Harper James


Savannah Jones, Staff Writer

Harper James’ life has been the opposite of easy. She has had many battles to fight. Harper’s life started nearly four months early. She spent the first 16 weeks of her life in an incubator. The incubator was connected to a machine to help baby Harper breathe. She was not taken home from the hospital until she was five months old. 

Once home, she still had to wear a device that tracked her heart rate and breathing. The alarm on the tracker went off and Harper ended up having to have surgery. After the surgery, doctors were still ordering oxygen support, physical therapy, and 24 hour nursing care. A neurologist also recommended that Harper use an anti-seizure medication after she started having “shaking spells.” 

When Harper was two, hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Harper’s Houston home filled with flood water as it continued to rain. Harper’s mother Ajshay James, climbed into a rescue boat and told them to bring her and her toddler to the hospital. All of Harper’s surgeries and medical visits have been at the Texas Children’s Hospital, so that’s where they headed. 

The water was still rising as they climbed off the rescue boat and into a fire truck. The road to Texas Children’s main campus was completely flooded. It took two hours to arrive at the hospital, but once there Ajshay was relieved. Sadly, the doctors soon identified what they believed was another threat to the girl’s safety,ut it wasn’t the hurricane they wanted to protect her from, it was her mom.

The doctors were questioning if Harper was really as sick as her mother was implying. This crime has become more and more popular since the Gypsy Rose Blachard case. One case in Fort Worth, Texas, a mom said her baby stopped breathing and turned blue. She was the cause, according to police. Another in Milwaukee consisted of a nurse accusing a mom of subjecting 10-year-old daughter to unnecessary medical procedures. 

Harper’s mom said nobody at Texas Children’s ever raised the earlier concerns with her. She insists she always did her best to describe Harper’s symptoms correctly. No one had ever accused her of giving her daughter medications or treatments that weren’t ordered by a doctor. Two days later, Child Protective Services investigators showed up at the friend’s house where James and Harper were staying. They told the friend that James had been giving her daughter unneeded medication. 

The doctors were convinced that Harper was a victim of child abuse. Dr. Marcella Donaruma, a child abuse pediatrician who’d never met James nor treated Harper, but who had reviewed the child’s medical records, wrote a letter to Child Protective Services that stated, “A trial separation has diagnosed Harper as a victim of her mother’s abusive parenting,” she wrote on Sept. 8, 2017, a day before Harper turned 2. “I recommend that Harper remain separated from her mother for Harper’s own safety.” 

After a lengthy trial, Harper and her mom were separated. James’ lawyer tried to turn the blame toward the Texas Children’s hospitals doctors. Child protective services agree that the separation was a positive impact of Harper’s life.