BELLE CHASSE, La. - A 19-year-old man is in custody and booked with attempted first-degree murder after his hospitalized infant son was found to have three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.
A young Belle Chasse mother Erika Wigstrom is inside Ochsner Hospital with her two-month-old baby in the NICU. The father, 19-year-old Cesar Ruiz, allegedly put rum in his baby's feeding tube when the mother was out of the hospital room. Ruiz first denied this to JPSO detectives, then admitted he wanted to relieve his baby's suffering, not kill him. His son has been inside the pediatric unit for two weeks, awaiting surgery for breath difficulties.
Neonatologist Dr. Juan J. Gershanik has not treated this baby, but says never, ever should babies, children or pregnant women have alcohol. The alcohol passes through the placenta and gets into the unborn baby's blood.
"Absolutely not. We don't know what is a safe level for a child. Tinniest amount of alcohol can be deadly, so why to take a chance?" said Dr. Gershanik, who is the Medical Director of the West Jefferson Medical Center NICU. He is also President of CADA, The Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department gave us the father's address on Xi Street in Belle Chasse. But when we went to the neighborhood, we were told by a person who did not want to be identified, that only Wigstrom and the baby live in the area, not the father.
The rum caused the baby to have seizures. A source tells us he had a very rough night but that doctors at Ochsner were able to stabilize him.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department confirmed that the baby is stable but did not know the official medical condition. Those medical conditions are critical, serious, fair and good. Stable is not considered a medical condition.
"The baby's central nervous system gets so depressed that the breathing can stop and seizures can develop very frequently," explained Dr. Gershanik.
Dr. Gershanik says the social custom of giving a young person any alcohol,even a little bit with milk, must be stopped as it can be poisonous to them.
"There was a case a few years back. Six-month-old that was crying a little too much for the mother, gave a little bit alcohol to be sedated and the child expired," said Dr. Gershanik, who says teens and young adults are also doing serious damage to the brain and central nervous system with binge drinking.
Someone who knows the baby told us: "This is a beautiful little boy. He deserves to live. Pray for him."
Doctors say the brain doesn't finish developing until the mid-twenties, so exposure earlier than that can cause behavior and growth problems for life.