On Tuesday, Vernell Mitchell got the call from a school wrestling coach: Your son Mazeratti has been injured. He can't move. An ambulance is on the way.
She and her husband, Jack, rejected the advice of doctors at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital that her son needed surgery and medication to repair a spinal injury suffered during a wrestling practice.
On Thursday, the Boothwyn couple was in a Delaware County court, navigating the legal system after 16-year-old Mazeratti was taken into protective custody by Children and Youth Services on the advice of Jefferson doctors. Common Please Judge Mary Alice Brennan continued the hearing until Monday, giving the Mitchells time to retain a lawyer.
The family, which has eight children aged 10 to 29 years, are all vegans and practice naturopathic medicine. Vernell Mitchell, 47, says she is a naturopathic doctor and believes her son's injury can be healed through other methods, including herbs and physical therapy. She wants time to get another medical opinion.
Mazeratti, nicknamed "Mazie," was wrestling during a team practice at Chichester High School when he flipped over and collided heads with his opponent, his mother said. Though he did not lose consciousness, he was dazed, and for a few minutes he could not move.
Doctors at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where he was initially taken, transferred Mazeratti to Jefferson, Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a "bruised spine," his mother said. Medical records she was given indicate there was no fractures, she said.
The teen is lying flat on his back in a neck brace at the hospital, his mother said. Doctors told the family that any "slip and fall" could further damage his spine, and they want to use rods, screws and plates to stabilize his neck.
"He doesn't want the surgery, he doesn't want steroids either, or medicines that would elevate his blood pressure,"
said Vernell Mitchell. She said her son is already gaining strength in his legs but has some weakness in his arms.