A mummy blogger, a sick child and the hidden camera that exposed a terrible crime.

Emily McDonald was just 23 years old when she started blogging about her three children. 

On the site, titled The McDonald Five, the young mum shared stories of life in the McDonald household, sometimes blogging as often as several times a day

While she wrote about all three of her children, the blog focused mostly on then-three-year-old Dakota, who she shared had been in and out of hospital since her premature birth.

Video via True Crime Recaps.

According to the blog, the youngest McDonald child had endured a roller coaster ride of ongoing health problems, and was admitted to the Dell Children’s Medical Centre in 2009, with a high fever and a "long history of chronic diarrhoea".

Over the next six weeks, doctors were unable to stabilise Dakota, leaving her to endure a range of different treatments, including surgery.

"Everything went great with Dakota's surgery. The Broviac is in, the IJ is out and they did a bandaidectomy while they were in the OR," McDonald wrote on her blog.

"Her labs from this morning looked much improved over Sunday's labs. Tomorrow she's due to have another abdominal ultrasound (hoping they'll do this before waking her up from surgery). They noticed some abnormal changes in her kidneys on last week's abdominal ultrasound but hopefully everything's back to normal tomorrow.”


But for every piece of good news McDonald shared, another setback would soon follow.

"When Dakota woke up from her nap, we noticed she had a rash all over her body. The senior resident has been in and out all afternoon. It looks like a reaction to one of her medications, the last one she got was Amphotericin, which finished about an hour before the rash appeared. She just looks puny, feels nasty and isn't herself."

The mother also wrote about the impact on her other children.

"With me staying at the hospital I haven't been able to spend as much time with the other kids as I would like. Julian doesn't do so well up here in a teeny tiny room with nothing to do but Mad on the other hand is a bit more mature and can handle it."

Image: The McDonald Five. 

A sinister twist.


No matter what Dakota's doctors did, she didn't recover. Her blood cultures were showing odd results and her intravenous lines had to be replaced multiple times due to infections or clots. The continued setbacks eventually raised the suspicions of hospital staff, prompting officials to set up a hidden camera in the little girl's room. 

When staff reviewed the footage, they were shocked by what they saw: McDonald putting faecal matter into her daughter’s central venous line or feeding tube. Subsequent blood tests on Dakota came back positive for bacteria commonly found in faeces.

A central venous line is a catheter, often inserted into a patient's chest or neck, that leads to a vein or directly into the heart. It allows the quick insertion of medication or fluids and allows monitoring of cardiovascular health.

Faeces entering the body in this way is life-threatening and can cause sepsis.

When faced with the evidence, McDonald confessed to smearing faeces on Dakota’s central venous line five times during the six weeks she was in the hospital.


Why did she do it?

McDonald's defence lawyer told American media his client had put faeces into her daughter's catheter to elevate her fever, in an attempt to encourage doctors to continue antibiotics treatment that they had planned to stop. 

He said she was 'under extreme psychological stress', compounded by fatigue and depression. 

"Obviously it was a criminal act, and it was wrong-headed, but it was done with a pure heart," he said.

Her behaviour has been linked to Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychological disorder where a caregiver exaggerates, invents or causes medical symptoms in a person within their care in order to get attention. 

Guilty as charged.

The prosecutor accused the mother-of-three of medical child abuse, with McDonald ultimately pleading guilty to second-degree injury to a child.

During pre-trial, McDonald was found at her parents' home with an unidentified three-year-old child, breaching her condition of release, which was to have no contact with children, including her own. 

McDonald was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Dakota, who fully recovered, and her two siblings are now living with their respective fathers. 

Feature image: The McDonald Five.

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