Prayers for Christa — A Tribute to a Shaken Baby Who Survived for 3 Years

how shaken baby syndrome changes

A Second Chance Wasted

My husband came out of rehab and I believed that he had changed. Maybe he did for a short time, but it didn’t take long for him to relapse. I gave birth to our second child in February 2017. She was a healthy, beautiful baby girl. I went back to work when she was only eight weeks old. My husband began drinking again so I took the kids and moved in with my grandmother, telling him I was done.

When Christa Became a Shaken Baby

The night of May 25, 2017, changed my life forever. I had asked my husband to keep our 3-month-old overnight so I could get a full night of sleep. I communicated with him several times that evening asking how she was doing in which he would reply that she was doing okay, never mentioning that anything was wrong. I went to work the next morning and while I was doing a massage, I heard a knock at my door. That had never happened to me so I immediately knew something was wrong. My boss told me to go to the hospital because my baby was there. At first, I didn’t think it was serious, I figured she was just having bad reflux or something similar to that. I realized something was terribly wrong when I called my mom and she was sobbing telling me that my daughter was barely breathing. That drive to the hospital was the longest drive of my life.

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I walked into the emergency room at the hospital and I remember being so confused and hearing a horrendous sound coming from a room, and I thought, “That sounds like it may be a baby, but there’s no way that’s my daughter.” But it was her. I went around the corner and I saw about 10 nurses and doctors running back and forth in and out of her room. They began asking questions I didn’t know the answers to.

I Looked Into Christa’s Lifeless Eyes

I walked over to her bedside and looked into her eyes. She was still making a moaning sound but what stood out to me most was her eyes. I had just looked into those eyes the day before and they were full of life. When I looked into them that day, I saw nothing. She had a blank stare as if her soul had left her body and she was just lying there, barely hanging on. They took her for a CT scan and came back telling me that she had bleeding on her brain. By that time my mom had arrived to be with me. Our pastor had also arrived and I had a feeling of deja vu. There I was, 10 years after my father had passed away, with my mom and pastor, devastated and begging God to save my loved one’s life. I could not believe I was having to go through something like that again.

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Diagnosis: Shaken Baby Syndrome

My daughter’s medical team got her stable enough to be transferred to a children’s hospital. I felt so relieved. The word “stable” brought me some comfort. I had such hope that she was going to be okay. We couldn’t ride [in] the ambulance, so my mom and I headed towards the children’s hospital. While driving, I received a phone call. I rarely answered numbers that I didn’t know, but I happened to answer it thinking it was a family member calling to ask what was going on. When I answered, I heard a voice say, “This is the nurse and we need you to come back to the hospital.”

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I was angry, thinking I had forgotten to sign a paper or something like that, so I replied, “Why?!” The nurse said, “I can’t tell you that over the phone.” It was then that my heart sank and I caught on to what was happening. I began sobbing screaming that she was dead. Once we arrived at the hospital, we were met by two security guards who escorted us to a small room. That room. That room that I was taken to 10 years before to receive the same news that I received about my dad. The nurse got on her knees in front of me and said, “Your daughter coded as soon as they got her onto the ambulance. They have been doing CPR on her and she has not had a pulse in 20 minutes. I wanted you to have a chance to say goodbye to her.” I cried out, “No! I don’t want to see her like that.” I had a cousin who was my age pass away just a month before while receiving CPR and it was a horrific sight. That was why my immediate reaction was “no.” Something told me to go see her.

God Prompted Me To See Her

Now, I realize it was God telling me to go. He respected my wishes of not seeing her like that because all I can remember is seeing white, all except her tiny head which was blue and flopping up and down from compressions. I dropped to my knees and grabbed her hand. I began praying out loud, which was something I had never done before that moment. About a minute later, I heard the doctor say he had a pulse. I watched as the color came back to her hand. They once again got her stable enough to be transferred.

Upon arriving at the hospital, her father showed up, and we were taken into another room and questioned by a forensic doctor. We were then able to go back to see my daughter. As I walked in I asked the doctor, “What happened to her?” He replied with words I never imagined hearing: “Shaken baby syndrome.” He left the room. I was in complete shock. I was also in denial. I fully believed there was no way anyone could’ve hurt my daughter. I couldn’t fathom the thought of her being shaken. I had been thrown into a world I had no experience in whatsoever. My whole family was interrogated. I would have to leave my daughter, whom doctors said would most likely not live, to be interrogated by investigators. I remember clearly being told by an investigator: “We think you did this to your daughter.” I felt like he had just ripped my heart straight out of my chest. I began crying uncontrollably and all I could get out was, “No, no, I would never hurt her, no.” He then replied, “I’m sorry I had to do that to you. That is how we would expect you to react. Your husband is not reacting that way though. He’s not acting like he should be acting at a time like this.”

I defended him. Once again, when tragedy struck, I clung to a man. I didn’t know how else to cope with the situation I was in. I researched day and night trying to figure out what else could’ve happened to my daughter. I asked so many questions. I was so defensive every time a doctor would tell me she was for sure shaken, there was no other possibility. I would get defensive every time an investigator would tell me that they believed my husband hurt my daughter. Being in denial, I just wanted to wake up from the nightmare I was in and for  everything be okay.

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