Shaken baby syndrome awareness and prevention


Choosing childcare is one of the biggest decisions new parents must make, trusting someone else to care for your child.

Kellie Murphy and Neil Czarnecki thought they had found the perfect candidate for their baby, the same person who cared for their older daughter. Unfortunately, that decision proved to have monumental consequences for the family.

Like most typical first graders, Krue Czarnecki is learning to read, do math, and enjoys goofing around with his family. At first glance, it may not be obvious that Krue has been through an unimaginable ordeal.

“Krue was a victim of shaken baby syndrome, also known as abusive head trauma, when he was 10 months old, in 2010. It happened by a daycare provider,” said Krue’s mother Kellie.

“Krue has a critical vision impairment as a result of being shaken, as well as left-sided paralysis, His left arm and left leg, so primarily the left side of his body was really affected by his injuries. He wears prosthetics on both feet for walking. He also has cuts in his vision, so for example, if he looks down he doesn't always see, he has to sometimes look around like there's a cut in his vision. He has a partially dislocated left hip due to the tone the tightness in the left side of his body has gradually pulled that hip out of place we're thinking it's a pretty major surgery coming up for him.”

Since that fateful day in 2010, Krue’s family has done everything in their power to give back what was taken from him. Hyperbaric oxygen treatments, stem cell treatment, physical, occupational and speech therapy, a full time aide at school, and medical treatment around the country. There has been no length Mom Kellie, Dad Neil and sister Karsen would not go to, to help Krue.

“Anything that we thought was non-invasive and could possibly help Krue, we attempted if we could manage it financially,” Kellie said.

Never in a million years did the Wisconsin family think their world could be flipped upside down because of one act. One bad decision has led to a lifetime of challenges for the whole family.

“My profession, I'm a social worker, I've got background doing Child Protective Service work, so I just know from professional training some of things to be aware of and to, maybe, look for,” Kellie said. “I had no idea, no inkling, no feeling, no red flags that this was something that was on board for us.”

“That's the hardest part to swallow is that this didn't have to happen,” Krue’s dad Neil said. “It's a moment in time where someone decided to let themselves go, not be in control and yeah, that's the tough thing. It doesn't have to happen. You look at all the things that have changed in our life to include our marriage. Our marriage is focused on learning about different procedures and learning about different medical advancements and what can we do now to help Krue.”

Krue’s parents have made it a point to focus on their son, not the woman accused of hurting him – who eventually reached a plea deal and was ordered to pay restitution.

“I truly believe our attitude and how we handle this is going to be the best result for Krue, so many times you want to focus on the person that did this and it's easy to do that.” Neil said. “Everybody does, it’s the first thing anybody ever asks you when you tell them the story. The reality is, whatever happens to her it doesn't fix Krue, only we can fix Krue.”

Twelve-year-old Karsen has also had to make sacrifices for her brother.

“I know that it's not anyone's fault,” Karsen said. “In this family we can't change it, we can't do anything about it, but yeah, I do sometimes feel like we should maybe be able to go, and me and him could go tubing together on a lake during the summer but he can't really do that all that well because he can't hold on to the handles with his hands or do other skiing and snowboarding with a family and he can't really do that.”

Karsen has found an outlet in martial arts – and recently earned a black belt in Kyuki-Do.

“It teaches me a lot more self-control and to respect others in other ways,” Karsen said. “I would be a totally different person if I never it wasn’t in Kyuki-Do. I've been doing it for 7 years, ever since he got hurt. My parents got me into it when I was in first grade in so that I wouldn't feel left out with all the troubles that they were having with him and it's a really awesome thing to be in.”

“She's an awesome sister there's no doubt she loves her brother dearly,” Kellie said. “We're lucky to have her, such a great sister.”

Meanwhile Krue continues to amaze his parents with his progress and happy outlook on life.

“He has overcome so much and he's a really social happy little guy,” Kellie said. “He does have cognitive delays, no doubt, but he is in first grade. He has an aide with him full-time but he can read, he does really well with spelling, he's doing pretty well in math that's a little bit more of a struggle for him. He has friends and overall he's a happy happy kid.”

The couple is devoted to shaken baby syndrome awareness and prevention, and hope parents and caregivers will take the time to learn about abusive head trauma and ways to cope with the stress that comes along with parenting.

“I think child abuse, in general, and especially shaken baby, is just a really difficult topic to talk about or to listen to somebody talking about,” Kellie said. “People don't want to listen to it because it's a sad situation, and for the kids that do survive it, most of them have some pretty traumatic outcomes. We're lucky that crew is not in a wheelchair and doesn't have a feeding tube because I've met a lot of families that have that circumstance with their kids. I think, as far as misconceptions go, I think there's a belief that people normally think that this happens by mom's boyfriend or a younger male person. They don't normally associate it with an older female caretaker or parent. But it does happen, and I've come across information and studies that show female perpetrators are often not held accountable, criminally, primarily because they don't confess as often as a male does.”

Shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma is 100 percent preventable and it is most often triggered by inconsolable crying. It is never okay to shake a baby. Just a few seconds of vigorous shaking or a blunt blow to the head can cause life-altering damage to a child or death.

Here are some tips, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you are a parent or caregiver:

  • Know that infant crying is worst in the first few months of life, but it does get better.
  • Try calming a crying baby by rocking, singing, taking a walk with a stroller, or going for a drive in the car.
  • If the baby won’t stop crying, check for signs of illness and call the doctor if you suspect the child is sick.
  • If you are getting upset, focus on calming yourself down… put the baby safely in his or her crib and leave the room. Check on the baby every five to ten minutes.
  • Call a friend or relative – or a hotline for support.
  • Finally, never leave your baby with a person who is easily irritated or has a temper or history of violence.

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