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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Board told of shaken baby syndrome

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

Cathy Fritz told the Spokane Regional Board of Health on Thursday about a 39-year-old Spokane County man who is almost blind, can’t move his limbs and has the mental capacity of a 1-year-old.

When he was an infant, the man – whom Fritz would only name as “B.B.” – was a victim of shaken baby syndrome. He’s been institutionalized since he was 4 and has cost the state about $1.9 million just to feed and change his diapers over the past 35 years.

“Up to 50 percent of Americans don’t understand what it is,” Fritz said of shaken baby syndrome.

In the Spokane area, no shaken baby deaths were reported in 2001. But in 2002 and 2003 five children reportedly were killed by having a parent, guardian or babysitter shake them.

“Children can die two to three years later,” she said. “A lot of cases don’t accurately get documented.”

Fritz, a registered nurse who supervises the county’s Child Death Review Committee, told the board that she and other health officials have begun an awareness campaign that will include posters, possibly a billboard and printed materials that are being handed out by public health nurses, she said.

“Seventy percent of perpetrators are young males, either the father or the mom’s boyfriend,” she said. “But there are no traditional profiles of abusers.”

Spokane Police spokesman Dick Cottam said in a news release Thursday that no one has yet been charged in the case of a 1-year-old boy who was found Sunday evening in a Spokane Valley motel with several adults taking methamphetamine.

The baby had a hematoma the size of a grapefruit on his head, bruised ribs and a burned foot. The baby remains in serious condition, Cottam said.

Fritz said she doesn’t know if that baby is a victim of shaken baby syndrome. “The baby had head injuries. That’s certainly the implication.”

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