03/17/2016 05:07 EDT | Updated 03/17/2016 05:59 EDT

David And Collet Stephan Trial: Naturopath Advised Mom Of Toddler To Take Boy To Hospital

The boy's parents are accused of failing to provide the necessities of life.

Prayers For Ezekiel/Facebook

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — A naturopath in southern Alberta has testified that she advised the mother of a toddler suspected of having meningitis to take him to a hospital immediately.

Tracey Tannis told a jury that she made sure an employee passed on the advice when Collet Stephan called her Lethbridge clinic in March 2012.

Tannis said she never met Stephan, although the woman visited the clinic later in the day and picked up some echinacea for the boy.

Court has heard little Ezekiel stopped breathing soon after that and his parents called for an ambulance.

He was rushed to a Calgary hospital, where he died a week later of bacterial meningitis.

Parents have pleaded not guilty

Stephan, who is 35, and her 32-year-old husband, David, have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life.

The Crown is arguing the couple didn't do enough to ensure their son had proper access to medical care. Meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, can be life-threatening if not treated right away with antibiotics.

The trial has been told that the boy had been sick for several days and his parents thought he had croup. They treated him with natural remedies and homemade smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish and onion.

Nurse testified she told boy's mother to see doctor

At times his health seemed to improve, then worsen. A family friend and registered nurse earlier testified that she told the mother he might have meningitis and should see a doctor.

Tannis testified that she was with a patient when a clinic worker interrupted to tell her a mother was on the phone asking about a treatment for meningitis. She said she followed the employee back to the phone.

"You need to tell the lady to take the child to emergency right away,'' Tannis said she told the worker.

Tannis remained by the phone long enough to confirm the message was relayed, then returned to her patient, she said.

Mother bought echniacea tincture

She added that she was never asked if an echinacea tincture called "Blast'' would be a good treatment for meningitis.

Under cross-examination, the jury heard Tannis never mentioned to police that she had remained by the phone while the advice was passed on. The worker, Lexie Vatama, also told investigators that she introduced the naturopath to Collet Stephan when she later arrived at the clinic, and described her as the mother of "the little one with meningitis.''

Tannis testified that she never met the mother. She said she mainly treats cancer patients and does not prescribe.

Dr. Catherine Ross told court that by the time she saw Ezekiel at the Alberta Children's Hospital he had already suffered cardiac arrest and possible brain damage.

There was little hope the boy would survive, she said.

(Lethbridge Herald)

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