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Mom: Hospital refused to transfer baby

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 10:06 p.m.

A woman charged with removing her baby daughter from a Pennsylvania hospital against doctor's orders says she was just trying to do right by the baby, who needed special treatment for a heart defect.

April Saul said on Monday that Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown repeatedly refused her request to transfer her daughter to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for treatment of the heart defect, even though Lehigh Valley didn't have the specialist the baby required and the baby's parents felt she wasn't getting the care she needed.

A prosecutor disputed her account later Monday and accused her and the baby's father of endangering the baby's welfare. Police filed charges last week against Saul and her fiance, Daniel Rivera, for removing 3-month-old Aralynn from Lehigh Valley's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit without permission.

Saul, 42, said she and Rivera, 43, had begged Lehigh Valley for a transfer to Children's Hospital but officials at the facility refused, telling her Medicaid wouldn't pay for it. She contends the hospital never formally asked for a transfer.

“Danny and I pled, in meeting after meeting with Lehigh Valley, for months,” Saul said. “We kept saying, ‘We feel as though you lack expertise. We feel as though our child has issues you can't address. We want her transferred. What do we have to do to get our baby transferred?' For months we were just getting the runaround.”

The hospital eventually arranged to transfer Aralynn to the Philadelphia hospital, where she's scheduled to have heart surgery this week.

District Attorney Jim Martin called Saul's account “nonsense,” saying Children's Hospital had indicated her daughter wasn't medically ready for transfer. He noted that Aralynn had suffered episodes in which she had stopped breathing as recently as a few days before the couple took her out of the Allentown facility.

“It was a pretty clear-cut case of two parents who just didn't act reasonably,” Martin said. “Whether they were well-intentioned or not does not really matter as far as I'm concerned.”

Saul had intended to give birth at Children's Hospital, but she went into labor while visiting relatives in Allentown, and Lehigh Valley was the closest hospital. Aralynn, who has Down syndrome, was born there prematurely in July.

Lehigh Valley Hospital declined to comment on Saul's allegations on Monday, citing the ongoing court case.

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