What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Each year in the United States alone, medical treatment is sought for an estimated 1,400-1,600 babies who have been shaken. Don’t let your child become just another statistic! Tell everyone who cares for your child “Never shake a baby!”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"How is this helping Kassie...?" A story of sorrow, strength and hope.

I have to say through out the weeks and months that followed our Kassie’s Girl injury and death my mom was the one who kept me together.

All my life I had always been the caregiver. So when we got the call that Kassie was being rushed via ambulance to the hospital, by her mother. I went into crisis mode. My first thought was find my husband and get him to his daughter. Once we got there my next thought was get these little kids out of here. There were policemen and detectives and SRS workers everywhere. Family was crying and at this point all I knew was she was hurt we were going to be here a while and something was very wrong. So as the step-mom I took the roll of taking care of everyone else.

I don’t think the first 3 days I cried. I was so consumed with shielding myself from the reality of it. I knew I would lose control and not be able to keep being strong for my husband, Kassie’s mom, Kassie and my other children. It finally all hit me late Wednesday night. After the days events I knew it was bad really bad. But still I did not let myself go.

Wednesday started out bad and just got worse. It started with her daddy and I coming in and finding her that morning, after we arrived from caring for the other kids having non stop seizures. I knew it was bad. Then the EEG was just wrong. I had seen them before from family member’s health issues. I knew what it should look like it was not even close. The doctors told us that Wednesday night Thursday, tomorrow morning they would do the life skills test. They explained it but I don’t think we really understood it all at that time how could we. I mean 3 days ago we saw her she was bouncing, happy, smiling, loving us and here we were praying she would simply live.

What the hell was going on?? While I was busy caring for who I could; keeping myself busy my mom was watching me waiting for me to crash. And crash I did hard. Thursday morning after the life skills test, after I watched Kassie, not breathe, not blink, not move. After I watched her O2 levels drop and them put her back on life support and say sorry. We will give her one more chance but it does not look good she is brain dead. I finally could no longer hold it in.

After the life skills test I found my husband who just simply could not be in the room to watch, and comforted him. Once he was in an ok place I excused myself from the group and hurried to the church in the hospital. I cried like I have never cried in my life. I was in this huge church screaming on the floor, I had no dignity in that moment. The priest came out to check on me because the pain in those cries was beyond measure.

Thank God no one else was there to see me like that. By God’s grace my mother, who had quietly been there all week. She was helping me to focus on what was happening at the hospital because she was ensuring my other children were safe. She walked in picked me up off the floor and held me till I stopped screaming and sobbing.

You see my mother knew the pain of losing a child. Her first born, her only boy never left the hospital in his short life. My older brother died just a few short months into life because of health issues. She knew where I was and knew what to do to get me back to sanity.

After I was composed a bit, she whispered in my ear “How is this helping Kassie and the other kids? I know your heart broken but someone has to keep it together for everyone else. Who is going to make it ok for them? You cannot fall apart, everyone is looking at you to make it ok.”

Her words never rang more true. She was right, what about the other children and my husband. I was being selfish, letting myself fall apart, that was always my job to be the caretaker. My innate need to care for others; that would be what would get me through this too. Somehow she just knew exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

I dusted myself off, dried my eyes and we returned to the family. I was ready to resume my duties as caretaker again. That evening we brought her siblings to say good bye and again my mother’s strength and words helped me to make it through without losing it. Kassie deserved me to give my best right now. The kids deserved me to be strong. I was not going to let them down. I kept repeating her words over and over again in my head to get through watching her siblings with her for the last time. They were telling her good bye that to this day was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

The next morning the doctors prepared to remove Kassie from life-support. My mother was by my side. I knew how hard this must be for her. Watching me go through this, watching a baby in ICU with the tubes again pass away. It had to be killing her, but she stood tall, held my hand whispering in my ear during the last rights, knowing in a few moments it would just be Kassie’s Daddy, Kassie’s Mom, and me(Kassie’s Ahma) in the room as the doctors removed her from life support.

She kissed my cheek and left with the others. We remained in fear, pain and agony. My husband could not watch her die; he kissed her and ran out in pain. I could not leave until I knew she was no longer with us. After she left us, I knew I had to find her daddy. I could do nothing more for our Kassie girl but she would want me to take care of him. I comforted him still unable to let myself go completely because he needed me to stay strong.

My mother found me and took me away from everyone else because she knew I would not let myself fall apart again. I simply could not. I feared if I let myself go in front of everyone I might never be able to get myself back. She knew what I needed yet again.

Once safely with her I fell apart completely, I wanted to die, to scream. To beat the hell out of the person who did this. How in the world could we go on with out our Kassie girl, our youngest family member, this was not fair. I was so angry!!!

The pain and loss was overwhelming I could barely breathe. But somehow her arms felt safe and I knew in that moment she and I shared a pain she prayed I would never feel. She was heartbroken for me and she was so strong through it all. She prepared me for the next step we had to go home and tell her siblings she was in heaven. It took my breath away, I wanted to crawl in a hole but my mother looked on with that smile and said, “She is with Willie and Grandma now they will take care of her”. She was so calm; it was that calm I feed off of. It was her strength I borrowed when I did not have my own. Her strength helped me to do what needed to be done.

Through the next few months I spent most of my time focusing on the children, my husband and their needs but there was always my mom behind me focusing on me. Her strength is the only thing that got me back on track. Knowing she survived such a huge loss and was here to understand, talk to and hold me when I needed it.

Thanks to my mom we all have made it to a stronger place. We miss our Kassie girl daily and always will. My children have grown, their lives have progressed. That we are not stuck is because my mom stepped in when I needed it the most to shake me out of my pain over and over again. As the years have gone by the strength she gave me in the beginning is something I draw on often. I often find myself repeating what she told me on a bad day.

She is my hero for the gift she given me. Only now truly know how much it had to cost her to give me that peace and direction. Losing a child never leaves you. You simply learn how to live with the pain it leaves behind. That learning to live was the greatest gift she could have ever given me. It allowed me to provide my family with the hope, strength and direction we all so desperately needed after such a huge trauma in ours lives.

I thank God everyday she had the strength to be there with us through that. I don’t know if we would be where we are today without her guidance and support.

All I can say is thank you mom. I love you.
Tonya (Kassie's stepmother, her "Ahma")

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