A mother who took her baby out of the neonatal intensive care unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital on Tuesday said she only wanted to seek other medical treatment for her daughter, but hospital officials say the parents' actions endangered the infant, whom they placed in emergency medical custody.

April Saul went public Wednesday with her story, saying she did what was in the best interest for her daughter, 3-month-old Aralynn Rivera, who has been in Salisbury Township hospital since her premature birth.

Saul and the baby's father, Daniel Rivera, said they feel unfairly targeted by hospital officials in their care of their daughter.

"What happened to us is something that every parent needs to take a look at and be very fearful," said Saul, 42, of Pottstown.


This morning, Aralynn's parents will be in court because the baby is now in the custody of Lehigh County Children and Youth. Hospital officials said because the baby was considered "medically unstable," the law required them to protect the child and alert county officials about the incident.

But Saul's description of what happened Tuesday when she took her baby without the approval of LVH staff differs vastly from that of hospital officials and police.

Saul described a chaotic scene at the hospital after she told hospital staff she was taking her daughter against their advice. After she took a monitor off her daughter, she said more than a dozen nurses, doctors and security officers tried to grab the baby from her arms. She said the baby's head hit the wall of the elevator during the tussle.

After she and Rivera took the child, the hospital alerted police.

A hospital spokesman gave a different version.

"There was absolutely nothing physical that happened in this incident," Brian Downs said. "In fact, we've been asked from others why we weren't more aggressive in trying to stop them."

He said that while parents have a right to make their decision, the hospital has the right to deem that the baby needs the appropriate care.

"We advised them not to remove the baby from intensive care," he said. "There's a reason the baby was in intensive care for 90 days."

After the parents left the hospital Tuesday, officials issued an alert for police to stop the couple's vehicle because they were involved in a baby abduction.

Saul said police pulled guns on her after officers stopped her vehicle at Seventh and Hamilton streets in Allentown.

City police Capt. Glen Dorney said officers did not have their weapons drawn. He said officers told the parents about the alert from the hospital and officers remained until Salisbury police arrived. An ambulance was called to make sure Aralynn was safe.

Salisbury police said they interviewed the parents and released them a short time later. No criminal charges were filed.

Aralynn has Down syndrome, an intestinal blockage and three heart defects that will require surgery. Saul said she was visiting her fiancée's family in Allentown when she went into premature labor at 33 weeks and the girl was born.

Aralynn had surgery for the intestinal issue, but Saul said hospital officials told her they could not perform the heart surgeries. Saul said her sister-in-law's baby has the same heart defects and was successfully treated at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

For the past few weeks, Saul and Rivera said, they repeatedly met with local hospital officials to ask if Aralynn could be taken to CHOP. She said hospital officials agreed, but Aralynn remained in the neonatal intensive care unit as she and Rivera spent nearly every day and night by her side.

Saul said as Aralynn's health improved, she was taken off oxygen and was feeding on her own. But on Tuesday, Saul said she and Rivera braced themselves for what they knew would be a fight — they decided it was time to take their baby to Philadelphia for treatment.

"We are her parents and we are doing what we think was the best care for our daughter," she said.

During an interview Wednesday, Saul voluntarily offered that "no drugs" are involved in the dispute; but court records show Saul has an extensive criminal record with convictions for robbery, drugs and child endangerment.

Saul said Wednesday she was addicted to drugs, but has been in recovery and clean for the past three years.

"We are afraid for what could happen to our baby," Saul said.

pamela.lehman@mcall.com

610-820-6790

Reporter Tim Darragh contributed to this story.