KETV has a video showing what Summer's life is like now...
Father Says Moment Of Anger Changed Course Of His Life
Avoiding Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Father's Story
POSTED: 8:42 pm CDT July 14, 2008
OMAHA, Neb. -- It seems once a month, you flip on the news and see the story of a child who's become a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Sometimes there's a mugshot of the accused, or a brief video of the home or day care where the alleged abuse took place. There's usually a quick condition report on the child, if the abuse doesn't kill them.
What happens to the babies who survive these devastating traumatic brain injuries?
"A third die, and that middle third, their injuries are just horrific," said Dr. Jeff DeMare, a child abuse expert at Omaha's Children's Hospital.
Summer Fuson is one of those children who nearly died after a violent encounter with her father. The 9-year-old was adopted by her paternal grandmother when she was an infant, after suffering traumatic brain injuries that left her mostly blind and unable to walk, talk or eat.
"I felt horrible," said Robbie Fuson, who served eight months in prison for injuring his daughter.
Robbie recently sat in his mother's duplex, rocking his young daughter in a large upholstered rocking chair. Every few minutes, he'd readjust her head, or rearrange her legs to keep the girl comfortable. She had no control over her arms or legs. Her eyes seemed to drift towards the light and she constantly tried to find her mouth with her thumb.
Robbie offered no excuses for causing the devastating injuries to his daughter, only an explanation of the desperate life he was living and the lasting impact on his life.
He said he was a teenaged father and his life was in a downward spiral as he worked three jobs and started using and selling drugs. Summer's mother, Amy Hajek, was found murdered in a ditch in Fremont about a year after Summer was injured. The homicide case remains unsolved eight years later.
Robbie said neither of them had any parenting experience. "It's a rough road to go down and I hope nobody else has to do it," he said.
Robbie now works third shift as a sanitation worker in a meat-packing plant. He has a 6-year-old daughter and he's married.
Has he forgiven himself for Summer's injuries? "As much as you can," he said. But he said society is not as forgiving.
"You just live day to day because most people find out what you've done and they look at you in a different light. They say you're such a horrible person," said Robbie.
Robbie agreed to talk about his daughter to try to prevent other parents and caregivers from making the same mistake. "If you're getting frustrated with your kids, take a break. Go outside. Cool off. Think before you do anything. Definitely think," he said.
He credits anger management classes, parenting classes and living a drug-free life for his turn around. He said getting older has also helped him appreciate his past mistakes and learn from them. He said if caregivers have anger issues, seek counseling.
"I'm not a bad guy. I was just confused when I was younger," said Robbie.
Sandy Fuson said there was a time she would not allow her son to see his daughter. "He's come full circle where he's welcome to be a part of her life. And she welcomes him into her life," Sandy said.
The grandmother works full time and takes Summer to Children's Respite Care center where nurses oversee her medical care each weekday. The mother and son live just a block away from each other in Fremont, allowing them to stay connected.
"It's a great thing to forgive and move on and try to be the whole family you want to be," said Sandy.