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OL: 'Extreme Makeover' family in Oregon finds mother under 'medical child abuse' scrutiny


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'Extreme Makeover' family in Oregon finds mother under 'medical child abuse' scrutiny

The world met the Cerda family two years ago when the ABC reality show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" showcased their story -- a generous, but struggling Las Vegas couple raising two daughters with serious immune disorders.

The girls, Molly and Maggie, wore face masks to guard against toxins and germs that might be harmless to healthy kids. The TV program paid to demolish the family's mold-filled house and replace it with an opulent new home that included high-quality air filtration systems, an elevator, solar-heated swimming pool, gourmet kitchen and floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace.

Chuck and Terri Cerda beamed as they viewed the haven, but their joy didn't last long.

They said they couldn't afford the increased cost of operating the larger home. By fall 2009, the house was for sale and the family moved to Oregon, where the parents that television producers found so compelling came under scrutiny.

Several doctors and a hospital social worker began to question Terri Cerda's insistence that her daughters had chronic health problems when tests and examinations indicated otherwise. In January, Dr. Thomas Valvano, an OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital pediatrician who specializes in suspected child abuse and neglect, reported the Cerdas to state child-welfare authorities, and in February, the state took temporary custody of the two girls.

The ensuing case in Clackamas County Circuit Court told a story much different from the one presented on television.

Six doctors testified that Molly, 10, and Maggie, 8, did not live in constant medical peril, as Terri Cerda claimed.

Valvano went further. The Cerda children, he told the judge, were victims of medical child abuse.

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