turn Lindsey in to Mower county Social Services for child endangerment. When Lindsey refused, the lawyer turned on his heels, walked toward the door, and started dialing his cell phone. The door slammed behind him, and he was gone.

We were shocked! Steve had the nurse call the lawyer, and asked if we could have 10 minutes to think things over. So the four of us, Lindsey, John, Steve and I agreed that we better comply with their demands.

We knew Lindsey was HIV positive, but of course, we weren’t sure about Rico because there is not an accurate test for babies, as they usually carry their mother’s antibodies to HIV until about 18 months. 85% of babies born to HIV positive mothers shed their “maternal antibodies” by themselves and never truly become HIV positive, even without any drugs.

Lindsey was never counseled to take drugs while she was pregnant, which would have decreased Rico’s chances of being positive to 2%! No one bothered to tell her that, even though upon our first visit to the midwife unit on June 13, Lindsey and I told the nurse all about HIV, and Lindsey’s experience with AZT. Lindsey didn’t want the HIV test, as she knew she was positive, so why take the test again?

In the second and third days of his life, Rico was placed on a battery of drugs, including the very toxic drug that almost killed Lindsey – AZT. By day 14 of his life, he was also placed two other anti-HIV drugs. One of the drugs he was on is 45% alcohol, so it was no wonder Rico slept most all the time.

Lindsey started breast-feeding Rico when he was 6 days old. He took to it pretty well, despite the fact he’d had a feeding tube for the first few days. A breast-feeding specialist visited Lindsey every morning, and assisted with Rico, and soon he was breastfeeding 100% of the time, and we got to go home! Lindsey and John stayed at Ronald McDonald House for a few extra days, and visited Rico’s pediatrician as an outpatient for a few days. We were so happy! Rico would finally come home!

Steve called the doctor and cancelled an appointment for January 15, as both John and Lindsey wanted to get a second opinion about Rico’s condition. We were told by a friend, to go to Seattle to see a physician there. So we visited our family in the Twin Cities, and headed to Seattle on January 16 later that afternoon. We drove to Fargo/Moorhead and spent the night. The next morning we got up and headed west. But the further we got from home we were having second thoughts. The biggest thing is that during a phone call with the doctor from Seattle, we realized that he doesn’t work with pediatrics. Then Steve called and told us Child Protective Services wanted to meet Lindsey and John in half an hour! They had given us no warning. We didn’t know we were being assessed by CPS! The next day, after we’d driven home, CPS arrived, as well as the Sheriff. They handed us some papers and took Rico right out of Lindsey’s arms. It was the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed…

They drove off with him, and for five long days we had no information about where he even was. Finally we found out he was back in the hospital and that they were feeding him via a tube, because Lindsey was not there to breastfeed him.

The medical staff and CPS had researched Steve and me. We’d participated in a documentary film in 2009, telling the story of how Lindsey almost died from AZT but survived. It was clear that the doctors were suspicious of our views, and it was as if they decided to punish Lindsey and John because we had the nerve to defy medical orders 20 years ago, even though their our decision to do so saved our daughter’s life.

At the hearing the judge asked CPS what their “cause” was to remove this baby from his parents. It appeared that a cancelled doctor’s appointment was the cause to remove Rico. Though we don’t like the idea, Lindsey and John did NOT defy medical orders! Lindsey and John gave Rico his meds faithfully, twice a day. The county attorney stated that Steve and I did not believe HIV caused AIDS, and were against AIDS drugs, and apparently this was the reason they took Rico.

When CPS picked Rico up, he was supposed to go live with foster parents. The foster mom met the CPS social worker at the sheriff’s station and discovered that Rico was congested, and had trouble sucking out of a bottle. After breastfeeding for two weeks, it’s no wonder! So he ended up back at the hospital, and had to be fed once again, with a tube. Two weeks ago he had a gastric tube installed, and when he comes home he will continue to be fed via the tube. All because of a missed doctor’s appointment!

We are willing to keep giving Rico drugs, but these drugs are not promised to give him a longer life. They are similar to chemotherapy, and do not extend life. They do not offer a better quality of life. Rico is now two months old, and has lived his life in a hospital. He could have stayed home after only 3 weeks in the hospital, had CPS not gotten so upset about a missed appointment! There is no cause that justifies him being taken from our daughter and future son-in-law!

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