Parents charged with child abuse for missing follow-up appointments after baby had liver transplant

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Examination table, scale, stool

SANTA FE, N.M. — A child who had a liver transplant missed several doctors’ appointments and didn’t get his medication, and now, his parents are charged with child abuse.

According to court documents, Kyla and Jason Witterman were arrested on Monday, July 8 for failing to take their 1-year-old son to his medical appointments after he had a liver transplant in April 2018. Court documents said the boy’s parents also didn’t give their son his medications, which transplant experts said is critical after the surgery.

The Wittermans were both charged with child abuse.

“They are basically sentencing themselves to death,” said Maria Sanders, an educator with New Mexico Donor Services. “They need to continue taking anti-rejection medication, and the anti-rejection medications keeps your body, the person who receives the transplant, from rejecting that valuable organ that was transplanted to them.”

Documents showed the boy’s doctor reported to authorities that the family was missing appointments. It wasn’t until police went to check on the family at their San Juan County home that the New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department was notified of the situation. While Sanders wasn’t directly connected to this case, she said situations such as this are drastic.

“It’s very disheartening to hear about situations where a person who receives a transplant isn’t taking care of that organ,” Sanders said. “It is an extremely precious gift.”

A spokesperson with the San Juan District Attorney’s Office told KOAT that the 1-year-old and his 13-year-old brother were in state custody and staying with a family member.

Currently, there are about 48 infants in the country waiting for a liver transplant.

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