A toddler’s strong spirit inspires his grandfather to educate parents about the dangerous condition.
A trachea tube is attached to his throat. A feeding tube juts from his stomach. When other 20-month-olds would be running and playing, Jared Patton, of Hampton, lies in a crib. Yet his eyes shine with recognition when he hears a friendly voice. And he seems to love the idea that his bedroom is filled with women who are doting on him.
“There’s my little handsome man,” Kathy Stowe coos at her grandson, a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome, or SBS.
Jared tracks his grandma with loving eyes. His mother, Nicole Patton, and his nurse, Miranda Fells, talk to him cheerfully as his grandmother suctions the fluid from Jared’s trachea tube with a motorized device. It’s a procedure that is necessary many times around the clock, since Jared cannot manage his secretions.
He was once a newborn in perfect health, the Stowes’ fourth grandson. But when he was 6 weeks old, his mother noticed that something was horribly wrong.
“He was stiff, and his hands were twitching,” said Patton, who rushed Jared to the emergency room.
He was airlifted to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, where physicians placed him on a ventilator, induced a coma and shunted the blood off his brain.
Abuse was suspected, and authorities questioned both parents. They charge Jared’s father, David Curtis Patton, of James City County, with child abuse and neglect. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison and 13 years probation upon his release.
Jared’s grandfather, Steve Stowe, was inspired by his grandson to fight against child abuse. He completed online training to establish Shaken Baby Syndrome of Virginia, Inc., the first group of its kind in the region.
Goals for the group include pushing legislative changes that call for tougher sentences for abuser, community education and materials distribution. New parents would be targeted, through hospitals and community groups.
“The closest group like this is in Florida,” said Steve, who received assistance from a woman with a similar story.
Janet Goree, whose granddaughter, Kimberlin, died of SBS, formed the Help a Child Shaken Baby Prevention Program 13 years ago. She showed Steve the ropes when he formed his own nonprofit group.
“What I needed the most when I first started out was volunteers – someone to spread the word, do mailings and provide donations,” said Goree.
“And just compassion and understanding,” she added. “Steve is coming from a place of love and pain. People need to hear his story.”
Steve agrees that volunteerism will be crucial when trying to build the organization in Hampton Roads.
“We need lawyers who can help with the legislation work, teachers who can do educational workshops, computer people who can help with a Web site – anyone who has a skill or talent to share,” said Steve.
Starting the organization been an out-of-pocket expense for the Stowes, who own Stowe Wall Systems Inc.
“I’ve paid for all the materials I’ve ordered and the cost to start the nonprofit,” Steve said. “But it is all worthwhile if I can help someone else going through this, or keep it from happening to another child.”
The Stowes plan to distribute materials, including a CD about SBS, fliers for caregivers, informational pamphlets and suggestions for what frustrated parents should do when their baby won’t stop crying.
“Preventing (SBS) is the key, rather than treating it afterward,” said Steve, who realizes that not every affected baby will have the family support Jared has at home.
“There are very few grandmas like Kathy in this world,” he said.
Each victim of SBS has a different prognosis. With Jared’s level of brain damage, doctors say his outlook is “grim.” At this point, even minor infections can compromise his health.
Outside his door, and in several places around the Stowe home, there are bottles of hand sanitizer for those who visit Jared. Thought his body continues to grow, his brain does not. His life expectancy is 5.
“His situation is precarious, but we take joy in the good days,” said Kathy. “When you have a good day, you live it like it’s never going to end.
To read more about this story, including a letter Steve Stowe wrote to his grandson, visit Karen Hinson’s blog at http://www.DailyPress.com/workingmom and type Jared in the Title Search Box.