In his eight years of life, Christopher Bowen has been to the hospital 323 times and has undergone 13 major surgeries.
He’s been on a feeding tube delivering food through his small intestines, confined to a wheelchair, and has even spent time in hospice.
At various times, his mother, Kaylene Bowen, said he had cancer or suffered from a rare degenerative disorder that affected his oxygen supply. She tried to get him on the lung transplant list, according to CPS records obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Doctors and CPS investigators involved in the case now say there was nothing wrong with Christopher and he never needed to have a feeding tube or oxygen -- or many of the medically invasive procedures he underwent.
Last month, Christopher and his two siblings were removed from their mother’s care after she came to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, claiming he had suffered a massive seizure.
He is now in foster care.
Kaylene Bowen is in the Dallas County Jail on an injury to a child charge. Her bail is set at $150,000. She declined an interview request.
Christopher’s father, Ryan Crawford, says her arrest was a long time coming. He's angry that it took so long for the system to finally believe that Christopher’s mother was lying about illnesses.
“How do you do 13 surgeries? How do you do it?” he asked. “How do you do 13 surgeries and not question the fifth surgery? The sixth surgery?”
Investigators think the case is one of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental disorder in which a caregiver makes up an illness or injury to get medical care.
“They doctor shop and hospital shop,” says Dr. Marc Feldman, a nationally recognized expert on the disorder. “They often frequent many emergency rooms over a wide geographic area. One doctor may never know that medical procedures or diagnostic tests have already been performed elsewhere, so it happens again and again and again.”
Feldman believes that the disorder is underreported. He says there is a nine percent mortality rate among published reports – making it one of the most lethal forms of child abuse.
“These mothers tend to be master deceivers and liars,” Feldman said. “They’re very skilled at what they do.”
Crawford and Bowen met at a club about a decade ago. They dated on-and-off for about two years.
He says there were early signs when she was pregnant that something wasn’t right. She would call in the middle of the night and claim to be in the hospital.
Christopher was born prematurely, but otherwise healthy, he said.
He recalls that Bowen constantly claimed that Christopher would not drink his milk and would throw it up when he did. Over time, her claims about Christopher’s medical problems became more and more outlandish.
The more he questioned Christopher’s medical issues, the less she was willing to let him see his son, he says.
At points, Crawford represented himself in custody proceedings. He says he tried to tell the judge that his son was not sick, but the judge believed his ex.
In 2012, he says Lori Hockett, a family court district judge, stripped him of his visitation rights because he refused to accept that his son was dying.
“Every single [time] she went into [the] courtroom, she would say Christopher is dying,” Crawford said. “The judge stated that I needed to accept that my son was dying and I said, 'No, I’m not going to accept that my son was dying' and she took away from my visitation.'”
In 2014, Bowen hired an attorney and tried to get full custody of their son. He says he obtained medical records showing his son was not sick. He says the judge refused to even look at the records and dismissed his motion.
“It makes me feel as if the system wants to believe the mother all the time in situations, when the father is there fighting,” Crawford said.
Hockett is not currently a judge. She told the Star-Telegram in an email that she could not comment on Crawford’s allegations.
Through it all, Crawford says he continued to pay his $600 a month in child support.
Crawford says he complained to CPS twice and his aunt complained to CPS once. CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said the agency has no record of the complaints.
In 2015, Dr. Michelle Thomas reported her concerns to CPS about Bowen. In a letter, she wrote that there had been “a longstanding concern for possible medical child abuse by many providers.”
When CPS investigated, Bowen told the investigator she was filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
“The allegation of medical neglect of Christopher Bowen … is ruled out,” CPS concluded. “All of Christopher’s needs are being met.”
WHEN IT BEGAN
According to police records, the abuse started when Christopher was just 11 days old. Bowen told medical professionals that he had drank an entire bottle, yet she was seen pouring out the bottle. She lied when confronted by medical staff, court records say.
