Hannah Milbrandt was drugged as a child so her mother could fake a cancer illness and run a scam on kindhearted people willing to donate money to the family. Milbrandt, now 21, was convinced by her mother that she was dying from leukemia when she was just 7-years-old. Now, the Ohio women is speaking out about the traumatic ordeal for the very first time.
As a little girl, Hannah Milbrandt had her head shaved, bandages taped to the back of her head to pretend to cover a medical port which didn't exist, and was drugged with sleeping pills on a regular basis by her mother. Milbrandt says her mother ruined her life -- the two live mere miles apart, but have not had any contact in years.
"I remember a lot [of what happened] I remember feeling somewhat sick but not to the point of how I was being made out to be…but then I found out it was all not true," the victim of the fake cancer hoax said during an interview with the Daily Mail.
The Milbrandt family is from a small townie southwestern Ohio. She grew up in Urbana, which is near Springfield, and not far from Dayton. The people of the town rallied around the little girl they thought was suffering greatly from a deadly cancer. Approximately $31,000 as raised to help cover the supposed medical bills of the little girl.
For nine months, the good folks of Urbana kept Hannah Milbrandt in their thoughts and prayers -- and donated money to her eagerly awaiting mother, Teresa Milbrandt. Some teachers at the school where Hannah attended ultimately became suspicious and the cancer hoax began to unravel in late 2002.
One year later, both Teresa Milbrandt and Hannah's father, Robert Milbrandt, were arrested and sent to jail. The mother spent six and a half years in prison for child endangerment and theft. The father consistently maintained his innocence, claiming his wife had taken Hannah to all of the doctor's appointments when he was traveling for work so he was unaware of the cancer hoax.
"You look in hindsight and you're like I should have caught this," Bob Milbrandt said the only time he spoke publicly about the cancer hoax, during a documentary interview in 2005.
Her dad ultimately pleaded guilty to child endangerment and spent nearly five years in jail.
After being doped for nine months with sleeping pills, Hannah's world was turned upside down even more when she was sent to foster care when her parents both went to prison. Eventually a paternal aunt took her in."My mother is still not a part of my life today and I'm thankful for that because she is a very toxic person and I don't need that," Hannah said. "Deep down I have this fear of being around her because she's not somebody I can trust and as far as I am concerned she ruined my life."
Once Robert Milbrandt was released from prison, he and Hannah reunited. She remains convinced her dad was completely unaware of the cancer hoax and forced sleeping pill ingestion that was going on at her mother's hands.
Terri and Bob Milbrandt lived in a nice three-bedroom home in a safe blue-collar neighborhood in Urbana. The community was shocked when the cancer hoax scheme was revealed. The couple was married for nine years and had a total of six children between them. Hannah is the only child the couple had together.
The mother was working as a home care nurse at the time of the fake cancer scheme. Terri Milbrandt confessed that she had taken Hannah to counseling sessions to better prepare the little girl for her "imminent" death. The mother, who was a devoted member of her church, gave little Hannah sleeping pills so she would be unconscious for the fake chemotherapy sessions she was claiming to take the child to undergo at the hospital. When Hannah woke up her mother would tell her she had slept through the entire treatment.
"I remember she would take me to the Dairy Queen in Urbana and she'd give me the sleeping pill. I remember falling asleep and waking up in the same exact spot every time," Hannah also said.
Teresa Milbrandt claimed the family was forced to pay $500 a week to cover the cancer treatments. Her fellow church members banded together to donate $7,000 to help the family. The local firefighters chipped in with not just another $500, but provided Hannah with the two things she had always wanted: a puppy and a trip to a water park.
A seriously ill local teenager, who was wheelchair bound and had been collecting pop tabs for nine years to help cover the cost of her own medical treatment, donated her entire collection to Hannah. The school hosted a "Hats for Hannah" event so when the little girl returned to school after an extended absence she would not be self-conscious about wearing a hat to cover her bald head -- which had intentionally been shaved.
Hannah said her mother became increasingly distant with her and when they were at home referred to her as the "million dollar baby." When Christmas time rolled around, the 7-year-old girl feared it would be her last and begged Santa to save her life.
It was a teacher, and not Santa Claus, who ultimately spared the child from continued emotional turmoil. After noticing the girl's short hair featured an even haircut and not the patches of missing hair most often associated with cancer patient's undergoing treatment, she called child services to share her concerns.
It was Robert Milbrandt who informed Hannah she was not sick and was not going to die.
"I remember feeling excited like I was not going to die anymore. My happiness turned to me being afraid and not sure what was going to happen and I think that the part of it that was the scariest was being taken away from my family," Hannah said.
Hannah believes her dad was manipulated by her mom and truly didn't know that she was not really sick. She also feels her father would have not been charged with a crime if she had been allowed to testify at the trial.
"I have spent most of my life trying to get him justice and I haven't been able to do that and that's one thing that weighs very heavy on my heart because I know that man will do anything in this world for me and the one thing that has ruined his life, I can't fix," Hannah continued.
Terri Milbrandt pleaded guilty by reason of insanity using Munchausen by proxy syndrome as her defense. After a court ordered mental review the insanity plea was rejected by the judge. She could have been sentenced to 33 years in prison. She also claimed that she came up with the cancer hoax in an effort to convince her husband to stay in the marriage and to shower love upon her children.
"I knew how much he cared about Hannah and if she's sick, I thought, he's not going to leave us," Teresa Milbrandt said to the Columbus Dispatch. "I spent that money on my daughters, I bought them anything they wanted. We shopped, we ate out. Hannah's room was immaculate. She had everything. That's how I thought you got love -- you bought it."
Hannah said she has struggled with suicidal thoughts and depression, but is still working hard to move on with her life. She is working part-time as a waitress and attending nearby Wittenberg University to become a middle school teacher.
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