ST. PAUL — A postpartum-induced delusion that doctors were failing her ailing toddler compelled a Winona mother to try to make him sicker so medical staff would pay closer attention to his case, she told a judge Thursday, Feb. 21.
That’s why Megan Lee Kafer periodically disconnected his feeding tube while he was hospitalized for about three weeks last July for “failure to thrive,” she said.
And why she let him drink water from her water bottle without controlling how much he consumed.
And why, on July 26, 2018, she took him into a hospital bathroom and tried to feed him a laxative she mixed with water through a syringe she kept hidden under a blanket as she held him.
That’s where she was when police arrested her. She was charged months later with felony-level child endangerment that could cause harm or death.
Kafer’s son, who is now 3, suffered a seizure because of her actions and underwent numerous procedures and surgeries, court documents say.
With her husband sitting behind her in the gallery, the 25-year-old pleaded guilty Thursday, telling Ramsey County District Judge George Stephenson that she can see now that her actions were wrong.
“They made sense at the time, but they don’t now,” she said, tearfully.
‘I wanted them … to fix him’
But last July, sleep-deprived, away from her support system and struggling with postpartum depression, Kafer said she found herself in the midst of a delusion that medical staff at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul weren’t doing all they could to help her son.
Making him sicker, she thought at the time, would make him better off later because doctors would feel compelled to dig deeper for answers, she said.
“I wanted them to keep looking for a way to fix him,” she told Stephenson.
“(But you agree) that ultimately what you were doing … was to try and make him sicker,” Stephenson replied.
“Yes,” she responded.
Mom searched internet
Kafer cried and wiped away tears during her testimony. Her quiet responses grew even quieter when Ramsey County Assistant Attorney Dawn Bakst made her acknowledge the series of troubling internet searches police found on her phone after her arrest.
“MiraLax overdose,” “Can a doctor tell if you overdose on MiraLax,” “How to make a baby really sick,” “Mom gets 20 years to life for poisoning son with salt,” “Salt child death,” and “How to make a baby vomit.”
A medical report on the boy noted that his “poor weight gain” during his hospitalization likely was due to his mother “denying him nutrition through a combination of disconnecting/diverting his feeds and administering water,” according to the complaint.
It went on to say that “there was every reason to believe” the infant’s prolonged weight issues were caused by “inflicted starvation,” and that doctors believed Kafer both “falsified” and “induced” symptoms of illness in her son and used doctors “as a weapon to inflict harm on him.”
Kafer and her husband have two children. Both were removed from her custody and currently are under the care of her husband.
Kafer is expected to receive a stayed prison sentence when she returns to court for sentencing May 7. The judge will decide then whether she also should spend time in jail and if her no contact order regarding her son is to remain in place.
If you need help
In case of an emergency or crisis, call 911 or Crisis Connection at 866-379-6363, TTY 612-379-6377, or text “LIFE” to 61222 (available in many rural areas). Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK.
Pregnancy Postpartum Support Minnesota provides resources and information online at ppsupportmn.org or by calling or texting 612-787-7776.