Sammy Nikolayev returns home after three weeks in the temporary custody of Sacramento County Child Protective Services.
Court records obtained by News10 shed new light on the controversial battle over the custody and safety of a Sacramento boy who will turn 1 year old later this month.
Police and social workers took Sammy Nikolayev from his parents, Anna and Alex Nikolayev, on April 24. At the time, officials said the child had been the victim of severe neglect but offered no other details. The Nikolayevs denied the claim and successfully fought to regain custody of their child. Their story captured the attention of people around the world and led to a statewide audit of Child Protective Services.
According to court documents, doctors were worried about the condition of baby Sammy for several months before police and social workers took him from his parents. In February, a cardiologist wrote, "Samuel continues to be in congestive heart failure. His weight gain has not been adequate."
"We may have to intervene surgically sooner than we hoped for," the doctor wrote.
When Anna Nikolayev brought Sammy to Sutter Memorial Hospital's emergency room with the flu on April 16, doctors made a disturbing discovery.
"2 weeks ago they went on vacation and forgot his medicines but since he seemed to be doing fine they left him off of them. The cardiologist did not tell them to stop the meds," doctors wrote.
Over the next several days, the Nikolayevs argued with hospital staff over what to feed the baby and whether to allow doctors to insert a feeding tube. Sammy also suffered from a hernia, and documents show that Anna Nikolayev claimed that, "if she placed coins on both sides of his hernia it will go away."
In an interview with News10 earlier this year, Anna Nikolayev described those days as difficult, particularly after doctors began pushing for surgery.
"If we got the one mistake after another, I don't want to have my baby have surgery in the hospital where I don't feel safe," she said during the April 25 interview.
Anna Nikolayev removed Sammy from Sutter Memorial Hospital against medical advice. A hospital social worker then called the police to find the family. Officers met the Nikolayevs across town at Kaiser Permanente, where doctors cleared Sammy to return home with his parents.
CPS records show that when the Sutter social worker learned that Kaiser had released Sammy to his parents, she, "expressed frustration at this because the child needs immediate follow up ..."
Kaiser records show the hospitals communicated with each other about Sammy's care, and a Kaiser doctor noted that, "I do not have concern for the safety of the child at home with his parents." However, the Sutter Memorial Hospital social worker told CPS she was unable to get "any treatment or discharge information from the child's Kaiser Emergency Room visit."
On April 24 CPS began a rapid investigation and received a letter from one of Sammy's cardiologists who wrote that, "the child remains at risk for failure to thrive, dehydration, developmental delay and death." CPS decided to place Sammy in protective custody and called police.
The Nikolayevs shot video of officers and CPS social workers entering their home on April 24 and taking Sammy, who was returned to Sutter Memorial Hospital. They then went public with their experience. The couple has credited public scrutiny for getting their son transferred to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, where he received heart surgery in May.
Since the release of the court documents, the Nikolayevs have filed a claim against Sacramento County that seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
A spokesperson for CPS cited that claim as reason why they could not comment specifically about this case. News10 also asked the Nikolayevs to comment on the information revealed in the documents. Their attorney declined our request for an interview.
Among the documents released by the court are objections by both Anna and Alex Nikolayev in which they insist much of the records rely on hearsay materials. In a recent exchange with News10, Anna wrote in a Facebook message that, "They been lying from the beginning, so that's nothing new to us."