Life at 8 MPH

Slowing life down when you’re a parent of an AHT victim.

Every parent knows how important it is to get away. But it’s hard to get away.

Getting away seems even more impossible after a child becomes the victim of child abuse. Between keeping track of the investigation, medical bills and follow up appointments, court hearings and the corrections process, most days it is impossible. Not to mention the anxiety of spending time away from a child who has been victimized. All of this happens so quickly and frequently that it’s easy to forget to also take care of our own needs as parents. We need to give our minds a chance to unload, even for twenty minutes.

Child abuse and neglect, in all their forms, have a victimization radius much greater than most people might at first realize. Not to minimize the inexcusable harm done to our children, but these traumatic experiences throw their weight around onto every family member. Sometimes it even seeps out into a greater community of caregivers and friends.

I was a runner before Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) became part of our household’s everyday vocabulary. Nothing too intense, but enough to say I’d train for several mid-distance races a year. I never expected to find running a lifesaver or my way to truly get away. After our son became the victim of AHT, running was one more form of therapy – a kind of dynamic meditation.

At first, it wasn’t the healthiest of practices, as my mind would simply focus on the act of going into the space of the city ahead of me. Just go. It wasn’t exploration or thrill. It was autopilot on an undetermined course. Eventually during a therapy session, I realized that autopilot had intruded upon so many facets of my life including my way to get away, running. On my runs prior to this session, I was always on a path without an outlet. It took several months and a stress fracture in my foot before I found that sweet spot of mindfulness in my running shoes.

For me, running slowed life down to 8 MPH. It was about having this one thing under my control for an hour at a time, and keeping my feet on the ground without feeling like they were about to be swept out from under me. This was my way to get away and come back refreshed for our son.

We all need a cadence to count on – something predictable that grounds us when everything else is suspended so far out of reach. Running may not be for everyone. Whether your thing is croquet or crochet, painting or paper airplanes, just remember to slow things down and take time for you. As a parent of a child abuse victim, how will you slow your life down to 8 MPH? Get out. Make it mindful. Make it count.

More reading: “Cheaper Than Therapy: How running can help fight depression and anxiety,” Betsy Welch, Trail Runner Magazine

Mom’s Everyday: Sarah in a New SBS Segment

A huge THANK YOU to Liz and Moms Everyday for covering on our story and helping us get the word out about Shaken Baby Syndrome. Please share and show support to all families/victims affected by this horrific act on our innocent babies and children. The more awareness, the bigger the difference we can make!

Watch the segment here.

Enforcement of Laws Protecting Our Children

Fill in with whatever cliche you’d like: “It’s an uphill battle;” “Like paddling against the current.” Any way you look at it, child abuse and neglect are cultural issues. Most apparent in the great number of Adrian Peterson supporters that stood by his side after he whipped his son with a switch. Whipping a child is NOT discipline, and it’s NOT acceptable – even if that’s how a person was punished as a child.

Enforcement of child abuse and neglect laws is failing because we, as a community, are hesitant to label such abuse as abuse. The system is stressed, bulging and seeping at the seems. And that’s why families like ours must live in fear of running into our son’s abuser in public. The accounts are too great. Prosecutors prosecute (when they can). Judges sentence. And then they slip through the cracks in corrections. Now the woman who abused our son is home, watching her own children with nothing but a GPS anklet. These violent crimes repeatably go unpunished, while drug offenders fill up our jails.

Child abuse and neglect are cultural issues. Now how do we change such values?

Child Abuse And Neglect Laws Aren’t Being Enforced, Report Finds from NPR.

Be fruitful.

Beyond the Three Hallmark Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome

There’s a lot of junk science attempting to dispel what has traditionally diagnosed Shaken Baby Syndrome. Most of which fails to present counter diagnoses. The article below exemplifies what happens when we sharpen our lenses to come to a greater understanding of the human body and all of its signals. It’s not a matter that the original three symptoms were incorrect; the additional symptoms listed below are just that: the medical community outlining the signs of abuse in more precise terms. Let’s take what we already know about the image of SBS and child abuse, but also refine its form into a more precise figure. It’s important for families and the medical field in general, but even more important for the welfare of our children. Especially in the prosecution of these horrifying crimes.

Doctors Devise A Better Way To Diagnose Shaken Baby Syndrome from NPR.

Be fruitful.

Sparking the fireworks inside: AHT and healing.

Last weekend, Efrem asked if we could go see the 4th of July fireworks. His class had been learning about Independence Day at daycare all week, and fireworks sounded really cool to his toddler-self – bright colors and big booms. We got to see a few cracklers and boomers before he asked to go home (too scary). That’s all we expect from a now three-year-old.

Firsts like this naturally cause us to reflect on our journey with Efrem. It’s nearing two and a half years since Efrem became the victim of Abusive Head Trauma (AHT), and part of every new experience, like watching fireworks, is the fact that we almost didn’t have the opportunity.

The day he was admitted into the pediatric intensive care unit our emotions and responses ran wild – fear, sadness, confusion, denial, anger, anxiety, and the intent, singular focus on his wellbeing. These initial responses have lingered (as I suspect they do with all parents of AHT victims). Some emotions do transform and take on new meaning, like the way denial of the suspect’s criminal wrongdoing eventually evolves into betrayal. Others fade into the background only to resurface when it chooses, like when sadness catches you off-guard while watching news broadcasts about child abuse.

Perhaps the greatest and cruelest of all of these emotions is fear: the fear of what the future might hold. Every parent wants their child to succeed, to try their hardest, and to simply have fun. I will never forget how Efrem’s physician responded to our question: What if he likes football or hockey? Can he play when he’s older? Or do we risk putting him at even greater risk for further injury? She replied that as a doctor she couldn’t tell us whether he’ll be OK or not. But as a parent she wouldn’t take the chance.

Six months after the AHT diagnosis, Efrem’s last MRI showed that the bleeding in his brain had subsided. Soon we also got confirmation from his ophthalmologist that there is no permanent damage to either eye; the hemorrhages had cleared.

Despite this good news, fear never fades. It never transforms. Fear is always fear. Even as he continues to meet all of his regular developmental milestones, we will always follow up with the questions: What if _____ happens? What if we miss a sign? What about five or ten years from now?

Although it doesn’t relate directly to cases of infant AHT victims, articles like this, “People With Brain Injuries Heal Faster If They Get Up And Get Moving,” from NPR give rise to a bit of hope. Not the form of hope that compromises our fears. Instead it’s a small sense of encouragement that our understanding of the brain is progressing.

Articles like this remind me of when our then seven-month-old AHT victim played with toys again in his hospital room, when he helped us page through his favorite books that we brought from home, and when he finally laughed the most beautiful laugh three days into his stay in the PICU.

I can only imagine all of his neurons sparking into being again. His movements and awakenings were beautiful on the outside, as they were probably the most magnificent fireworks inside.

Be fruitful.