Group brings awareness to baby brain damage

Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldDecember 13, 2013 

Shaken Baby Prevention

Kristin Faught, a nurse at Kadlec Regional Medical Center, displays photos of her adult son, Brian, who is shaken baby survivor during Friday's press conference to raise awareness in the prevention of shaken baby syndrome. The Benton Franklin Safe Kids Coalition donated 400 new knitted purple hats in recognition of the Period of PURPLE Crying Project. Newborns wear the hats at the Richland hospital as a visual reinforcement of an infant's normal progession of crying during development.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Brian Johnson's life changed forever with a few hard shakes. He was 51/2 weeks old when his father, Rudy Johnson, shook him.

Kristin Faught of Kennewick, his mother, had left the home for a few hours.

But she didn't realize she was leaving Brian in danger.

A few hours later, her husband called and said there was an emergency with the baby.

"I could hear Brian crying. It was unnatural," she said.

She talked about the terrifying experience Friday during a press conference at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland to raise awareness about shaken baby syndrome.

Faught, a registered nurse who works in the birthing center at Kadlec, said when she arrived at her Moses Lake home minutes later, Brian having a seizure, his eyes weren't tracking and his breathing was irregular.

The baby was rushed to the hospital and flown to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where doctors found he had global cerebral hemorrhaging, a typical result of having been violently shaken.

"I was lucky, Brian survived. Many don't," Faught said.

Those few seconds Brian was shaken forever changed the family.

Her husband went to prison. The couple got a divorce. The baby lost a chance to develop normally.

Brian, now 21, is a senior at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, where he attends classes for special needs children.

He's blind and not able to verbalize words, though he has an infectious laugh, Faught said.

He can stand briefly but cannot walk.

"It's like he's the victim of a massive stroke," she said.

Registered nurse Carol Gaulke gave a demonstration on a mannequin Friday of the force necessary to cause brain damage in a newborn.

Gaulke also explained that many newborns go through a period called "purple" crying, where they cry for no apparent reason for hours on end.

This so-called "purple" crying is an acronym that stands for "Peak of crying, Unexpected, Resists soothing, Pain-like face, Long lasting and Evening."

"It usually happens between 1 and 5 months of age. Some babies cry more, some less but parents shouldn't worry, it's a natural part of their development," Gaulke said.

The evening is when it usually happens -- when a baby's parents are most likely to be tired, Gaulke said.

"It can be frustrating for the parents because nothing seems to work. Not food, not changing their diaper, not holding them, nothing," Gaulke said.

That's when parents sometimes shake a baby in frustration.

"People don't realize how much movement a newborn's brain has within the skull," said Annie Goodwin, Benton Franklin Health District supervisor. "When a baby's shaken, they quit crying so people think it helped. Many don't realize shaking causes injury."

To help raise awareness of "purple" crying and shaken baby syndrome there's a national movement to help educate parents. Information can be found at www.dontshake.org.

Hospitals give new parents booklets and a DVD, and have clinical educators on staff to explain and give parents some tools to help them through this period of their newborn's life.

As a visual reinforcement the Benton Franklin Safe Kids Coalition gathers baby-size purple hats -- knitted, crocheted and sewn -- and gives them to area birthing centers.

"Each baby goes home with one. It's something to help parents remember what the 'purple' stands for," said Kathleen Clary-Cooke, public health educator. She works for the Benton-Franklin Health District and is part of the Benton Franklin Safe Kids Coalition.

On Friday, she helped deliver 472 tiny hats to Kadlec's Don and Lori Watts Pediatric Center. All were handmade in a rainbow of shades of purple.

"Most were made by people here in the Tri-Cities. Some were sent by volunteers across the state," Clary-Cooke said.

Two big bags of tiny hats recently delivered to the pediatric center came from inmates at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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