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Find ways to cope. Don't shake babies.

Posted Thursday, April 26, 2012, at 2:04 PM

Don't shake babies! You could break their bones. You could leave them blind. You could kill them.

The effects of shaking babies was brought home as Kathi Olson, director of the Southwest Missouri Children's Center, demonstrated what happens to a baby when it's shaken fiercely with a simulator whose brain centers light up when various stages of brain damage might happen -- even more so when I shook the simulated baby myself at a presentation she gave at Thursday's Rotary luncheon.

Jeff Feuquay, Children's Center board member first demonstrated a couple of common mishaps, illustrating that these mishaps don't cause the injuries shaking a baby can.

Rolling the "baby" off a bench onto the floor brought no reaction. Rolled it off a table. No lights came on. Then I tried the shaking.

The baby looked and felt real in many ways. It cried, and, feeling like quite a despicable ogre doing so, I shook the baby. Gently at first, then more and more fiercely until the lights came on. All of them. It took what seemed a great deal of force, but the alarming part was that it also was obviously an amount of force I was capable of generating. It really only took a few seconds; and I wasn't even angry.

I felt a twinge of remorse, even though I was only shaking a doll; and I knew one thing for sure. Not only do people need to be more educated about the harm shaking a baby can do -- they need to be educated on how to prevent it.

I think all first-time parents should have the opportunity to use this simulator, so they could for themselves how quickly devastating injury can take place.

A couple of us shared stories of times we'd been frustrated by babies -- each offered a similar solution. Put the baby down and walk away. Take a few minutes to regroup and calm yourself. If there's someone there, or close by you can call on for help, do it. Call a friend to just chat and unwind for a minute or two.

Then I went to the office and did a little research, finding that these are the same strategies recommended by the Shaken Baby Task Force.

There's an active case in Joplin going on right now -- the second this year. Another is unfolding in Lamar. It happens. It could happen anywhere. If it happens -- God forbid -- call 911 immediately; fast action could save the baby. The baby in the recent Joplin case survived, so far, after receiving medical treatment for bleeding on the brain. But better still, don't shake babies. Lives depend on it.



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Lynn Wade
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Exploring the obvious and the not so obvious in search of the oh, so elusive "something to do' that's all around us.
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