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Nov 12, 2012 12:52 AM by Jacqui Heinrich, jheinrich@koaa.com

Local mom warns against shaking babies after husband kills 8-week-old

It's something we've all heard before: never shake a baby. Despite all the awareness though, medical experts at Memorial Hospital say it happens in the southern Colorado community every day. One local mom is sharing her story of loss to prevent other families from experiencing the same thing.

It was three years ago: Valerie Blancas went out to buy groceries, leaving her newborn son with her husband. Just seven minutes after she walked out the door the unthinkable happened. "He got really frustrated and he shook him, but after he shook him he got really angry and he carried him upstairs where he threw him against the bed several times to the point where he was bouncing off the bed and catching him back, just throwing him against the furniture. Then he said that he put him in the bassinet and he still hadn't stopped crying, so he suffocated him in the bassinet," Blancas told News 5.

Baby Matthew was just eight weeks old, thirteen pounds-- just learning to smile.

"When he called me and said 'Something is wrong with Matthew, I need you to come home' I'm thinking O.K., he's really fussy or he has a rash. I didn't even think to ask my husband if anything bad had happened," Blancas remembered.

Stephen Dailey was convicted of murder, sentenced to thirty-four years behind bars. During the interrogation, even Dailey couldn't believe what had happened. He said to the courtroom on the day of his sentencing, "I accept responsibility for what happened and I ask for forgiveness."

It's a breaking point social worker Mindy Boyd says doesn't take a monster to breach. "I don't believe anyone ever wakes up in the morning and says 'I'm gonna shake my baby today'. They end up snapping and in turn shaking a baby and it only takes a few seconds to result in traumatic brain injury," Boyd told News 5.

It's during this time of year that it happens most. Boyd says stress during the holiday season caused by things like high bills, kids being cooped up in the house during inclement weather, and job loss are big factors.

Matthew died in his mother's arms thirty-two days after he was shaken. Brain-dead, Blancas decided to take him off life support. "I went home and I stood in my bedroom trying to figure out what happened and how this was even possible," she says. "I realized this was not one of those things where I woke up and got struck by lightening, this happens to your neighbors and your friends and your family and this could be happening across the street or in your own home."

With her child gone forever, Blancas lives now to protect the lives of others. "You have to accept it is present in your community because you're not going to be able to change it, you're not going to be able to make different decisions once this has happened," she says.

Medical experts say preventing shaken baby syndrome is about knowing your limits as a caregiver and knowing when to act on those limits. Boyd says if you find yourself in a situation where you've reached a breaking point, leave the baby crying in a safe place or call someone to help care for the child. Never shake a baby.

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