Authorities Say Nurse Dropped Near-Deadly Amounts of Salt in Daughter's Feeding Tube
It took removing a pre-schooler from her mother's care for seven months for authorities to build their case against a mom they say tried to poison her little girl with salt.
Katie Alice Ripstra, 31, was charged this week by the Harris County Sheriff's Office for allegedly poisoning her 4-year-old through a feeding tube the child used. The abuse, according to court records, put the child into the intensive care unit at Texas Children's Hospital last year and caused brain damage.
According to a sheriff's office investigator, the child had been abused since 2011. An affidavit of probable cause says the child had been admitted several times to TCH with extremely high sodium levels. In August, she was admitted with a level as high as 186 milliequivalents per liter. The normal range for blood sodium levels is 135 to 145 milliequivalents per liter according to National Library of Medicine.
The little girl made a total of four trips to the children's last year, recovering each time from sodium levels higher than 150 milliequivalents per liter.
What's puzzling is that Ripstra was a pediatric nurse at the hospital, but investigators haven't revealed why she would have been doing this to her own kid, who according to court documents used a gastric feeding tube.
Court records say that after a meeting in the summer that involved the hospital's child abuse team, Ripstra was confronted about the levels of sodium. The doctor handling the case, according to the affidavit, said Ripstra was introducing the high levels of sodium through her daughter's feeding tube on purpose.
The child was in intensive care for three days and suffered brain damage due to her sodium levels when she was admitted again on August 6. Child protective services began investigating following that visit and the child was placed in someone else's custody the following month.
Ripstra was arrested and charged with injury to a child, serious bodily injury and is out on $30,000 bond awaiting trial and does not have custody of her daughter, according to the sheriff's office.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.