In 2009, the Cerdas, a Las Vegas family whose two daughters suffered from immune deficiency disorders, appeared on the reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Their old, moldy house was torn down, and new one, designed to protect the young girls, was built in its place. But as it turns out, the Cerda girls may not have been sick at all.

Six doctors in Oregon testified that neither Molly, age 10, or Maggie, 8, suffer from an immune deficiency disease. Rather, their mother Terri may suffer from Munchhausen by proxy syndrome, a psychological disorder that leads caregivers to invent or exaggerate health problems in others for attention or sympathy.

Surprising that a person like that would end up on reality TV, isn't it? The Cerdas sold their Extreme Makeover house within a year of its construction (due to increased costs) and moved to Oregon, where they jumped from doctor to doctor:


When the Cerdas moved to the Portland-area, they tried to form a new team of medical experts. Terri Cerda took the girls to rheumatologists, pediatricians, pulmonologists and other specialists.

Lab tests revealed some deficiencies or inconclusive results but no serious illnesses.


The most powerful statement came from [Dr. Thomas] Valvano, the child abuse and neglect expert. He reviewed records the state used to make its case and served as an expert witness.

His opinion that the girls were victims of medical child abuse rested on three points: Terri Cerda's pattern of describing symptoms that did not appear to have any medical basis; her history of providing incomplete or inaccurate medical information; and the way she jumped from doctor to doctor, switching when a physician challenged her assertion that the girls were chronically ill, Valvano said.

Oregon took custody of both girls in February, and placed them in the care of Terri's father Jerry McMahan, who told The Oregonian that "he never saw signs of chronic illness." But because the girls' father, Chuck Cerda, had never been involved in the medical decision-making, the judge working on the case found him "to be a capable parent" and allowed both Maggie and Molly to return to both parents

Terri, Molly and Maggie quickly moved back to Las Vegas, and "resumed treatment" with their doctors at UCLA. It was a UCLA doctor who had diagnosed the girls in 2007, according to Terri Cerda's records; Cerda told The Oregonian that those records weren't allowed to be entered into evidence. Chuck, a Department of Homeland Security officer, is hoping to transfer back to Las Vegas. They are, to the best of our knowledge, not living in the house built by the Extreme Makeover crew.

[The Oregonian]