Advertisement
  1. Health

Judge gives boy in legal fight over cancer treatment to grandparents

A hearing was held at the Hillsborough County Courthouse on Thursday to decide who will get custody of 3-year-old Noah McAdams, whose parents fled the state with the child rather than take him in for chemotherapy to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Father Joshua McAdams 28, center, mother Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, left, and attorney Michael Minardi, left, exit the courthouse after a judge ruled against them. The child, who is at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, was placed in the custody of his maternal grandparents. More hearings will be held to determine whether the parents can deny their child treatment. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
A hearing was held at the Hillsborough County Courthouse on Thursday to decide who will get custody of 3-year-old Noah McAdams, whose parents fled the state with the child rather than take him in for chemotherapy to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Father Joshua McAdams 28, center, mother Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, left, and attorney Michael Minardi, left, exit the courthouse after a judge ruled against them. The child, who is at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, was placed in the custody of his maternal grandparents. More hearings will be held to determine whether the parents can deny their child treatment. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published May 3, 2019

TAMPA — The 3-year-old boy caught in a legal tug of war over how he will be treated for leukemia will be turned over to the custody of his maternal grandparents, a judge ruled Thursday.

Noah McAdams, 3, was tracked down Monday in Kentucky, after his parents refused additional chemotherapy treatment for his acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and instead fled Tampa.

The parents, Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball, failed to show up for the boy's scheduled chemotherapy treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. To keep him out of the hospital, they decided to treat his cancer with natural remedies and fled the state, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

That led Florida authorities to issue an endangered child alert on Monday. Hours later, the family was tracked down to a motel room in Georgetown, Ky.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Endangered 3-year-old who needs medical treatment found in Kentucky

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Lisa Campbell ruled Thursday that Noah will go home with his maternal grandparents while she decides how his cancer will be treated. The boy is currently at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. When doctors decided to release him, he'll go home with the grandparents.

But the case is far from over and Noah will not yet resume treatment.

The judge must also decide whether the parents were within their rights to decline chemotherapy. To prepare for that hearing, the parents' lawyer will have a doctor he found examine the child and give a second opinion as to the best treatment option for Noah. That will lead to another court hearing.

Before Thursday's hearing started, the 23-year-old mother brought photos of her brown-eyed, blonde-haired child and laid them out on a courtroom table. She said she was sending a silent message to the judge, social workers and child protective investigators working on Noah's case.

"I wanted (the photos) to be out when everybody was documenting, when they had the cameras going during the hearing," Bland-Ball said. "I wanted people to see, those that are watching the case and the social workers to see as well, that we're a happy family. Noah was very happy with us. He's so loved, so there's really no reason to go through all this."

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

The boy was first diagnosed with leukemia by Johns Hopkins doctors on April 4, the mother said, after his parents took him from one emergency room to another in an attempt to find what had suddenly made him "sluggish" and "not himself."

At first, Bland-Ball and her husband, Joshua McAdams, agreed that Noah should undergo chemotherapy treatments at the hospital, they told the judge. But after about 10 days there, the boy's father said they became worried about their son's care and told staff they were going to seek a second medical opinion.

"The hospital's governing body was disorganized and the doctors were not pleasant or professional to us," McAdams, 28, testified. "It seemed like doctors were disappearing on us and just passing down Noah's information second hand ...

"There was intimidation from social workers who looked at me like I was not interested in my son's health because I didn't want to give my son chocolate milk, or pudding, or ice cream. I care for my son and it's very important that we watch what he eats."

The father said his wife contacted Johns Hopkins multiple times about their concerns. Then last week she told doctors they had had enough. Noah would no longer go to his scheduled chemotherapy appointments. The family set out for Ohio, where Bland-Ball said she had arranged for Noah to see a doctor who would provide alternative treatments.

"We have phone records we have voicemails we left for them and we even spoke to the social worker the physicians assistant and the doctor to tell them we were seeking a second opinion," Bland-Ball said.

The father testified that the couple had already started treating Noah with CBD oil, fresh foods and clean alkaline water.

But Dr. Bijal D. Shah, head of the Moffitt Cancer Center's acute lymphoblastic leukemia program, told the Tampa Bay Times this week that natural remedies do nothing.

