‘You gotta believe me, I didn’t do it.’ Those are the words that were said to me, as I got into the car and saw my lifeless child in the backseat. Those words will always ring in my ears, because I knew as soon as I heard them, they weren’t the truth. March 30, 2003, will always be engraved in my mind because that is the day my son Logan became a victim of shaken baby syndrome and everything changed.
That morning as I rocked my sweet 11-month-old little boy and gave him a bottle of apple juice, I had no idea that would be the last bottle I would ever give him, and that it would be the last ‘normal’ morning we would ever have again. I went to work that day at my job as a cashier and left Logan in the care of his biological father, Steven (we were married at the time). As I kissed my baby boy goodbye in the backseat of the car and got out at work, I had no idea how much things would change in just a couple of hours. I had just come back from my break when Steven burst through the doors of the store and told me I had to come with him immediately. I raced out to the car, where I saw Logan, in his car seat covered in vomit, and turning blue.
As I was taking in the scene before me, I heard that phrase, ‘you gotta believe me, I didn’t do it.’ We raced up the street to our local hospital where I was quickly ushered into an ambulance with Logan and we were transported to a larger hospital. The ride in the ambulance was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. My baby boy looked so tiny on that huge gurney as he was gasping for breath. Upon reaching the larger hospital Logan began seizing violently, and the next few hours were a constant swarm of doctors in and out of the room trying to stabilize him for a life flight to the nearest children’s hospital.
I was not able to be in the helicopter with Logan as they had to have so much medical personnel with him. Instead, I had to ride in the car with Steven for an hour and a half, still not knowing what had happened to my child. I did not get any answers on the way to the children’s hospital, and when we arrived, we were directed to ICU. When I was finally able to see Logan again he was covered in so many tubes and hooked up to so many monitors that there was no clear area of him that could be touched. All I could do was hold his tiny hand and pray that he would be OK.
It was not long before the hospital social worker arrived and started asking questions. That was the first moment I realized that Logan had been abused. It was also the first time I heard one of the many stories that Steven told to try to explain away Logan’s injuries. The hospital social worker was told by Steven that Logan was in the living room by himself and had fallen down. He claims he found him on the floor seizing, tried CPR and then brought him to me. After meeting with the hospital social worker there was a meeting with a group of specialists who informed me that Logan suffered from shaken baby syndrome, that he was the worst case they had ever seen, and that they did not know if he would survive. When they said this, everything inside of me shattered. I could not wrap my head around the fact that someone would intentionally cause such harm to an innocent child.
Logan’s brain was destroyed with 80 [percent] tissue death, he had whiplash, and the force of his head going back-and-forth was so hard that it destroyed his eyes, filling them with blood and severing his optic nerve. The way the doctors phrased it was that the damage done to Logan was equal to a 10-story fall landing on your head, or an unrestrained high-speed head-on collision. The doctors also found signs that there was likely previous abuse. When we were told this news, Steven’s story evolved to say he might have shaken him a little to wake him up, and that he suddenly remembered that on his way rushing out the door that he had Logan’s head on the door, causing it to snap back. The next couple of days blurred together for me as I never left Logan‘s bedside except for when I had to for the nurses shift change. I remember watching the nurses come in to suction Logan‘s lungs out, because it was explained to me that as the abuse was taking place Logan apparently had vomited up his lunch and then inhaled it, so his little lungs were full of Gerber spaghetti. I still cannot stand the sight of that baby food to this day.
During this time Steven was arrested and formally charged with felony child abuse. In his statement to police, he said that Logan’s crying while I was at work would get him so enraged that he would black out and not remember what he had done and that he would even have to take Logan to his mother or to his neighbor because he would get on his nerves so badly.
Children’s protective services became involved and placed Logan under the care of my parents and I immediately filed for divorce from Steven. I spent 21 days next to Logan’s bedside. First, we were in the NICU while Logan was on full life-support and seizing uncontrollably. After a week, Logan began to breathe on his own and we were finally able to have one tube removed. That was the first time I got to see his little face again and he did not look like himself. His little body had become so swollen that he was unrecognizable. Although he was breathing on his own, Logan was still in a coma and doctors were still unsure as to whether or not he would survive. We were moved from the NICU to the next step down, which was special care.
My 20th birthday was spent in the special care unit, and I remember the only thing I wished for was that Logan would wake up, see me, and smile, but that did not happen. Also on my 20th birthday, Steven was allowed supervised visitation with a child protective services caseworker present. I spent that visit on the floor of the waiting room bathroom sobbing uncontrollably until he left and I was able to take my place back next to my son. [Nineteen] days into his hospital stay, Logan had a feeding tube surgically placed in his stomach and once my mother and I were trained on how to use it, we began begging the doctor to let us take Logan home. Logan‘s first birthday was just around the corner and we did not want him to spend it there. Two days before his first birthday, Logan was still in a coma, but doctors said there was nothing more they could do to stabilize him further and we were allowed to take him home.
Logan‘s first birthday was spent with him lying in his crib at my parent’s house with his little swollen body hooked up to a feeding tube. We did not get to take cute pictures of him smashing a birthday cake, we did not get to see him open presents and be excited, but what we did do was be thankful we still had him to celebrate a birthday at all.