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Parents become focus of custody trial of 4-year-old leukemia patient

Noah McAdams was being treated for leukemia when his parents left Tampa to seek natural remedies. They are fighting to regain custody.
In April, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies searched for leukemia patient Joshua "Noah" Mcadams, who was 3 when he was reported missing after his parents skipped a chemotherapy appointment and instead tried to take him to Ohio to undergo natural remedies. They were caught in Kentucky, and are now fighting to regain custody of their son, who has since turned 4. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office / Facebook] [LANGSTON TAYLOR | Hillsborough County Sheriff's Of]
Published Aug. 20
Updated Aug. 20

TAMPA — The custody trial of Noah McAdams, the 4-year-old leukemia patient whose parents took him to Kentucky instead of letting him finish his chemotherapy, started on Monday.

But the trial quickly focused on the parents, Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball, who hope to regain custody of Noah.

The parents had sought to treat his acute lymphoblastic leukemia with natural remedies. But during the trial, their attorney Brooke Elvington indicated that they may accept conventional medical treatment to regain custody.

Previous hearings were closed to the media to keep the child’s medical information private. But most of the trial was public, and offered a glimpse into the family’s home life.

RELATED STORY: Judge gives boy in legal fight over cancer treatment to grandparents

Florida Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Beck questioned the couple’s relationship with their relatives — and focused on allegations the father assaulted the mother in 2016.

Relatives testified about allegations of physical abuse in 2016, when Brooksville police arrested Joshua McAdams on a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery.

The couple was arguing when the father threw a plastic toy bucket at the mother, cutting the face of Noah when he was a baby, the arrest report said.

Then, the report said the father shoved the mother into a wall “multiple times.”

Joshua McAdams spent three days in jail. The mother filed for a protective injunction, according to court records, but it was later dismissed. The criminal case was dropped the next year.

The child’s great-grandmother, Joyce Bland, and maternal grandmother, Amanda Jordan, both testified that they noticed bruises, a black eye and lumps on Taylor Bland-Ball’s face the day after the 2016 incident.

Joshua McAdams took the stand and expressed his remorse about the incident. He said he enrolled in a counseling program because of it.

The relatives of Noah’s mother also testified that the father often demeaned and was “bossy” toward her.

“He always spoke to her as if belittling her, calling her names,” Joyce Bland said.

She cited examples such as Joshua McAdams criticizing Taylor Bland-Ball for using the computer too much, or cooking food the wrong way.

RELATED STORY: Chemo or natural remedies? Little Noah caught in legal fight over how to treat his leukemia

The state also focused on whether the parents were compliant in administering Noah’s oral medicine and whether his chances at remission were hampered when the family missed a scheduled chemotherapy treatment by leaving the state.

The parents said they were headed to Ohio to get a second medical opinion from Sherri Tenpenny, an osteopathic physician and anti-vaccination activist.

Authorities found them on April 29 in a Kentucky motel room. The state took the boy into custody, sent the parents back to Florida and a judged ordered Noah to resume medical treatment. The parents have been fighting to regain custody ever since. Amanda Jordan currently has custody of Noah.

Joshua McAdams also testified about an incident in which Taylor Bland-Ball removed Noah’s peripherally inserted central catheter — or “PICC line” — which administered fluids and drugs. The father said they feared it was infected.

A doctor later testified that this was a risky action taken by a non-medical professional because the catheter could have broken off and left a segment in the child’s body.

RELATED STORY: Endangered 3-year-old who needs medical treatment found in Kentucky

The state also raised the risk that delaying chemotherapy could allow Noah’s leukemia to return. Dr. Jessica Wishnew, a pediatric oncologist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, testified that while she could not determine the exact risk, research has shown that nearly all patients who stop chemotherapy early see their cancer return.

Taylor Bland-Ball will resume her testimony Tuesday. Once the trial concludes, the judge has 30 days to issue a ruling.

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