Born in Combat: Disturbing new records show doctor went with feelings, not science in deployment decision

Born in Combat 6pm
Born in Combat

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - 13 Investigates has new explosive documents revealing for the first time how an Indiana soldier was deployed into combat despite multiple positive pregnancy tests.

Within months of that deployment, Pvt. Ashley Shelton gave birth in Afghanistan.

It's a disturbing case the U.S. Army doesn't want to talk about.

13 Investigates has been digging for answers for months. The new medical records now show how the military process failed simple science.

Ashley Shelton and her son, Benjamin, shortly after he was born in Shindand, Afghanistan.
Ashley Shelton and her son, Benjamin, shortly after he was born in Shindand, Afghanistan.

Thousands of miles away from Afghanistan and the 12th Aviation Brigade, Pvt. Ashley Shelton has been stuck in another military fight.

The right to know why Army doctors sent her into a war zone - pregnant.

Second trimester pregnant.

Just three months after she was deployed, she went into labor in a latrine and delivered a near full term 5-pound baby boy she named Benjamin.

"It was a battle," said Shelton as she sat down to discuss her new found medical records with 13 Investigates. The documents were recently discovered within her human resources file at the Indiana National Guard. Still absent were any communications from the United States Army taking responsibility or outlining any corrective measures in the wake of its investigation into her wrongful deployment.

Army Records Show 4 Positive Pregnancy Tests

Despite the Army's lack of response the medical records reveal what really happened and why Shelton and her unborn baby were sent into harms way.

The then 20-year old was sent into combat despite 4 positive pregnancy tests over a 9-week period starting in February 2012.

The last tests in April just weeks before she shipped out in May.

"Everything shows I was pregnant!," said Shelton. "Science shows I was pregnant," she added.

According to the records from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the army doctor wrote several paragraphs about Shelton's findings.

"She has no signs of pregnancy, she continues to have positive hCG testing despite NOT being pregnant," he wrote.

hCG Used Worldwide in Pregnancy Testing

hCG is a hormone produced during pregnancy and is picked up at very low levels by standard pregnancy tests.

Doctors everywhere accept the science.

But in Shelton's case, it wasn't enough.

The records note Shelton was on birth control and reported her last sexual encounter during leave between late December 2011 and early January 2012.

"He's in there saying "you're not pregnant," and you're trusting his advice," she explained, recalling her pre-deployment screenings.

In fact the doctor lists Shelton as "deployable" noting "abnormal findings" and calling her a "VERY interesting case."

Army Doctor Rules Results False-Positives Based on "Feelings" and Indiana Mice Exposure

He then wrote another shocking phrase:

"Do not feel patient is actually pregnant."

"Human anti-mouse antibodies...are causing a false positive result."

"Since going home on leave to rural Indiana in (December)....where she lives on a farm and reports frequently seeing mice, she has had positive hCGs despite not being pregnant." he summarized.

That's right, the doctor's decision to send Shelton into combat was not based on additional testing or an ultra sound but on her perceived exposure to mice in Indiana!

Shelton told 13 Investigates it didn't make sense then and it doesn't make sense now.

"No I really had not contact with mice, and I really did not believe him when he said that," she told 13 Investigates.

Whether she believed it or not, she was a soldier under the Army's command. The doctor cleared Shelton for deployment.

He sent a blood test out to a lab in London, ordered Typhoid and Anthrax vaccines for her, but held off the smallpox shot because of his "inability to 100% disprove pregnancy."

Baby Born in Combat Now Suffering Developmental Delays and a Disability

Now 5-years later, watching her son deal with developmental delays and a physical disability Shelton still has one burning question.

"As a woman I'm reading (the medical report) and like Why? Why?" she said in a hushed whisper. "Why did you deploy me?"

It's a question 13 Investigates has been asking for months.

We want answers from the doctor who made the call. His name is on the documents: Dr. Jonathan Richard Coyle. Shelton found him on social media.

"Major Coyle the one who ok'd me to deploy, he has not responded to any of my messages," she said.

"He did not "feel" that you were pregnant," said 13 Investigates Reporter, Sandra Chapman, reading the entry.

"So off of his feelings I could have died, my son could have died," Shelton said bluntly.

Armed with these new disturbing reports, Shelton wants both Dr. Coyle and the Army to consider the future for Benjamin.

"Where do I go from this point?" Shelton asked. "Where does my son go?" she said.

Timeline of Events Surrounding Pvt. Shelton's Pregnancy

Dec 2011 – Jan 2012Pvt. Ashley Shelton on leave in rural Indiana. Told Army doctors that she was on birth control during this time.
Jan 15, 2012Shelton returned to duty. Stationed in Germany.
Feb 21, 20121st Positive pregnancy test (urine test/elevated hCG level)
Feb 24, 20122nd Positive pregnancy pest (urine test/elevated hCG level.)
April 18, 2012Doctors ordered three pregnancy tests – one urine tests and two blood tests. At least two were positive.
May 3, 2012

Doctor noted in Shelton’s medical file: “VERY interesting case. Do NOT feel patient is actually pregnant but that she has heterophite antibodies called human anti-mouse antibodies or (HAMAs) that are causing a false positive result.”

Blood sent to London lab for additional testing of hCG level (pregnancy indicator) without using the mouse anti-bodies.

Shelton given anthrax & typhoid vaccines. Doctor deferred smallpox vaccine “due to inability to 100% disprove pregnancy.”

Aug 15, 2012Shelton gives birth in Afghanistan. She and baby Benjamin transferred to medical facility in Germany.
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