This article first appeared in Jan/Feb issue of Owensboro Parent Magazine.
Shaken baby syndrome is a traumatic brain injury caused by violently shaking a baby. Injury is caused by the brain bruising and swelling (intercranial hemorrhage), causing pressure on the brain which can lead to visibility issues, blindness, cerebral palsy and in 20% of cases, even death.
It would be much easier to pretend these kinds of stories don’t ever happen and never have to talk about Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). But the effects of SBS are very real, a fact that Owensboro mom, Melissa Logsdon, knows all too well.
When Melissa brought her story to our attention, Owensboro Parent and Owensboro Living knew immediately that we wanted to help her share her message.
“The hospital is really good about preparing parents to care for babies. The video new parents watch before they leave the hospital explains the consequences of shaking babies. But we need to spread the message more,” Logsdon told Owensboro Parent. “It’s up to parents to take it further and educate relatives, siblings and anyone else who might be watching your baby.”
Let’s start with the good news: Melissa’s then 7-month-old son, Jansen Lewis, survived his ordeal, which puts him in the 80% category of shaken babies who survive. [Editor’s note: Jansen was not shaken by a parent.]
The other good news is that Jansen is responding well to therapy. “He’s done amazing!” Logsdon said. “He tolerates the therapy pretty well. He’s very determined and a hard worker. He’s doing better than we ever imagined.”
Jansen is now a year and a half old, and has severe, life-long disabilities. To manage them, he does 15 hours of therapy per week – 10 hours at the Wendell Foster Center and five hours privately.
Before he was shaken, Jansen was developing like any healthy 7-month-old. Sitting up on his own, eating solid food, using some sign language and speaking a few words.
But on Dec. 30, 2014, all that changed. It only takes a few seconds of violently shaking a baby to cause irreversible brain damage. Jansen’s shake-induced injuries that day reverted him to the level of a 3-month-old’s abilities.
An emergency surgery was done to remove and stop the blood causing pressure on Jansen’s brain. The family was told to prepare for the worst. After awaking from a coma, Jansen began therapy, even while he was still on a ventilator. After months of hospitalization, Jansen was released to go home on April 16.
He now suffers from cortical vision impairment (his eyes are able to see, but his brain does not interpret the image); tongue base retraction (his tongue pushes food out when he tries to eat); spasticity (his muscles stay contracted); flaccidity (on some days, Jansen’s body is limp) and intellectual disabilities.
The question that almost immediately pops into your mind is “How could anyone shake a baby?” The answer in one word: frustration. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, the number one reason a child is shaken is because a parent or caregiver becomes so frustrated with a baby’s crying that they lose control and just shake them.
“Shaking a baby can be very harmful,” says Dr. Sarah Osborne, APRN, a nurse practitioner with Owensboro Health Pediatrics. “Each case is different, but they are all 100% preventable.” Dr. Osborne offers these suggestions for preventing SBS:
1) Set the baby down and walk away. The best way to prevent shaking a baby is to place the crying baby safely in a crib and walk away for a few minutes to gain composure. Call a friend, relative, neighbor or helpline for support, and then check on the child every five to ten minutes. Sometimes babies will actually fall asleep in between peeks.
2) Let someone else try. Hand the crying baby off to someone else until you can gain composure. For a hired caregiver, if you’re at the point of desperate frustration, call the parents to come get the baby.
3) Cut yourself a break. Recognize that it can be frustrating. When a baby is inconsolable, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent or caregiver. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It’s OK to be frustrated. There’s nothing wrong with you.
4) Ask for help. Call a hotline if you have tried everything you know to calm the baby and nothing is working. Owensboro Health’s 24-hour health information hotline is 855-417-8555. Many pediatricians also have “ask a nurse” hotlines.
One last bit of good news for Baby Jansen is that mommy and daddy have him signed up for an intensive therapy camp in Winter Park, Florida in February. Jansen will have intense, three-hour therapy sessions five days a week for three weeks. The camp addresses deficiencies in overall strength, coordination, endurance and independence with mobility. “They have ways to isolate and strengthen specific muscle groups. We hope it pushes him to the next level in development,” Melissa explained.
Melissa heard about Winter Park through another mother in an online support group. “The traumatic brain injury Facebook group I’m in has been very helpful. It’s good to have that support when I’m having a hard day. We’re always sharing ideas and resources with each other. It’s nice to talk with people who are also dealing with this.”
For more information about SBS and how to protect your child, visit Purplecrying.info.