Brownsdale Baby with HIV Removed from Parent's Custody

Posted at: 03/07/2013 6:10 PM
Updated at: 03/07/2013 6:15 PM
By: Ellery McCardle

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- A Brownsdale family is fighting for custody of their infant son who has HIV.

They say they're being unfairly targeted by Mower County because of their beliefs and a missed doctor's appointment.

Now they're calling on local lawmakers to investigate the county's actions.

We were contacted by Steve and Cheryl Nagel. Their grandson Rico was born in December and tested positive for HIV. The source? His mother, who tested positive for HIV as a baby after she was adopted from Romania 22 years ago.

A few weeks after Rico was born, Mower County took Rico from his mother because it feared the child was in danger.

"Take the baby right out of the mother's arms. The only source of food the baby has...he still needed to be breastfed," said Steve Nagel, Rico's grandfather.

He and his wife Cheryl are still in shock that their grandson, Rico is not at home with his mother and father.

"When you see your daughter being so intimidated it's the worse thing you could ever imagine," said Cheryl Nagel.

That moment Cheryl is talking about is in home video taken on January 18th when Rico was taken by Mower County's Health and Human Services.

Since then, he's been at St. Marys Hospital, where he's being treated for a handful of medical complications.

"Our family is shattered," said Steve Nagel.

According to court documents, it was recommended to Rico's mother that she receive treatments while pregnant to lower the risk of transmitting the HIV virus to her son, but it states that she refused to take the drugs.

Then on January 15th, the family missed a medical appointment.

However, the Nagels say their daughter was never offered treatment during her pregnancy...and that missed appointment? They thought it was optional and say they re-scheduled it.

"You need something awfully serious to take a baby from its only food source and I don't see it any court documents," said Steve Nagel.

In a letter to the county, a Mayo Clinic doctor recommended Rico be placed on anti-retroviral drugs or face a significant risk of AIDS and/or death within one year. But his family disagrees with that recommendation.

"We don't want Rico on drugs," said Cheryl Nagel.

The Nagels believe Rico's mother suffered painful side affects when she was put on similar medication as a baby. They also believe that medication was slowly killing her, which is why they stopped giving it to her at age two.

While, Rico's mother is HIC positive, the Nagels say she is living proof that Rico doesn't need the drugs either. Despite that, Rico's grandparents say they were complying with doctor's orders.

"We never didn't give him the medication," said Steve Nagel.

However, the court order allowing Mower County to take Rico, states there's no proof of that.

For now, Rico is still laying in a hospital bed and on a feeding tube, still under protective custody.

"I don't know that that kid is going to make it out of the hospital," said Steve Nagel.

We asked to speak with Rico's mother, but her lawyer advised her not to speak to the media.

We asked Mower County officials for comment, but they said under state and federal regulations, they cannot speak on any protective health case. 

The next hearing in this case is set for April 1st. Stay with ABC 6 News for the latest