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Mother details personal experience, educates parents about Shaken Baby Syndrome in new book

Posted at 6:27 PM, Apr 29, 2022

CINCINNATI — Michelle Fishpaw says learning to trust again has been one of the hurdles she’s endured over the past two decades.

In an effort to heal, she poured all of her emotions, fears and triumphs into writing a book, Claire's Voice, she hopes will help other families navigate childcare and trust.

22 years ago, Fishpaw’s oldest daughter, Claire, suffered Shaken Baby Syndrome or Abusive Head Trauma at the hands of a babysitter she had been seeing for less than a week.

“She had a background check, we interviewed her multiple times,” Fishpaw said.

That unfortunately was not enough.

On the fourth day of care, Michelle went to pick Claire up from the sitter, and she noticed immediately that something was wrong with the 11-month-old.

“Pools of blood on both sides of her brain, then a retinal scan was ordered later and there were pools of blood behind both eyes which is a classic sign of shaken baby syndrome,” she said.

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, approximately 1,300 cases happen every year in the U.S — it's estimated that 25% of those cases result in death and 80% of children who experience it will suffer lifelong disabilities.

Emily Gries with Northern Kentucky University School of Nursing says SBS is a form of child abuse and it prevents the brain from getting enough oxygen.

“Some people may be tempted to try anything to get the baby’s tears to stop but it’s important to always treat the child gently,” Gries said. “Nothing ever justifies shaking a child.”

Fishpaw says her sitter complained of Claire’s “inconsolable crying” - something that concerned Fishpaw.

“My husband said, ‘we’re new parents, I don’t want to over react and he said let’s try one more day. And that one more day was when we were calling 911.”

Gries recommends preventing SBS by having care-givers and parents look for ways to manage stress.

Fishpaw says her daughter, who is now an advocate, still deals with her brain injury but is lucky to be alive.

“Trust your instinct, if you feel, if you sense that something isn’t right, trust your gut,” said Fishpaw.

Fishpaw wrote Clarie's Voice in hopes of educating families on the signs and dangers of SBS. On Thursday, she held a book signing at The Bookshelf in Madeira where some of the proceeds will benefit the Council on Child Abuse.

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