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New Hospital Video: Crying Doesn’t Kill Babies; Abusive Head Trauma Does

 

It’s a crying shame. Jordan Wesson’s little boy was only four-and-a-half months-old when she discovered he’d been hurt. Blinded as a result of brain damage, “He has no idea what happened to him when he was a baby,” she said.

At the hospital Wesson learned that her son had suffered abusive head trauma, formerly known as shaken baby syndrome.  She now shares her heartbreaking story, along with three other parents, in a new video entitled The Crying Baby Plan: Preventing Abusive Head Trauma, from Memorial Health System in Colorado Springs. (Be sure to check the links for both English and Spanish versions at the end of this story.)

“It takes a lot less for a child’s brain to be injured,” said Sally Duncan, R.N., trauma and injury prevention specialist at Memorial Health System. “What we’re finding is that they’re not only shaken, they’re thrown, where their head takes a blow. Abusive head trauma takes in both.”

According to CDC information, abusive head trauma is the leading cause of child abuse death in the United States, affecting as many as three to four children every day. Triggered primarily by inconsolable crying, these injuries result not only from shaking, but from hitting and throwing – and are entirely preventable.

Sgt. Hugh Velasquez of the Colorado Springs Police Dept. Crimes Against Children Unit said he typically sees a brain bleed when he’s called to the hospital, “Some kind of internal injury.” But in these cases, he said, “The story doesn’t match the injury.”

When a baby cries and cries for no apparent reason – a normal stage of development for infants under four months – it can trigger a violent response in an unprepared and stressed-out parent or caregiver, said Duncan. According to the CDC, the most frequent perpetrators are biological fathers, stepfathers, and mothers’ boyfriends, followed by mothers.

If you leave your baby with anyone, even a family member, this video is a must see. I recommend sitting down to watch it with the entire family, and again with the babysitter or caregiver. It could mean the difference between a healthy, happy life for your child and a debilitating or fatal injury.

Brian Moore was serving in Iraq when he received a phone call. His daughter, about to turn two, was in the hospital. Left at home with a caregiver, “She was shaken so badly, she was not able to see, hear, or anything—she was brain dead,” a pensive Moore said in the video. The little girl died as a result of abusive head trauma.

“Knock on wood, things have been better recently,” Velasquez said.

The Crying Baby Plan is now required viewing for all new parents before they leave Memorial Health System. “I hope it becomes the standard at all hospitals,” Duncan said.

Velasquez credits a large portion of the improved numbers to the video, an older version of which has been in use at Memorial Hospital since 2009.

Between 2008 and 2009, five deaths occurred due to abusive head trauma in Colorado Springs, said Duncan. In 2009-10, that number dropped to one. “We can’t draw complete conclusions, but indications are that something is going right. Community education on this subject has made a big difference.”

The Crying Baby Plan is simple:

  • Make sure he/she is fed and dry.
  • Wrap him/her gently.
  • Pick the baby up and gently rub his/her back.
  • Try singing to the baby or gently rocking.
  • Offer a pacifier.
  • Take him/her for walk in the stroller or for a ride in a safely secured car seat.
  • Call someone on the phone for support, and if the baby still won’t stop crying, put him/her down in a safe place and take a break.
  • Check on the baby about every five to ten minutes.

“I would be tickled pink if there were no more work for my unit,” said Velasquez. One way to help achieve that goal is for parents to learn how to comfort a baby and deal with stress before the birth, especially young parents who may not have as many coping skills, he said.

“Children don’t cry themselves to death,” says Paul Grabb, M.D., director of pediatric neurology at Memorial Health System. “If they’re fed and dry, let them cry.”

To view the video click on the following links for either English or Spanish:

www.bsphd.com/downloads/MemorialAHTenglish.wmv

www.bsphd.com/downloads/MemorialAHTspanish.wmv

Additional resources: Learn more about the period called PURPLE Crying – inconsolable crying during an infant’s first four months – at www.purplecrying.info; also, the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome: www.dontshake.org; the Association of American Pediatrics: www.aap.org.  For symptoms of abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome),  plus tips for reporting, visit http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/sbs.html

Read Jenny Kung’s latest Chinese Boat Wisdom: The Water-Cart Incident – only at Family Field Guide!

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