Katie To Return To Parents
By Kathryn Garcia
Caller-TimesNovember 1, 2005
Fearing for the ill teen's life, a judge decided after a hearing Monday afternoon to return 13-year-old cancer patient Katie Wernecke to her family after she spent more than four months in state custody.
Judge Jack Hunter dismissed Child Protective Services from supervising Katie's medical treatment and awarded her parents custody.
"CPS and the Werneckes are never going to coexist," Hunter said. "If I leave it up to CPS and the Werneckes that child will die. This has gone on far too long, and we've lost valuable time."
Katie's chances of survival have dropped from 80 percent to about 20 percent because of delays in treatment for her Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes, said Katie's treating pediatric oncologist Dr. Robert Wells.
Katie's treatments have been the focus of a state custody battle since June 4 when she was removed from her parents after they refused to allow radiation treatments. The Werneckes have said they are fearful of the treatment's side effects. Katie has been undergoing treatments at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
"She'll be back where she belongs at home with her family. I'll be able to sleep again," said Katie's mother Michele Wernecke. Michele Wernecke grew grief-stricken during the hearing, begging Hunter to return Katie to her. "I'm going to try everything to bring back Katie's emotional and physical health," Michele Wernecke said. "I hope and pray she'll live a long life."
Hunter ordered that the Werneckes continue treating Katie at M.D. Anderson. Katie is scheduled to undergo a medical scan Nov. 14 to see if the recent chemotherapy was successful, Wells said. Katie also is scheduled to meet with a radiation oncologist Nov. 16, he said.
Family law attorney Luis Corona, who represents Katie's parents, said he doesn't believe Hunter's order regarding treatment at M.D. Anderson is "legally admissible" because a judge can't order medical treatment if CPS isn't involved. "We're going to have to come back and clarify in the order," Corona said. The order will be worked out and signed later in the week, Hunter said.
Michele and Edward Wernecke plan on Nov. 7 to take Katie to pursue alternative intravenous Vitamin C treatments in Wichita, Kan., which Edward Wernecke said will cure her cancer.
Wells said Katie could be well enough to take the trip, but only advised Katie leave for one week and not receive high doses of Vitamin C, which can have a negative effect on the radiation treatments. If she leaves for a longer period, Wells said her chances of survival would be compromised. "If treatment is stopped again, the disease will come back and she'll eventually die from Hodgkin's disease," Wells said. "If she's gone more than a month, I'll only be able to give her palliative care."
Edward Wernecke said he would do everything possible to ensure his daughter's survival, even if that means continuing her treatments in Houston, but did say the prescribed treatment might not be congruous with the alternative treatments.
Katie testified from M.D. Anderson where she was receiving a blood transfusion saying she was tired but wanted to receive the prescribed chemotherapy and radiation treatments in addition to the intravenous Vitamin C. "I want to go home," Katie repeated several times during her phone conversation.
CPS spokesman Aaron Reed said CPS hopes Katie will continue receiving treatments.
"Mr. Wernecke told the judge in court he would continue the treatment. We certainly hope he'll do that," Reed said. "We certainly hope and pray that she'll have a full recovery."
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