A California hospital official tells PEOPLE it will be a long road to recovery for the 13 siblings who were allegedly held captive and tortured by their parents, who are both facing numerous counts of suspicion of torture and child endangerment.
“They have undergone a horrible period in their life,” says Mark Uffer, chief executive officer of Corona Regional Medical Center, where the seven adult Turpin children are now being treated.
The six minors taken from the home are being treated at a separate facility, Uffer says.
“As I have talked to the nurses — some are the same ages as some of these people — I think everyone of us has a sense of how fortunate we are in our lives that we never have had to endure what they have had to endure,” Uffer explains. “It is a very sobering experience to see.”
David Allen Turpin, 56, and his wife, Louise, 49, were arrested Monday after their 17-year-old daughter climbed through one of the windows of their Perris, California, home, and called 911 using a disconnected cell phone she had found.
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The family moved into the home in 2014. A neighbor who spoke to PEOPLE Tuesday said she knew something was not right about the Turpins.
Uffer tells PEOPLE the adult children — five girls and two boys between the ages of 18 and 29 — “are actually pretty stable” considering what they have been through. He says “they are in a very safe environment” and adds “we are keeping them all together; we have tried to recreate a positive family environment for them so they are with their siblings, and they appear to be doing well in that environment.”
Uffer confirms the adult children look much younger than their actual ages: “That is a sobering experience for all of us, when you see a 29-year-old that looks like they are 12 or 13 or 14.”
He says their underdevelopment is more than likely a direct result of years of malnutrition.
“I have been a hospital administrator for a long time and I have been in healthcare since 1973 … I have never seen this,” Uffer says. “I can share with you that I have spent a fair amount of time with these kids … we call them kids but they are adults. It is heartbreaking to see this. It really hits home.”
Given their alleged limited diets, Uffer tells PEOPLE dietitians will “have to be very careful” about what foods are introduced into their diet, “because it doesn’t stay with them. You have to sort of reintroduce things into the diet for someone who has malnutrition.
Uffer does not know how long the children will be at Corona Regional Medical center, but assures PEOPLE “we are doing everything to improve the quality of their life.”
He adds: “They are very cognizant of what has occurred. They are aware of the situation. They are coping with it. I would say they are happy in the environment that they are in right now. They feel that the nurses and the team of medical professionals that are taking care of them actually care about them as people and that we are here to help them — that they are safe and being treated with incredible dignity.”
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Uffer says he has observed a genuine connection between the 7 siblings.
“You can tell they are a family and you can tell they really care about each other,” he says. “They sort of just cope. This is the cards they were dealt and they have just coped with it. We all feel very fortunate when you come from a two-parent household who treated you with love and tenderness and made sure you went to school and brushed your teeth and went to bed on time.”
Aside from nutritious food, the brothers and sisters are finally enjoying something else their aunt alleges they’ve been denied: television.
“They can watch TV and they are watching videos,” Uffer says. “We have a game system we brought in. We have people working with them — literally somebody with them 24 hours a day. They are patients. We have registered nurses working with them as well as other support staff … and you hope they can overcome it.”
The couple, who have not entered pleas to the charges, are each being held on $9 million bonds. Information on whether either parent has retained a lawyer wasn’t immediately available.