Cancer Patient Reunited With Parents After Months in Foster Care
UPDATED: 10:42 pm CST November 3, 2005
HOUSTON -- Locking arms with her mother and father, Katie Wernecke slowly walked out of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on Thursday and said she was "excited" to be finally going home.
A judge ruled this week that the 13-year-old cancer patient should be returned to her parents' custody as soon as she completed a round of chemotherapy and was stable, ending a lengthy legal battle with the state.
The state's Child Protective Services removed Katie from her family in June after her father said radiation treatment could put his daughter at a heightened risk for breast cancer. A doctor told a social worker that Katie's parents were endangering her life by refusing treatment.
This week, state District Judge Jack Hunter said the Werneckes should get her back and should be allowed to decide what path of treatment to follow.
Katie said almost nothing to a media crowd awaiting her release from the hospital. Bald, pale and looking weak, Katie clung to her parents for support.
"It means a whole lot," said Katie's mother, Michelle Wernecke. "We can start building her back up with love and hope and ask for another miracle. Just having the family back together again, it wasn't whole without her."
Katie arrived with her parents in Corpus Christi late Thursday en route to the family's home in Agua Dulce.
"I'm feeling better. It was very boring and 'kinda' lonely without my parents," she said in a story in Friday's Corpus Christi Caller-Times. "I'm excited. I was thinking I'd be back more like in February."
Edward Wernecke said in Houston that the legal battle isn't over. Although he said he was satisfied with Hunter's ruling that Katie could go home, Wernecke said Hunter still has not cleared them of an earlier ruling that they had medically neglected their daughter.
Wernecke planned to go back to the Texas Supreme Court and ask that that ruling be reversed.
"Judge Hunter did the right thing in returning Katie to us, but he didn't go far enough," Edward Wernecke said. "We were never guilty of medical neglect. We want to be vindicated. We also want for all families who have had trouble with CPS, for the Supreme Court to come forward and set some rules and guidelines so other families don't have this difficulty."
Neither CPS officials nor Katie's doctor, pediatric oncologist Robert Wells, were available for comment.
Edward Wernecke, Katie's father, pledged to take Katie to the Bright Spot for Health clinic in Kansas this weekend to seek intravenous Vitamin C.
"We're grateful and we're going to find the finest treatment in the world to get her cured," he said.
"When you have a case of cancer, there is no magic bullet," Edward Wernecke said. "It's not black and white, there are no easy answers, no easy cures. The decision have always been left up to the parents and that's what we said all along."
Katie was diagnosed in January with Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes.
After initial rounds of chemotherapy, the tumor in her chest appeared gone and the Werneckes refused the radiation treatments that M.D. Anderson doctors recommended.
Wells said Monday that Katie's chances of surviving the disease had dwindled from 80 percent to as low as 20 percent.
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