Calgary

Mother of Alberta toddler who died of meningitis breaks down in tears, questions physician's report

It was an emotional day in a Lethbridge courtroom as the mother accused in the meningitis death of her toddler son continued to testify in her own defence.

Collet Stephan testifies against charge of failing to provide necessaries of life to son

Collet Stephan testified that she disagrees with the physician's report presented at trial and that her son's health problems leading up to his death — wheezing, lethargy, and stiffness, among others — were not as severe as described in the document written up from that night in hospital. (Facebook/CBC)

It was an emotional day in a Lethbridge courtroom as the mother accused in the meningitis death of her toddler son continued to testify in her own defence.

Collet and David Stephan are charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to their child Ezekiel, who died in 2012 at almost 19 months of age from bacterial meningitis.

Collet burst into tears as she stood in the witness box Friday, describing the night in a Calgary hospital when her little boy lay dying.

She said she was traumatized and sleep deprived.

The Crown questioned Collet about the extent to which the testimony she gave Thursday differs from what she told doctors at the Alberta Children's Hospital in 2012, when her son was on life support. 

Court heard that the boy had been ill for about two weeks before he stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital, first in Cardston, then Lethbridge, then Calgary.

Collet said that night at the Alberta Children's Hospital, she felt like a robot, and it was hard to focus when talking to the doctors.

She said she was distracted by the thought that her son could be gone at any moment.

Physician's report questioned

Collet also testified that she disagrees with the physician's report and that her son's health problems leading up to his death — wheezing, lethargy, and stiffness, among others — were not as severe as described in the document written up from that night in hospital.

She said she may have exaggerated what she told doctors because of the trauma.

Collet denied that her friend Terrie Meynders, a registered nurse, told her to take Ezekiel to the doctor.

Meynders testified last month she had told Collet to take the boy to a doctor because he could be suffering from meningitis.

Collet said Meynders felt blamed for what happened to Ezekiel and therefore some of the nurse's testimony was "actually inaccurate."

WebMD consulted

Collet acknowledged she and Meynders had looked up meningitis on WebMD, a medical reference website, but she could not recall what symptoms she read about, other than arguing repeatedly she thought Ezekiel had a less serious version of meningitis than what led to his death.

She broke down saying the trauma had affected her memory when the Crown pushed her on that interaction with Meynders.

At that point, Collet's mother whispered "It's okay."

Others in the courtroom cried.

"No one would want a different outcome [more] than my husband and I. Do I wish I'd taken him to a doctor? Absolutely," Collet said through tears.

About 20 people sat behind her husband, David Stephan, who was also in the Lethbridge courtroom.

The trial resumes Monday at 10 a.m.

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