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Baby shakers deserve life sentence
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin;
Reading in your paper Wednesday, I read the article about the Shaken Baby that died yesterday. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), is far more common than people realize. Some recent studies have led researchers to believe that a percentage of SIDS deaths are caused by a parent shaking the baby and then leaving them in their crib where they die from the shaking. Shaking a baby is a violent act, causing the baby’s brain to slam into the skull. In an adult, a brain will heal to some degree after a concussion, in a baby the area of the brain that was bruised by the impact will liquefy. Imagine taking a Jell-O mold and shaking it violently, the Jell-O liquefies. The baby’s brain does the same thing.

For some reason society does not have laws on the books that deliver proper justice for such a violent act. There aren’t any common side effects from this act, one victim will grow up a little “slow”, and another will die like the child in your article. Then there is every shade of grey in between. I wouldn’t say that I am an expert in this subject, but I do have personal experience in it. About 4 years ago my daughter and my 4-month-old grandchild moved to the Midwest to live with the biological father to start a family. He was here when the little guy was born, and he seemed to be a good person, he was a friend of the family on my in-laws side. He was polite to us, and he was good to our daughter while he was here. He went back to Wisconsin, where he was going to save money to move here and start a family with my daughter. She went there to help him save the money to come back here. I have spent many hours theorizing what could have caused him to harm my beautiful grandson, but in the end, it happened. I still remember that phone call from my daughter, who was in a panic right after it happened. She was telling me that he was limp and lethargic. They had rushed him to the hospital, where they then flew him by helicopter to Milwaukee. This was a saving grace, because Milwaukee has one of the best children’s hospitals in the country.

My wife and I flew out the next day to be with our children. We were full of hope, anticipating the doctor telling us that after a time for healing we all would be going home to live our lives. That’s not what the doctors told us. They told us that my grandson had 21 fractures on 16 ribs, and his brain was severely damaged. They showed us the x-rays of his brain showing us where the damage is. We also saw the pictures of the bruises on his shoulders and his chin from where the biological father’s thumbs were pressing when he was shaking him, and where his jaw slammed against the thumbs when the head violently came forward. Babies’ ribs are pliable, and don’t easily break. The doctors told us that we could have dropped my grandson down a flight of stairs and not broke his ribs. We assume the breaks occurred when the father was squeezing him in a rage.

You mentioned in your article that the maternal grandmother visited the baby every weekend.  After our meeting with the doctors, the social workers pulled my wife and I aside, and thanked us for coming out. We told them that he is our grandson, that’s what we are supposed to do. The social worker said to us, “you don’t understand, when something like this happens, families go away.” They told us we were unique in what we were doing. I guess people don’t want damaged goods.
The father plea-bargained and got 365 days in prison, plus 3 years of probation, and my grandson got a life sentence. The good people of Wisconsin and California provided him with health insurance so he can receive proper medical attention, and social security provides him with a monthly sum of money to take care of his special needs. His new neurologist just did an MRI to baseline what the damage was. We went to see what the results are, and we saw that 1/3 to ½ of his brain is liquid. I asked the doctor what the long-term prognosis was, and the doctor kindly smiled at me and didn’t say anything. I asked if this was as good as it will get, and he said yes. So now my grandson will not talk, or walk, he may need a feeding tube implanted because he doesn’t eat much, and his vision is weak because the area of the brain that processes vision was damaged. This new doctor has been able to stop the severe seizures that he had for the last 4 years. If you want your heart torn out, watch a loved one, especially a child suffering through a seizure multiple times a day. My grandson is one of the many shades of grey that come from SBS. As a society we don’t deliver the proper justice to an incident like this one. We don’t hear enough about this in the news, and when we do it is usually due to a death. There are so many people who are worried about the unborn, maybe we should start being more concerned about the born. My heart goes out to the mother, the grandmother, and the foster parents who loved this baby.  I love my grandson, and I will provide him with as much life as I can.  People who do this deserve life sentences, which is equal to the harm that they do.
Scott Sadlowski
April 22, 2009