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Oct 13, 2009 8:43 PM by Andy Koen

Shaken baby deaths on the rise

There has been a dramatic spike in the number of shaken baby deaths in El Paso County this year.

Thus far, six babies have died, twice as many as in 2008.  Another 18 child abuse cases have also been reported that are likely related to shaken baby syndrome.

Sally Duncan, the trauma outreach and injury prevention specialist for Memorial Health Systems says a large number of those cases involved patients with brain injuries, skull fractures and other signs of shaking.

Duncan says the hospital compared the county's unemployment rate with the incidences of shaken baby syndrome and found that the data sets mirrored each other.

"That may be unscientific at this point, but it does lead you to think twice about how stress is involved in the deaths and injuries of these children."

The shaken baby cases seem to have peaked during the summer.  However, Duncan worries that as the holiday season apporaches, stress levelswill increase.

Memorial began a new bedside-education program in August to fight the trend.  All new parents are shown an educational dvd, given informational pamphlets and asked to sign a certificate of completion. The information is again presented to parents when they make their first well baby visit to the pediatrician.

"We want to train people to know that this could happen and to be prepared and to have ways to resolve their stress and ways to calm a crying baby," Duncan said.

Similar programs are planned for both Saint Francis Hospital and Evans Army Hospital.

In the meantime, parents who feel like they've reached the breaking point can bring their children to KPC Kids Place, a non-profit child care service for parents in crisis.

"When there is a situation where a parent feels like they're going to lose it and they want to make sure they're child is safe, they can call us," explains Jennifer West, vice president of Pikes Peak Family Connections which runs KPC.

It's open business hours Monday through Thursday and also operates a 24 hour emergency line 634-5439.

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