Friday, October 28, 2011

Awareness: Educating High School Students at Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma

The The Tulsa World reports on great work by Erin Thomas, a 17 year old student at Broken Arrow HS, to raise awareness of the danger of shaking young children. She is working with Amber and Daniel Brafford, the parents of Davis Brafford, a one year old who died when shaken by his stepmother.

17-year-old promotes Never Shake a Baby program at school

BROKEN ARROW - After their 1-year-old son died of a severe head injury at the hands of his stepmother three years ago, it was difficult for Amber and Daniel Brafford to trust anyone again to care for their other children.

Then they met Erin Thomas, a 17-year-old Broken Arrow High School senior.

Now the couple not only have a baby sitter to help out, but they have teamed up with her to promote awareness of the dangers of Shaken Baby Syndrome to other teenagers.

"I'm grateful that Erin has brought awareness to the younger crowd because people just think it's common sense not to do that," said Amber Brafford to about 120 students who piled into the choir room Thursday after school. "I still have four other children, so there are times that they don't stop crying. I would never shake my child, but I know that if I can't get them to stop I put them in their crib and I walk away."

Thomas met the Braffords by chance after searching for a trainer to help her work through a knee injury. At Gold's Gym she met Daniel Brafford, who convinced his wife that Thomas was someone she should at least meet.

Soon the Broken Arrow student, the couple and their four children got to know one another, and on the three-year anniversary of Davis Brafford's death, Thomas was told the tragic story.

For Thomas, the effort became personal when she heard the Braffords' story, and she dedicated herself to raising awareness among her peers.

"A lot of girls are becoming pregnant or they baby-sit or have younger siblings," Thomas said.

Thomas went to her teachers and principals to see if they would allow The Parent Child Center of Tulsa to bring the "Never Shake A Baby" program to the school.

Karen Harvey, program coordinator, told students that babies are much more susceptible to injury by shaking because their brains do not yet fill out the space inside their skulls.

"We're talking about violent shaking," she said. "This isn't caused by bouncing a baby on your knee."

Comparing a baby's brain to a raw egg inside a plastic bowl, Harvey showed how the egg becomes much more damaged when it is shaken as opposed to being dropped.

If the injury doesn't result in death, babies who have been violently shaken can still have lifetime disabilities including impaired cognitive skills, blindness and hearing loss.

A crying baby is the No. 1 trigger in SBS, Harvey said.

"Babies cry for lots of different reasons, but mainly it's the only way they can communicate with the world. That's how they let us know they're there, they're hungry, they're tired, their clothes are too tight, whatever it is," she said.

Crying helps a baby's lungs adjust to breathing air and is an expected period that all babies go through, Harvey stressed. It typically starts at 2 weeks, peaks at 2 months and goes away about 4 to 5 months, and some cry more than others, she said.

"This is a normal phase. It's going to be frustrating, but it's going to be OK. There is an end to it," Harvey said.

Studies show the majority of perpetrators are men, typically the biological father or mother's boyfriend, but babies have been seriously injured or killed by all types of caregivers or family members.

Stepmother Shiloh Brafford is serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction related to Davis Brafford's death.

Students guessed that men injure babies more often because they lose their patience easier and are stronger. Harvey said women typically have had more experience with nurturing activities, such as playing with dolls at a young age.

"I know a lot of you guys think it's common sense - you wouldn't shake a child," Amber Brafford said. "But my son was 14 months old. We were told he fell. Two days later he died in the hospital. He was severely brain dead, and I had to bury my 1-year-old, which is probably the hardest thing I'll ever have to go through in my life.

"It's been really hard for all of my family, my parents, my older children. I think it will affect all of us the rest of our lives, and I hope that by bringing awareness to you guys, we can save other children because it should never happen."

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

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