But Christopher didn’t need any of it.
According to a Child Protective Services complaint obtained by the Star-Telegram, his mother, Kaylene Bowen-Wright, subjected him to years of unnecessary invasive medical treatments in Dallas and Houston.
On Friday, Bowen-Wright was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to injury of a child, NBC Dallas Fort-Worth reported. Hospitals in Dallas and Houston had grown suspicious and filed reports with the state’s child services agency. Child Protective Services removed Christopher and his two half-siblings from Bowen-Wright’s custody in 2017 and closed its case last year.
Friday was the end of a long legal battle for Christopher’s father, Ryan Crawford, who fought Bowen-Wright in court for years over custody and was long skeptical that his son was ill.
“She was always saying Christopher was sick. Every single week. Every single month,” Crawford told the Star-Telegram in December 2017, shortly after Bowen-Wright was arrested. “She would always say, ‘Something’s wrong. He has this. He has that.’ ”
Over the years, Christopher’s mother would claim he had cancer, a genetic disorder and seizures, among other ailments.
Bowen-Wright also created online fundraisers for Christopher, the Star-Telegram reported. She organized a bike rally for him in 2014, after claiming he had a rare disease called arteriovenous malformation, with the hope of raising $30,000 for medical treatments. In local coverage of that event, Bowen-Wright told CW 33 that “Christopher has trouble breathing so basically, his lungs — and body — doesn’t get the oxygen it needs, so he gets tired; he can’t play as long as the normal kids,” and “We don’t know how long Christopher will live with AVM.”
At Bowen-Wright’s trial this year, Suzanne Dakil of the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas testified that Christopher often seemed healthier than his mother claimed and that the unnecessary treatments had actually caused medical complications, the NBC affiliate reported.
Crawford now has full custody of his son, according to NBC.
Texas media reported that Bowen-Wright’s behavior was consistent with a condition known to medical professionals as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which one person falsifies another person’s illness and seeks unnecessary treatments for it.
However, it was unclear whether Bowen-Wright had been diagnosed with the condition.
“The moment I heard about this case a year and a half ago, it seemed like a particularly severe case of Munchausen by proxy, combined probably with what we called malingering by proxy,” said Marc Feldman, a distinguished fellow at the American Psychiatric Association and an expert on the condition.
Feldman said that in cases of Munchausen by proxy, “the mother is not only after attention and sympathy, but government benefits, disability support, medications. They may be after a whole host of tangible gains as well as the attention.”
There is debate among the psychiatric community about whether the condition is a form of mental illness or a type of abuse, Feldman said, but children who are subjected to it can suffer serious consequences even if the behavior is discovered. Unnecessary medical treatments can do harm or endanger a child. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are not uncommon among survivors. An estimated 600 to 1,200 cases occur in the United States each year, according to Feldman.
It takes an average of 14 to 15 months for a case of Munchausen by proxy to be discovered, and America’s decentralized medical system enables perpetrators to bounce from doctor to doctor to avoid suspicion and continue to fabricate stories and diagnoses with each new visit. It is unusual, though, for a parent to take a child to hundreds of different medical visits as Bowen-Wright had, Feldman said, though he added it was not unheard of.
“I’ve encountered cases that have gone on for seven, eight, nine years before doctors recognize that it was abuse,” he said.