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Judge rules boy fighting leukemia will get chemotherapy despite parents' disapproval

Posted: 4:39 PM, May 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-09 13:27:51Z
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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla — The parents of a child at the center of a story that’s grabbed national attention no longer have a say over whether he will receive chemotherapy.

The decision came down late Wednesday afternoon after a full day of testimony.

The state had two doctors make their case as to why they think Noah needs chemotherapy right away. Noah’s parents had the support and testimony of a family that believes chemotherapy is dangerous and nearly killed their daughter.

The family will be able to treat Noah with other remedies, but he will have to undergo the chemotherapy.

The judge said that after 28 days of chemo, they will determine if the boy still has cancer, and that the family can use treatment including medical marijuana to help ease his symptoms. It must be cleared by his doctors and they will have an opportunity to switch to a different doctor. He is already considered to be on day 15 of the treatment because he had two rounds of chemo. So he’s essentially almost halfway done.

The story has been in headlines since last Monday, when the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office told media outlets his parents failed to bring Noah McAdams to a medically necessary hospital procedure and refused to follow up with lifesaving medical care. They did not provide specifics, but sent out an alert that labeled Noah as "missing and endangered." They found the family late Monday afternoon in Kentucky.

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The state brought Noah back to Johns Hopkins All Children's outpatient facility to continue that care. That still hasn't happened because the state needed a judge to approve a motion to move forward with the chemotherapy. The first motion was tabled last Wednesday. But a judge today ruled in favor of a second motion that will allow doctors at johns Hopkins All Children's to give Noah his next round of chemo.

His parents Taylor Bland-Ball and Joshua McAdams told ABC Action News he wasn’t in any danger when they took him to Kentucky.

"We just want him to be healthy, happy and with his family that’s going to give him the absolute best care,” said Bland-Ball. “They made it seem like we were trying to run away, like we were trying to seek no treatment whatsoever and that’s completely not the case."

The family says their son had leukemia. Although they didn't give us any proof, they say he's in remission and doing well. They say they were taking him to Kentucky for a second opinion.

"We were not trying to run from the case, there was nothing that we were trying to hide. We’re just trying to seek the best opinion for our son,” Bland-Ball said. “We basically just feel like this is our parent rights being stomped all over.”

But doctors who treat cancer like this say just because the leukemia isn't showing up, doesn't mean he's cured.

“We have no way of saying that he is cured of leukemia this early in therapy,” said Dr. Bijal Shah, who is the clinical leader for the Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia program at Moffitt Cancer Center.

He says a diagnosis like this is devastating to hear, which is why he says it’s important to not victimize the family.

"To navigate this 2 1/2 year journey is extraordinarily intensive an extraordinarily stressful,” he said. “You can imagine having to do blood draws, bone marrow biopsy‘s and all of these things for your three-year-old child."

He says there are some promising new therapies being developed such as immunotherapy, antibody directed drugs that deliver drugs directly to tumor cells, and Car T-Cell therapy. But he says those don’t have the same cure rate as chemotherapy.

"We’re not at a point now where I think we can apply these outside the context of a clinical trial if we’re talking about a newly diagnosed patient with aggressive leukemia,” he said.

A judge last week gave Bland-Ball’s parents the right to shelter him temporarily until the decision. The state will maintain custody of Noah, and he will likely get his next chemo treatment tomorrow.

Bland-Ball says last week was a whirlwind that ended when a judge gave them the opportunity to seek a second medical opinion on treatment options for their son.

They say they found a doctor in Oldsmar but he couldn’t make it in for testimony until Friday. The judge said she wanted to resolve this Wednesday.

The family says the fight isn’t over and they plan on filing an appeal to the decision.