We're constantly told that parents know best and always act in the interests of their children. Except when they don't, like Kaylene Bowen-Wright from Dallas, Texas, who subjected her son to 323 hospital visits and 13 major operations by convincing doctors that he was terminally ill. Now aged 8, Christopher has basically spent his whole life in doctors' offices, and has undergone over a dozen surgeries that left him with several life-threatening blood infections.
The cycle began days after Christopher was born and continued until 2015, when physicians at the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston noticed that his mother's accounts clashed with the test results and overall visible condition of the young patient. They alerted Child Protective Services (CPS) and Bowen was arrested on charges of causing injury to a child. The 34-year-old woman admitted she had lied to doctors that her son was gravely ill, which resulted in numerous medical interventions.
According to an affidavit obtained as part of the CPS investigation, this medical abuse began in 2009, when prematurely born Christopher was only 11 days old. Bowen came up with an imaginary milk allergy and so started an "eight-year cycle of the suspect seeking medical treatment, doctor shopping and providing and/or false information to medical provider that resulted in [the boy] undergoing tests, radiological exams, surgeries, procedures and the introduction of feeding tubes, ports, pic and central lines."
In custody battles with the father, Ryan Crawford, Bowen would claim that the boy was seriously ill. "She started explaining to the judge that the doctors stated my son would never walk. And then she stated that he had problems continuing to eat and that he's going to need a feeding tube,' Crawford told a local TV station.
Over the years, Bowen's claims got increasingly inflated, reaching the point where she wrote on her Facebook page that Christopher had terminal cancer. She even launched crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for his treatment.
After doctors became suspicious in 2015 and altered CPS, investigators went to the boy's home, where they found him with IV and an oxygen mask. However, Christopher told CPS officials that he had been "playing with his brother, playing on the monkey bars when he went to school, and playing basketball the previous year." He was then taken to a hospital and appeared to be perfectly fine: he could eat normally and didn't require a feeding tube or oxygen. Since then, the child hasn't exhibited any signs of seizures, choking, fatigue or any of the other illnesses his mother claimed he was suffering from.
The fact that Christopher is healthy is great news, but this kind of life is bound to have consequences, and the boy has some mental healing to do. As the father notes, Christopher is having a hard time coming to grips with the fact he may have been perfectly healthy all along.
"He almost died three different times due to infections from the 13 different surgeries, so he has a...he has a long road ahead of him. I hate that he had to go through all that. I hate it. I hate it so much," Crawford told TV reporters.
Christopher is now in foster care and his father is seeking custody.
You'd be right to wonder what kind of mother subjects her child to such horrors and the likely answer is one in need of medical help herself. Bowen is believed to suffer from a condition known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, which medical website WebMD describes as a "mental health problem in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness or injury in a person under his or her care." The reasons for such behavior may include self-esteem issues, stress, anxiety, and need for attention or sympathy.