Dr. Suzanne Dakil, in an affidavit provided to the CPS investigator, said at two months old, Christopher was diagnosed with severe reflux, failure to thrive, and was started on a feeding tube.
He was just two when Bowen began claiming he was weak and fatigued. He underwent extensive testing for muscular weakness, but no one was able to identify any weakness, Dakil wrote.
Twice, Christopher developed blood infections from central lines and ended up in the ICU, according to court records. His mother signed a Do Not Resuscitate order when he was five.
In 2015, he was admitted to the ICU again for his third life-threatening blood infection caused by central lines. He was taken off the feeding tube during that hospitalization. The warrant says she didn’t follow through on medical recommendations once he was released.
“There have been concerns since Chris was very young that his mother was exaggerating or misrepresenting his symptoms,” Dakil wrote in her affidavit. “For the past two years, (at least) providers have been reporting their concerns to CPS” about medical abuse.
Dakil says Bowen provided different information to different providers, reported medical problems never witnessed by medical professionals and refused to comply with medical recommendations that would have resulted in less invasive medical interventions, such as feeding tubes.
After his 2015 release from Dallas Children’s, Bowen transferred him to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston but refused to provide them medical records from Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. The cycle of medical testing began anew, the warrant says.
On Nov. 9, Bowen brought Christopher to Children’s Hospital in Dallas. She claimed he was suffering from seizures, according to the CPS affidavit obtained by the Star-Telegram.
Doctors could find no seizure activity on the EKG. But medical staff saw what appeared to be “whole body jerking,” Dakil wrote.
“I am very concerned that mother has moved from exaggerating symptoms to inducing symptoms,” she wrote. “If mother has given Chris something to induce a seizure, this is potentially fatal.”
Doctors told her she needed to wean Christopher off of some of his medications and medical equipment. She refused their requests, according to the CPS affidavit.
After doctors in Dallas consulted with their Houston counterparts, they reported their concerns to CPS.
“Christopher’s history provided verbally by Ms. Kaylene Bowen paints a picture of a very sick child,” the CPS investigator wrote in the affidavit. “The doctors do not find Christopher to be sick. Ms. Bowen has Christopher on oxygen, yet Christopher is fine without oxygen. Christopher is able to eat normally and does not need a feeding tube.”
On Nov. 10, the investigator interviewed Bowen at her home. She told the investigator that she did not work because she stays at home to care for Christopher. She told him she was on food stamps, Medicaid, and received an SSI check for Christopher.
She denied giving her child too much medication. She stated she "does not see what’s wrong in wanting to take care of her child and make sure he has the best doctors that they can offer him,” the affidavit says.
She denied refusing to let doctors test and conduct blood work on him.
When the caseworker asked to see Christopher, the boy jumped to the bottom from the fourth step, the investigator reported.
Medical experts reviewed records stating back to 2009 detailing the unnecessary care. Among them, he had a central line placed by his heart that was not needed. He also had an unnecessary feeding tube of the most invasive type as it goes into his small intestine rather than his stomach.
On one fundraising website, Bowen claimed that he had a rare congenital condition that prevented the delivery of “oxygen-rich blood through his body."
When he was taken from this mother’s care, he was on an IV and oxygen, the warrant says. He was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Dallas. He soon began eating normally and was taken off oxygen. Doctors also reported that he was having no issues with seizures or fatigue.
Crawford has seen his son twice since he was put in foster care.
“He looked as if nothing had ever happened to him,” he says. “He’s a blessing. God has watched over him.”
Crawford is fighting to get his son back. He is in the process of trying to hire an attorney to help him, but he knows he could be in for an expensive fight. Crawford’s co-workers have set up a GoFundMe to help him.
“Out of everything that has happened, the worst thing you can do is put my children in foster care with strangers,” he says. “I need my son in my life and my son needs me in [his] life.”
He believes money was Bowen's motivation, and he wants her to go prison for life.
“Obviously, she was living life for free and off my son,” he says.
Crawford blames the system – the judges, the doctors, and CPS – who he says failed to keep his son from eight years of misery that he never should have had to endure.