In fact, he said the accepted medical treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia has become very effective. The cure rate is up to 90 percent, though it does require a patient to endure 2½ years of chemotherapy and the resulting side effects.

Kentucky authorities found the family Monday evening. They took Noah to a local hospital for treatment, then put him on a plane back to Tampa. His parents are now the subject of an investigation into criminal charges of medical neglect for refusing proper medical treatment for a child considered to be "gravely ill."

During the hearing, a child protective investigators testified that she left voicemails and a Facebook message for the parents to tell them that they were under investigation. But the parents testified they never got those messages.

The couple's lawyer, Michael Minardi, said a blood test taken Wednesday showed no trace of leukemia in Noah's blood.

"I know a doctor's not going to come back and say that chemotherapy is the best option and is the only treatment for him," the lawyer said, "and I think that's the problem we have in this country right now is the fallacy of doctors pushing chemotherapy ... It destroys people."

But Shah told the Times that patients who stop chemotherapy early are risking their health. The cancer return almost always returns.

"I put it in the same box as those who fear vaccination," the doctor said. "The reality is, what we risk by not taking chemotherapy, just as what we risk by not taking vaccines, is much, much worse."

Times staff writer Tony Marrero contributed to this report. Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. “My body, my choice” was the rallying cry on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in the state Capitol, where abortion rights activists decried a fast-tracked bill that would raise the bar for minors seeking abortions. (AP Photo/Aileen Perilla) [AILEEN PERILLA  |  AP]
    Abortion supporters worry about Florida’s move toward parental consent and what may follow.
  2. Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The number of cases of a new coronavirus from Wuhan has risen over 400 in China Chinese health authorities said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Dake Kang) [DAKE KANG  |  AP]
    On the eve of the Lunar New Year, transportation was shut down in at least 13 cities home to more than 36 million people.
  3. This Feb. 6, 2015, file photo shows a Measles, Mumps and Rubella, M-M-R vaccine on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, Calif. A study released this week has found that a 2016 California law intended to improve childhood vaccination rates had the greatest effect on high-risk areas where the rates were the lowest. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File) [ERIC RISBERG  |  AP]
    The case involves a man who recently traveled to South America.
  4. To accommodate the swelling numbers of aging baby boomers, experts say we will need to make transportation more readily available, build more affordable housing, modify homes and apartments to help seniors age in place, and create programs to bring young and old people together. [Times (2011)]
    “There’s never been a time like this,” one expert says. Solutions include more health aides, taming long-term care costs and just healthier living.
  5. Joseph Hernandez Hall is home to the University of Florida's chemistry department, where a faculty member recently resigned after officials discovered he failed to disclose his strong ties to China. While at UF, the faculty member also held positions at two Chinese universities, including vice president and dean. The faculty member was not named in a report obtained Tuesday from the Florida Legislature. [University of Florida]
    They also collected grant money from the U.S. government while never disclosing their outside work in China.
  6. Margaret Pruitt, today’s exercise model, is a real wonder woman.
  7. Travelers wear face masks as they sit in a waiting room at the Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A fourth person has died in an outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, authorities said Tuesday, as more places stepped up medical screening of travelers from the country as it enters its busiest travel period. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) [MARK SCHIEFELBEIN  |  AP]
    The possibility the virus can be transmitted between people increases the chances it could spread faster and more widely.
  8. A new report to the Florida Legislature details the investigation that led to the forced resignations of six Moffitt Cancer Center employees in December, including president and CEO Dr. Alan List. [Moffitt Cancer Center]
    The money came from the “Thousand Talents Program” and went to personal accounts set up in China.
  9. The C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center at Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. (Times | 2014)
    The chief justice dropped an ‘Okay, Boomer’ reference during oral arguments in the case of a pharmacist who accused the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System of age discrimination.
  10. Six of the 11 Pinellas County Head Start preschool centers found to have mold problems earlier this month are still closed. A few more could reopen next week, but some could be closed longer. [Google Maps]
    Five of the 11 affected locations have reopened, but hundreds of children can’t go back to their preschool yet.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement