A Texas mother known on TikTok for posting thousands of followers about her daughter’s illnesses is suspected of medically abusing her three-year-old in the case of Proxy Munchausen, authorities said.
According to a July 11 arrest warrant, Jessica Gasser, 27, was being held on suspicion of assaulting a child, a felony, for lying about her daughter’s medical history, which led to the girl having her blood drawn about 28 times unnecessarily for a fasting study. In a July 17 press release, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office in Fort Worth urged people to contact detectives if they have been in contact with Gasser via text, email or social media, using the alias MedicalMamaJess.
The warrant documents a series of reports from medical personnel alleging that Gasser medically abused her daughter by falsifying her medical history, making “doctor shopping” to obtain a specific diagnosis and medication, and withholding formula from her daughter’s feeding tube. People with proxy Munchausen, a mental disorder that usually affects mothers, seek attention by exaggerating or fabricating the symptoms of a child in their care.
Gasser deleted all of her social media accounts, but authorities said they could have kept them, including her TikTok account, which had more than 24,000 followers and where she was most active. Gasser posted there several times a day, authorities said, sharing videos of her daughter in medical facilities, posting details about her condition and offering support and encouragement to other “medical” parents or parents of medically complex children, as some describe themselves in online communities. As news of her arrest spread, several commenters, who had believed her child to be chronically ill, expressed shock.
In a post that was viewed more than 96,000 times, Gasser claimed that she and her daughter spent two and a half hours in a pediatrician’s office because her daughter’s blood sugar levels “dropped” there, the warrant said. However, the pediatrician told investigators that it was a 15-minute phone call and that blood sugar levels were not mentioned, the warrant said.
Gasser also appeared to have a thriving Etsy business, EnchantedTubieTapes, which sold custom-made tapes to hold feeding tubes and other medical devices in place. It has 749 five-star reviews, with many customers sharing images of the ribbon they purchased in a variety of cheerful designs, including baby sea turtles, boho sloths on rainbows, and bees and flowers.
Gasser was listed as the organizer of a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a trip to Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic for medical treatment long after doctors told Gasser her child’s warrant did not require it. A philanthropic organization also paid for Gasser and her child’s flights there for $1,638.60.
A GoFundMe spokesperson told HuffPost that the campaign has since been canceled and donors have received their money back.
“GoFundMe does not tolerate abuse of our platform and we are cooperating with law enforcement investigations into individuals alleged to be wrong. This fundraiser has been removed from our platform and a refund has been given to all donors,” the spokesperson said.
From June 12-15, Tarrant County investigators said internet searches found on Gasser’s cellphone included questions about police access to social media and search history, as well as phrases such as “lies by a doctor about an illegal child,” “how to clear Munchausen by proxy,” “social media and medical child abuse,” and “countries that accept asylum families from CPS,” which appeared to be related to child protection services.
Since Gasser’s daughter was not gaining weight, the child was put on a feeding tube. When she still wasn’t gaining weight, authorities say a nurse became suspicious that Gasser wasn’t feeding her enough calories and reported Gasser to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, of which CPS is a part. Another doctor filed a DFPS report because Gasser was found to have “vented” her feeding bag, preventing the formula from passing through the tube, police said.
The Etsy shop profile under Gasser’s name says, “Hello! I am a mother of a medically complex child who has a feeding tube. She has had her tube most of her life and loves to choose fun cassettes! So I decided to print ribbons for them and sell them to other tubies.”
Some of Gasser’s TikToks can still be seen in other users’ posts. In a video of a young girl using a pacifier and climbing onto chairs that appear to be in a doctor’s office or hospital, she is captioned, “Results admitted to lab for failure to thrive…” and “Out-of-range results attributed to thinness and rejection😵💫”
As of June 14th, the Etsy shop is listed as “Taking a short break.” A note from the shopkeeper read: “We are on vacation mode due to a family emergency. I don’t know if and when we will come back. Thank you for your patience.”
After the three-year-old girl was removed from Gasser’s care, she began tube-feeding, gained weight and was weaned from a drug that had caused her adrenal gland to stop working, authorities said. According to an affidavit on the warrant, the girl is now “fine.”
It’s unclear whether Gasser has been charged or whether a court date is set in the case. The Tarrant County District Attorney referred HuffPost’s questions to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, but the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for information on the status of the case.
Tarrant County officials have campaigned for several years for legislation that would criminalize child medical abuse. In Texas, a committee recently approved HB 3381, which would make it a crime to misrepresent medical history “in order to obtain unnecessary medical treatment for a child, elderly person or disabled person”. Known as Alyssa’s Law, named after The foster daughter of Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybournthe law would be the first of its kind in the United States. The sheriff testified at the state capitol in April that Alyssa’s birth mother abused her as an infant by feeding her feces through a feeding tube she administered.
“Back then, I said, how could law enforcement overlook this? Why weren’t we involved? It’s very complicated to get involved,” Waybourn said said in his statement.