Mother Shares Story Of Daughter Having Shaken Baby Syndrome To Spread Awareness
January 6, 2017
Amy Owensby will never forget the date: Aug. 17, 2012. That's the day she dropped off her 8-month-old daughter, Cheyenne, with Cheyenne's father, James Davis Jr. in Wellford, S.C. Owensby and Davis were separated but had a long history together -- the two were high school sweethearts. Owensby explains on Facebook of their relationship, "James was my first love, my high school sweetheart, everything.. I had known him forever & would have never thought he was capable of hurting anyone (much) less our own daughter." On that August night, however, Owensby saw a different side of Davis.
Shortly after dropping Cheyenne off, Owensby got a call from Davis; Cheyenne wasn't breathing. Davis told authorities that he had "just snapped" in a moment of frustration when he couldn't get Cheyenne to stop crying. He shook his 8-month-old daughter hard enough to fracture her skull and cause swelling and bleeding in her brain. Owensby arrived at Davis' house just before Cheyenne was airlifted to a hospital, and she feared she would never see her baby girl again. In a Facebook post, Owensby wrote, "I will never get the image of her lifeless body being placed in that helicopter out of my head."
What was supposed to be a routine weekend visit turned into a nightmare.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines shaken baby syndrome as both an abusive head trauma and an inflicted traumatic brain injury. Though the name suggests that the syndrome results only from shaking a baby, the trauma can also be inflicted from instances of impact. Shaken baby syndrome can be thought of as a kind of "whiplash" effect, much like what happens when an adult is in a car accident.
Symptoms can manifest in varying levels depending on the circumstances at the time the trauma occurs. The CDC notes that age of the baby is a strong factor -- babies ranging from newborn to 4 months old are most susceptible, but cases have been recorded in children up to 5 years old. The force with which the baby was shaken is also a huge factor in how much damage is done.
The CDC lists less severe symptoms: change in sleeping pattern or inability to wake up, vomiting, convulsions or seizures, irritability, uncontrollable crying, or inability to eat. If a child has a more severe case, symptoms might also include unresponsiveness, loss of consciousness, breathing problems, and no pulse.
Shaken baby syndrome is one of the leading causes of child abuse deaths in the United States; 1 in 4 cases will result in death, the CDC notes.
The consequences can be grave and devastating for the 75 percent of children who survive. The CDC states that some will experience blindness, mental or developmental delays, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, muscle weakness or paralysis, spasticity, or seizures.
Cheyenne has had to fight for her life and for her health in the three years since she was shaken by her father, undergoing therapy and multiple surgeries, but, as her mother posted on Facebook, "she never stopped fighting and continues to prove doctors wrong."
The post below shows a picture of Cheyenne, clearly vibrant, standing triumphantly nearly three years after she was shaken.
Davis pleaded guilty in Cheyenne's abuse case and was initially sentenced to 20 years in prison, but his sentence was later suspended to 10 years in prison with an additional five years of parole.
Cheyenne is doing well these days, judging from the glowing posts from her mother on the Prayers for Cheyenne Rae Facebook page, but she will have to deal with the consequences of her father's actions for the rest of her life.
Owensby hopes that by sharing Cheyenne's story, she can help spread awareness of shaken baby syndrome and prevent more children from having to undergo this terrible form of abuse and its lifelong effects.
Owensby's Facebook post leaves us with this final piece of advice:
"It only takes a few seconds to change things forever.. A few seconds of frustration and anger to cause the unthinkable. I had heard about shaken baby syndrome and always thought 'that will never happen to me.' but clearly, it did. It happens way more often than I ever imagined & that needs to be known."
"Cheyenne is a tough little girl & she makes this whole process look easy but in reality, most babies don't even get the chance to try to get better.. So remember that when your child is screaming & nothing you're doing is soothing them. Put them down and WALK AWAY!! Can NOT stress that enough!!!!!!! And truly be careful who you leave your kids with!! Mommy loves you Cheyenne."
§ WYFF4 News, Prayers For Cheyenne Rae -- Facebook Page, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention