In a hospital in Texas, young Christopher Bowen gets ready for another round under the doctor’s knife. According to his mother, he is deathly ill, perhaps with only months left to live. But then hospital staff notice something strange. So strange, in fact, that it sparks the beginning of a complicated legal battle that any parent will struggle to understand.
Christopher was born in April 2009 at the Medical City Hospital in Dallas, Texas. The boy’s mother, Kaylene Bowen, and his father, Ryan Crawford, were no longer together. In fact, they had only briefly dated before Christopher was conceived. Nevertheless, Kaylene decided to keep the baby and kept Ryan up-to-date with her pregnancy as it progressed.
According to Kaylene, the period leading up to Christopher’s birth was a difficult one. Apparently, the mom-to-be suffered from regular ailments and would often call Ryan from various hospitals around Dallas. And, allegedly, she even claimed to have registered a temperature of more than 110 degrees for an entire week.
For Ryan, though, the frequency of Kaylene’s complaints made him wonder if his ex-partner was being entirely truthful. But soon there were bigger things to worry about. You see, Christopher was born 33 weeks early and was immediately admitted to the neonatal intensive care. Luckily, the newborn recovered enough to go home, although he was far from out of the woods.
Not long after Kaylene brought Christopher home, she began complaining about his ill health. But it wasn’t until Ryan found himself in court – battling for the right to see his son – that he realized the extent of the issue. Apparently, Kaylene caught him by surprise during a custody hearing, claiming that Christopher was seriously ill.
Yes, Ryan claims he had no idea how unwell his son was until Kaylene spoke in court. “[She said] Christopher is never going to walk and we need to… I need to learn to take care of a disabled child,” Ryan recalled in a 2017 interview with CBS News. But even though Kaylene doubted that Ryan could care for their son, the court granted him visitation rights.
However, Ryan claims that Kaylene often canceled his visits, telling him that their son was too ill to see his father. The seemingly worried mom, meanwhile, continued to insist that Christopher required a high level of specialized care. As a result, the court ordered Ryan to complete courses in skills such as gastronomy tube care and CPR.
Then, in December 2012, Ryan took his grandmother to visit Christopher at Kaylene’s apartment in Dallas. But two weeks later, the baffled father was back in court, listening to some shocking news delivered by the mother of his son. Apparently, the boy had suffered a cardiac arrest as a consequence of his father’s visit.
By now, Kaylene was claiming that her son was terminally ill. Ryan, however, had never seen any evidence to support such claims. “It was always the same story: Christopher is dying,” Ryan told the Star-Telegram in 2017. “The father doesn’t need to be around because he doesn’t know how to take care of him.”
For Lori Hockett, though, the family court judge who heard the case, Kaylene’s testimony was more than enough. Less than impressed by Ryan’s doubts about Christopher’s illness, Hockett barred him from seeing his son. Distraught at the news, Ryan gradually sank into depression and stopped battling Kaylene for custody of the boy.
Meanwhile, things for Christopher went from bad to worse. As Kaylene shuttled her son between hospitals in Dallas and Houston, TX, his health continued to deteriorate. At times the brave little boy was confined to a wheelchair, while at others he was hooked up to an oxygen machine. At one point, despite the risk of potentially deadly infection, Christopher was even fitted with a feeding tube.
In fact, over the years, Christopher found himself at a staggering 323 hospital appointments. On top of that, he also underwent more than a dozen invasive surgeries, all with the aim of improving his health. But nothing seemed to work. According to Kaylene, her son was first diagnosed with a genetic disorder before then stating that he was suffering from cancer.
Seemingly the devoted mother, Kaylene tried everything to get her son on the waiting list for a lung transplant. But around the same time, Christopher’s aunt, Carolyn Williams, had grown suspicious. And after meeting Kaylene in a hospital, she looked at the boy’s medical notes. Strangely, she saw no evidence of the cancer that his mother had claimed was there.
Concerned, Carolyn then reported her suspicions to the Child Protection Services, but the case was dismissed. More convinced than ever that something was amiss, though, Ryan filed for custody once more in January 2014. In court, Kaylene wept as she told the judge that four-year-old Christopher was now comatose.
But Ryan’s concerns were one again not taken seriously. Bizarrely, even though the worried father had doctor reports supporting his claim that Christopher was healthy, the judge refused to see view the new evidence. Instead, Hockett denied Ryan’s claim for custody. Then, later that same year, Christopher was admitted to a hospice, where he began receiving care designed to help with pain.
But while Christopher was in the hospice, Kaylene refused to cooperate with his doctors’ treatment plans. And eventually, the boy was discharged. Six months later, though, Christopher was admitted to intensive care – but this time the concern was very real. For the third time, he was suffering from a potentially fatal blood infection, brought on by complications with his catheter.
Thankfully, Christopher’s health gradually seemed to return, and he was discharged from hospital. Kaylene continued to take her son to facilities around Texas, though, insisting that he was seriously ill. But in November 2017, a doctor at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas became suspicious of Kaylene. Yes, the physician believed that the seemingly concerned mom was in fact deliberately attempting to induce seizures in Christopher. And subsequently, the doctor reported the case to CPS.
As a result, the state finally launched an investigation, and it became apparent that Ryan had been right all along. Indeed, doctors couldn’t find any evidence that Christopher had ever suffered from the illnesses that his mother had claimed. So, on December 6, 2017, Kaylene was arrested on suspicion of injury to a child. And as police spoke to key witnesses, the extent of the alleged abuse became apparent. Shockingly, Kaylene’s wrongdoing had apparently begun when Christopher was less than two weeks old.
According to hospital staff, Kaylene had been caught pouring milk out of her son’s bottle before claiming that he had finished the lot. From there, she allegedly continued to fabricate a history of ill health for Christopher, shopping around to find doctors who were compliant with her demands. In the medical profession, it’s a condition known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy – a disorder that causes sufferers to fabricate or exaggerate the illnesses of those in their care.
Today, Kaylene is out on bail, but she’s banned from having any contact with Christopher or her other two children. Ryan, meanwhile, has been reunited with his son at last. What’s more, on December 20, 2017, the vindicated father was granted full custody of Christopher – albeit on a temporary basis. And happily, the boy – now eight years old – seems to be flourishing in his new home. “[Christopher] is so sweet, so nice, so playful,” Ryan reported. “You wouldn’t think that he had gone through all this abuse.”