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I studied medicine and law on Net to win back my baby; MUM, 17, IN NIGHTMARE BATTLE WITH EXPERTS.

TEENAGER Poppy Rose left school without a GCSE but became an expert in law and medicine to prove she didn't hurt her new-born son.

She knew that a tiny lump found on baby Liam's head when he was 18 days old happened at birth.

But social workers didn't believe her. They accused her of hurting her baby and put him in care while they sought opinions from three doctors and took the case to court.

Poppy said: "I knew I'd done nothing but love and care for Liam but they accused me of hitting or dropping him."

It was the start of four nightmare months for the young mum and her partner Michael Fitzgerald, 20.

She said: "Many girls my age would have crumbled under the pressure and ended up losing their baby for ever."

But the brave 17-year-old learned to use the internet and studied complex medical books to prove her innocence.

The drama began when Poppy became worried that Liam, who was crying a lot, might be constipated.

She took him to hospital for a check-up. There doctors discovered the lump and told Poppy it was a skull fracture.

She said: "He was vomiting and they kept him overnight. When we couldn't explain the fracture, social services got an emergency protection order and put Liam in foster care."

Poppy was allowed to see him for three hours a day but only under supervision.

She said: "I couldn't cuddle my baby or show him off to friends when I wanted."

Michael, a lifeguard at London's posh Chelsea Harbour Club, lost his job because visiting hours didn't fit in with his shifts. Then the consultant's report arrived.

Paediatric radiologist Dr Christine Hall concluded: "The fracture was caused by a severe blow to the head or by a fall from a significant height."

Poppy said: "The first I knew of the report was when it was read out in court as an interim care order was being applied for. I felt sick to the stomach."

Liam's birth had been straightforward and Poppy was sure nothing had happened to him since he'd been allowed home. But proving it was going to be difficult. "The odds were stacked against us," she said. "I couldn't risk experts pulling the wool over my eyes. The best weapon was knowledge."

At home in Fulham, west London, she used her dad's computer to trawl the net and swotted with textbooks borrowed from the library. The strain told. She lost two stones and had to have counselling.

She said: "Eventually I discovered Liam's fracture was called a cephal haematoma." But there was only one other recorded case of a baby suffering this in a non-forceps birth - in America in 1994.

Then she had some good luck. Her own expert and two other doctors reported the fracture had happened at birth.

Still social services weren't satisfied. They said it was up to the courts to decide. After a five-day hearing a judge ruled Liam's lump was a rare but harmless birth injury.

Poppy said: "I felt so drained. Two days later the anger set in. All that wasted time. Liam is five months now and perfectly healthy. The lump caused no problems. In fact, if I hadn't taken him to hospital it would have disappeared on its own."

Hammersmith and Fulham social services refused to discuss the case with The Mirror

But Poppy and Michael have had an apology. Manager Graham Genoni wrote saying: "I am deeply sorry for the pain and distress we put you through. We acted in what we believed to be good faith."
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Author:Rock, Lucy
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 14, 2000
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