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Collet Stephan Testifies She Saw Her Toddler Stop Breathing

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — A mother accused in her toddler's death from bacterial meningitis says his face "just kept getting bluer and bluer'' as she desperately tried to get him to breathe the day he was rushed to hospital.

"He'd stopped breathing again and so I did the CPR again and I did a couple of chest compressions and he started to breathe. Nothing had come out and shortly after he stopped breathing again,'' a sobbing Collet Stephan testified in her own defence Thursday.

"The 911 operator was kind of directing me while doing the CPR with counting and so forth. I remember his face starting to turn blue.''

Toddler treated with natural remedies

Stephan, 35, and her husband, David, 32, are on trial accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel in March 2012.

Ezekiel was sick for more than two weeks before he died in hospital. Court has heard how his parents gave him natural remedies, including smoothies with hot peppers and horseradish, because they thought he had croup.

Stephan told jurors that the first day of her son's illness was easily the worst. She said he had a fever and the wheezing and whistling noise was heartwrenching.

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David and Collet Stephan arrive at court. (Photo: David Rossiter/CP)

She said her son's condition worsened after her husband noticed Ezekiel's breathing had changed. She put him on her lap and suddenly he stopped breathing.

"He choked and he stopped breathing for a few seconds. I hit him on the back. He started breathing again,'' she said as jurors and spectators wiped away tears.

"Then he just stopped breathing again and I put him on his back and put two breaths into his mouth forcing him to breath and put him on his side. He started coughing and he coughed up a bunch of mucus and phlegm.''

It was at that point they decided to take him to hospital and called an ambulance.

"I remember his face starting to turn blue.''

Ezekiel was airlifted to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary where his parents were told that there was little brain activity.

An interview with the RCMP while Ezekiel was on life support caused a great deal of worry, the mother admitted.

"I feared losing both our children. I was 20 weeks pregnant and having the fear of losing that child as well. It was a roller-coaster of emotions I was constantly going through,'' she testified.

"Our son was on life support and we were being told that someone felt we were neglectful. We were now being questioned on our parenting, too.''

Ezekiel was given fluids through an eyedropper

Court documents reveal just days before Ezekiel went to hospital his parents were giving him fluids through an eyedropper to keep him hydrated as he would not drink on his own. They also started him on an electrolyte and amino acid supplement, wrote Dr. Jenn D'Mello in an assessment.

His symptoms worsened.

"He would not eat or drink, was lethargic and they noticed his body to be very stiff. These symptoms persisted ... and he started being so stiff that his back was arched,'' D'Mello wrote.

Mother never saw physician

The assessment indicates Ezekiel's body was so stiff and sore that he couldn't be placed in a car seat.

Mello wrote on March 15, 2012, that Ezekiel "met criteria for brain death.''

A pathologist determined the boy died "as a result of bacterial meningitis and right pleural empyema (lung infection).''

D'Mello's report noted Collet Stephan never saw a physician during her pregnancy and did not have any blood tests or ultrasounds before Ezekiel's home birth.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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