A Calgary woman who treated her son with dandelion tea and oil of oregano before he died testified Monday that she didn’t understand how sick he really was and that he was still alive when she finally called for help.
Tamara Lovett, 47, took the stand in her own defence to answer to charges that she failed to provide her seven-year-old son with the necessaries of life and is guilty of criminal negligence causing his death.
Ryan Alexander Lovett died in March 2013 after getting a strep infection that kept him bedridden for 10 days. Alberta’s acting chief medical examiner testified last week that the boy’s body was full of group A streptococcus, which had caused most of his major organs to fail.
The medical examiner also said that it appeared that Ryan had died well before paramedics responded to Lovett’s panic-stricken, early-morning 911 call on March 2, 2013.
“I did everything I was told on the phone and they want to make it sound like he was dead for hours. He wasn’t. He wasn’t,” Lovett sobbed on the stand.
Lovett testified she had been talking to Ryan right before calling 911 and at first she thought he was joking when he started to slur his words. Then he started convulsing and his eyes rolled back in his head.
She said she had thought Ryan had a cold or the flu and she had treated him with holistic medicines. She didn’t think his swollen lymph nodes, an oozing ear infection and jaundiced eyes were anything she couldn’t handle.
“I never thought he had anything that I couldn’t treat. I never expected him to do anything but get better,” she said.
“I just thought I was dealing with a sick child that had cold/flu. I had no idea.”
Lovett told court she failed her son.
“As a mother, you never want to have that happen and, yeah, I failed because I didn’t know he was that sick. I just thought he was sick. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.”
During cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Jonathan Hak listed all the ailments Ryan suffered from just before his death.
“He’s got pain in his groin. He couldn’t even stand up properly on his own. He tells you that he can’t stand up and his arm is puffing up and you did not think this merits a trip to the doctor?” asked Hak.
“Not at that point, no,” Lovett replied.
“Did he not suffer enough for you by that time?”
Lovett said she thought she was dealing with cold and flu symptoms.
“I’d do nothing to harm the child or do anything I didn’t think was right for the child,” she said.
“Sorry, did you just say you wouldn’t do anything to harm the child? That’s not what happened, is it? Your failure to get medical care for your son resulted in his death. How can you say you weren’t harming your child?” asked Hak.
“I did not realize … how bad it was until after the fact and to this day I live with that,” Lovett said.
“I failed and I admit that.”
Lovett said she began avoiding medical doctors and sought out holistic medicine in the mid-1990s when she was diagnosed with clinical depression and was prescribed medication that made her “extremely suicidal.”
Ryan’s birth was never registered and he didn’t have an Alberta Health card. Lovett said she delivered him with the assistance of an unregistered midwife who was originally from the Netherlands.
The boy never saw a regular medical doctor, Lovett said, but she did take him to a children’s chiropractor at a holistic clinic.
“And chiropractors are trained up to a certain point the same as doctors,” Lovett said.