PHOENIX (Reuters) - An 11-year-old girl with leukemia who was spirited out of a Phoenix hospital by her mother - prompting a police search - is safe and being treated in Mexico, her father told NBC News on Wednesday.
Luis Bracamontes, 46, said in a television interview that his daughter Emily, who disappeared from Phoenix Children’s Hospital late last month, was being treated by doctors at an undisclosed location in Mexico.
“She’s well and she’s fine,” Bracamontes told NBC News, but declined to be more specific.
Authorities have been searching for Emily and mother Norma Bracamontes, 35, since the two were spotted on surveillance cameras slipping out of the hospital on November 28. The girl left the hospital with a catheter still wedged in her heart that could lead to a fatal infection without medical treatment.
Police said the mother unplugged the IV feed from her daughter’s catheter, changed the youth’s clothing in a hospital bathroom and walked out of the building. She then drove away in a Ford minivan.
The youngster was in the hospital for more than a month and underwent chemotherapy, police said, adding she had contracted an infection, causing doctors to amputate her right arm.
A Phoenix police spokesman said investigators have yet to verify the father’s claims and remain focused on finding the girl.
“There still is the possibility of criminal charges,” Sergeant Steve Martos told Reuters. “Right now we’re waiting to get all the facts on what happened and why.”
On Saturday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents stopped and questioned the father as he crossed into Arizona from Mexico. He told the agents had no information about Emily’s or his wife’s whereabouts and denied any involvement or knowledge of the incident.
In the television interview, Bracamontes said that the hospital had cost the girl her arm and that he was being pressed over growing medical bills.
Jane Walton, a Phoenix Children’s Hospital spokeswoman, declined to comment on Emily’s case because of patient privacy issues. But she encouraged the parents to come forward with any concerns about her treatment.
“If Emily’s family has questions about her care, we encourage open communication and discussion of options with the care team,” Walton said in a statement. “Clinical decisions are not based on ability to pay.”
Editing by Tim Gaynor and Lisa Shumaker