(NEW YORK) — The mother who took her cancer-stricken daughter from Phoenix Children’s Hospital with a catheter still in her heart defended her actions, saying the hospital intimidated the family about paying the bill.
Surveillance video captured Norma Bracamontes walking out of the hospital with her 11-year-old daughter Emily on Nov. 28 at 10:30 p.m. along with a young boy.
Bracamontes said the hospital not only threatened her family, but they made threats to Emily as she battled leukemia.
“Emily, you’re not going to go home cause your mom and your dad haven’t filled all the forms, so blame them that you’re going to be here stuck in the hospital,” Bracamontes told ABC News, imitating an unnamed hospital official.
Bracamontes said in addition to the intimidation, the hospital provided insufficient care when her daughter became ill with the MRSA virus, which led to Emily’s arm being amputated.
The Phoenix Children’s Hospital released a statement to ABC News, saying, “Our policy is to provide services either free of charge or at a reduced amount to patients who are not able to pay for services.”
In regards to the MRSA infection, the hospital said, “We steadfastly disagree with the assertions brought forth regarding the quality of care Emily received.”
Emily and her family are back home in Mexico continuing her fight against leukemia, and she credits her mother with saving her life.
“She saved my life…she saved my life two times,” Emily said.
“I know here in Mexico, I feel good because the doctors…love me so much,” she added.
Police began a frantic search for the little girl after the hospital reported her missing on Nov. 28. Authorities and medical professionals feared the catheter in Emily’s heart could become infected and potentially kill her if it was not removed by a medical professional.
A nurse supervisor called 911 when she realized Emily was missing and described how she was able to avoid detection.
“She was wearing a wig, which is not unusual. A lot of our cancer patients wear wigs,” the supervisor said. “She wasn’t wearing a wig when she went into the bathroom though and then she was wearing a wig when she came out and she was actually covering her right arm, the amputated arm.”
Police said Bracamontes removed her daughter’s IV before walking her out of the hospital in street clothes. The family left the hospital in a black van and disappeared.
Bracamontes’ husband, Luis, was stopped by Border Patrol agents on Dec. 1 when he was trying to leave Mexico and drive into Arizona.
Luis, 46, told authorities that the family lived a “nomadic” life, and did not have a permanent residence, ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV reported. He also denied any involvement in removing his daughter from the hospital and provided “no valuable information” as far as the whereabouts of his daughter at that time, according to police.
Police who stopped Luis said he was a Mexican citizen with a U.S. Resident Alien ID card, and that the girl and her mother were U.S. citizens.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ian Kerner, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN
Ivaylo Vezenkov and Lauren del Valle, CNN