Anna Nikolayev, 5-month-old Sammy and Alex Nikolayev
SACRAMENTO, CA - When Alex and Anna Nikolayev learned they would have a second one-hour visit Friday at the hospital with their baby boy Sammy, the news came as the one happy moment to cap off a difficult day.
"It's like everything in your stomach is turning and then you see his toothless smile and it kills everything in you ," Anna said, "It was nice. At least for one hour."
Little Sammy has been in protective custody since Wednesday, when police and Child Protective Services took the baby from his mother's arms. The move came a day after the family thought a dispute with Sammy's doctors had been resolved.
Alex and Anna said they've known about Sammy's heart murmur since he was born, and he was regularly seeing a Sutter cardiologist every two to three weeks. Also, the couple reiterated on Friday, that even when doctors at Sutter began talking about surgery, this was not a surgery to take place immediately. This was something the parents understood would be scheduled two weeks later, and no one ever gave them any reason to believe Sammy's health was in any imminent danger.
The couple admitted they left Sutter Memorial without a proper discharge on Tuesday, but they said it was only because they were unhappy with Sammy's care, and they took the 5-month-old to Kaiser Permanente to get a second opinion.
PREVIOUS STORY: Couple fights to get baby back from CPS, police
On Thursday, the family met with leaders of Sacramento's Slavic community hoping to get help. That resulted in a one-hour visit with Sammy, but the couple's attorney said they were not allowed to see the boy's medical chart. The parents said they did not have a chance to talk to doctors about Sammy's health either.
Then on Friday, the couple and their attorney managed to secure a second one-hour visit with Sammy, but only if they agreed to much stricter pre-conditions.
"She called us back and said we can have this visit at 6 o'clock without any video camera in the room, without taking any pictures," Anna said, describing her conversation with CPS. "My whole family is waiting for pictures in Germany, and you know if they cannot see him either, that's the only thing that we can send after saying, how is he doing? At least pictures, videos. They've been texting me the whole day, calling me the whole day, how is Sammy doing, and I just cannot answer back because I don't even know."
Anna and Alex Nikolayev agreed to everything Child Protective Services asked of them in order to see Sammy Friday night. However, they said they don't know when they'll be able to see him again after Friday.
It is unclear to Anna why Sammy was taken by CPS. CPS policies prevent them from commenting directly on the case. However, they did release the following statement:
"We are sensitive to the pain that such crises cause for families and aware of the complexity of the evaluations made by the social work, medical and court professionals involved. The laws and policies that guide agency practice are designed to ensure that there are adequate protections for the rights of everyone involved, while placing priority on children's health, safety, and well-being."
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Anna said CPS told her the reason they took the boy was severe neglect. Anna explained that growing up in Germany, and English not being her native language, she wasn't clear what that meant, so she asked the CPS worker to elaborate.
"She told me that these words mean that we took Sammy from an emergency, that he was dying, and we just left without giving him the right treatment," Anna said.
The parents kept claiming a police officer visited them at Kaiser Morse Hospital and determined no neglect. On Friday, News10 confirmed her claim was true - a Sacramento police officer met with the parents, as well as Sammy's nurses and doctor at the hospital. A Sacramento police spokesperson said what's unclear is whether an official recommendation was made. It's possible additional tests were being done to rule-out neglect.
The Kaiser doctor later wrote in his report that he, "does not have concern for the safety of the child at home with his parents as they appear competent and concerned (for) the child's best care..."
What's also unclear it why CPS a day later took custody of Sammy. Social workers went to the home, along with police officers (which CPS requested), claiming severe neglect.
It is plausible that CPS did not know the baby was treated at Kaiser, therefore treating the case as one of a child needing medical treatment and the parents refusing that treatment, which would put the child in danger.
But most importantly, it's taking much longer for this wrong to be righted. An attorney for the family said CPS directed him to a county lawyer Friday night, who had already left for the evening.
It appears Sammy will not be reunited with his parents until a court hearing is held Monday morning, if the judge agrees that the child is safe at home.
In the meantime, Anna and Alex have been granted additional visitation with Sammy this weekend. They will be allowed to feed Sammy three times a day on Saturday and Sunday. While it's good news, they just wish they could bring Sammy home.
"You're sitting there like in prison, they're watching you not to do anything wrong," Anna explained. "Holding your child in your hands being safe but you just feel like you're not yourself."
"You're being watched over by a lot of people actually," Alex added. "It's not that comforting."