A baby was recently brought to CAMC Women and Children's Hospital with a head injury. It looked like shaken baby syndrome.
It was, said Dr. Joan Phillips. The dad confessed. He had about every risk factor doctors have identified. He was young. He was unemployed and was looking after three children, all under age 3, while the mom went to work.
The baby survived. Foster parents say he is doing well. "Cognitively down the road, is he going to be able to read and count in first grade? We don't know," Phillips said.
Between 2006 and 2009 about one in every 2,000 infants in West Virginia was injured or killed when a caregiver lost patience and shook them, according to Dr. James McJunkin, another CAMC pediatrician. He and colleagues Charles J. Mullett of WVU and Ed Pino at Marshall University found the rate of shaken babies has more than doubled compared to 1999 through 2005.
Of the 95 cases they found, 12.5 percent of the babies died, and 35.5 percent lived but with poor outcomes. Babies who survive may suffer loss of sight, seizure problems, developmental delays and mobility problems throughout life.
The peak time of injury is about eight weeks, right about the same time many babies develop what used to be called colic -- long, inconsolable spells of unexplained crying.
"It was an eye-opener," Phillips said of the research.
Members of the West Virginia Academy of Pediatrics have organized efforts at four hospitals to teach adults about crying and how to avoid losing their cool and injuring a baby. Nurses at each hospital talk to new parents about the Period of PURPLE Crying.
"PURPLE" is an acronym to help people remember the characteristics of this particular type of crying:
• Peak -- Crying often peaks at about two months old.
• Unexpected -- Crying may start and stop for no apparent reason.
• Resists soothing -- Babies may keep crying no matter what you do.
• Pain-like face -- Babies look like they're in pain, even when nothing is wrong.
• Long-lasting -- Babies may cry five hours a day or more.
• Evenings -- Babies tend to cry more during late afternoons or evenings.
The hospitals -- CAMC, Cabell Huntington, Ruby Memorial and Davis Memorial -- send parents home with a DVD and booklet they can review and share with others. Then in a few weeks, parents get another reminder from primary care doctors, and Right from the Start and Birth to Three programs.