Child, 2, survives 19 days on ketchup and pasta

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The Independent US

A hospital in Florida has released a two-year-old child who suffered malnutrition and dehydration while surviving alone at home for 19 days on a diet of tomato ketchup, mustard and dried macaroni.

Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville said Brianna Lee had recovered after just 24 hours of treatment and was released into the custody of the state Department of Children and Families. David Foreman, a hospital spokesman, said: "She is in good condition."

The shocking incident began when the child's mother, Dakeysha Telita Lee, was arrested while at work on 10 September for aggravated assault and petty theft. She was jailed but did not mention that she had left her baby at home.

Brianna was found on Monday by her father, Ogden Lee, 33, who is in the process of divorcing his wife. He had been trying to contact her for two weeks, andonly found out on Sunday that she was incarcerated. She told him in a telephone call from jail that Brianna was with neighbours. When Mr Lee eventually got into his wife's apartment Brianna was lying in a baby bath watching cartoons on television. She was naked but for a towel.

There was dried ketchup smeared on her body and urine and faeces were all over the apartment.

"She grabbed me and wouldn't let go of me," an emotional Mr Lee said. "It is really a miracle how good a shape my daughter is in. I don't know how she did it. I am a 240lb man, and ... I can't keep from crying. I can't ... imagine how hungry she must have been."Jacksonville Police confirmed that the child had emptied the bottom half of the fridge and, in her search for food, had opened a door into a pantry. Sheriff John Rutherford said Brianna was "quite a scrapper". He added: "She managed to stay alive for 19 days. She actually tore the label off a couple cans of corn, trying to get into the cans."

Her mother is now facing additional charges of aggravated child abuse and is being held in jail on a bond of $150,000 (£90,000). Acourt hearing is scheduled for 22 October and a custody battle is expected to ensue. For now Brianna will remain in care. During her brief stay in hospital, the child apparently quickly began playing with the nurses and sitting up. In a short time, she had eaten four pieces of chicken, a cheeseburger, mashed potatoes, cereal and two pints of milk, her father said.