Parents of Victims of SBS
Dear Parents and Family Members of SBS Victims:
My name is Emily Bodily and I am the Parent Spokesperson for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. My son was shaken in 1998 and after putting up a valiant fight for four days my precious son, Elijah, lost the fight and passed away.
I should start from the beginning in telling you my story. Elijah was 16 months old and went for a visit with his biological father, Jason, for the weekend of December 19th through the 21st. My nightmare began with a phone call from Jason on the morning of Monday, December 21st. He told me Elijah had fallen off the bed and stopped breathing, and the paramedics wanted to know which hospital to take Elijah to.
I went to the hospital and eventually was told my son was shaken and would most likely not make it through the night. I have found this is the way most parents are thrown into the SBS abyss. He struggled for four days putting up a fight that looked promising to the outside world, however, in my heart, as his mother, I knew he was losing the fight, and I was losing all strength to go on day after day and watching his little body only struggle more and more. On December 24th 1998, I told the doctors to take my son off life support and I knew he would not be able to take one single breath for himself.
I knew and know to this day Jason loved Elijah, what I did not and still don't understand is how could he have gotten so angry with such a precious little boy and use so much force on him. Jason told investigators he could not stop Elijah from crying and that became overwhelming and frustrating to him so he shook him.
In 1998 and currently the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome tracks cases of SBS victims, especially local ones. When my case occurred they came to offer support at the hearings and eventually asked if I would be interested in making a documentary that would be used to help educate parents and caregivers on the dangers of shaken baby syndrome.
We started filming the documentary in 1999, while the court hearings for Jason were still proceeding. I felt that this was a way I could help the community and the world understand what happens with SBS victims, family members and so many more who are thrown into a world they knew nothing about and have no desire to learn about. The debut of Elijah's Story was in September of 2000 at the National Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome. It was at that time I found that this video was going to be a great piece in the fight for shaken baby victims and families everywhere.
Whether your child survived this awful abuse or passed away, we as parents and family members go down roads that we never want to wish upon any one. If your child did not survive you are in mourning of all the wonderful things you will miss through the years. You are to some how stay strong for the many trial dates you have and come up with all the money to pay all different kinds of expenses for the funeral cost and medical bills. If your child survived you will need to learn many medical procedures and keep a record of all medical records going on with your child. You will more than likely become his personal nurse and have your days filled with doctor appointments. You will also mourn for the child you have lost, but rejoice in the smallest accomplishments, which no accomplishment for your child will be short of a miracle.
If you are a parent or other family member reading this I am not going to be able to tell you how you should feel or what to expect around any corner you may turn because each victim, whether they survive or not is different, and each family member or friend that must go through this it is something different each time. I am here to offer support and invite you to look around the website or call us toll free at 877-273-0071, 8:00 to 5:00 mountain time Monday through Friday.
In my particular case Jason ended up pleading guilty to a first-degree murder charge and was sentenced five years to life in Utah State prison. In his plea agreement he will be required to serve 12 years. It is a sad thing to have to say considering the other sentences that I have heard of I feel pretty lucky to have him in there for that length of time. He will have his first hearing in June of 2005, which will be setting a parole hearing closer to the twelve-year mark.
One of the things that have helped me get through this hell is that I had to come to grips regarding my anger towards Jason. I was not okay for many years hating Jason the way I did, however now coming up on the sixth anniversary of Elijah's death and excepting my first child after Elijah's death I now can say I don't hate Jason, I am very angry with Jason and angry because in a matter of minutes he took so much away from me. But what is very important, which it took me at least two years after my son's death to realize was that I am okay with being angry. I do not let it rule my life nor do I ever want to forget it all or "just get over it".
I would like to invite you to feel free to explore our website, you will find there are two other letters from a grandparent who is raising her twin granddaughter and one from a mother whose child was shaken by a day care provider. I hope that each of these letters will help you and give you some inspiration. Nothing can change what has happened to you and it will take a long time to sort out your feelings about it all and find a way to move on in a positive way. My hope, for any parent or family member experiencing this, is that the anger will not rule your life. I have been able to find some positive ways to deal with my situation and anger by helping other parents and talking publicly about my personal experience.
I would like to offer my condolences that you have had to come seeking us for support, information, or whatever the reason, because some how and some way your life is taking drastic turns, whether you're a family member, friend to a family, investigator, or attorney that is involved in a case we hope you will have a better understanding of this type of child abuse once you have explored our website.
I hope you find the support and comfort that you came looking for.