"What we do know about these injuries is that they are often a result of frustration and anger," says Dr. Emalee Flaherty, Medical Director, Protective Services Team at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She adds, "Crying is the event that most commonly triggers the abuse."
"The confessions I have reviewed of caretakers who have shaken a child and caused these injuries basically contain the same ingredients. Many have unrealistic expectations for the child. Some have little child care experience. Some caretakers are under stress such as sleep deprivation, depression, or anger with the parent who has left them to care for this child."
Many parents and caretakers feel that shaking a baby is a harmless way to make a baby stop crying. "This could not be further from the truth," says Dr. Flaherty.
Kimberlin West was six weeks old when her father shook her vigorously to stop her insistent crying. Her grandmother, Janet Goree from Florida, remembers the night of May 6, 1993, when a comatose Kimberlin was admitted to the intensive care unit. "She was not expected to live through that night, but she did. She 'lived' for three more years—blind, 67 percent brain damaged, and she had to be fed through a tube surgically inserted into her stomach. She died just a couple of days short of her third birthday—a victim of SBS."