If Melissa Whitten might have it her means, she’d be laughing along with her 14-year-old daughter proper now. Since she will be able to’t, she’s placing all of the vitality she used to spend caring for her youngster into sharing BreAnna’s story.
BreAnna, identified affectionately as “Bre,” died Sept. Three of issues from traumatic accidents she suffered earlier than she was 2. She was born Oct. 30, 2004, in West Plains.
Within the spring of 2006, her story turned the main focus of a high-profile legal case that resulted within the jury conviction of her organic father, William Brian Hawkins.
Hawkins is serving 15 years within the Missouri Division of Corrections for first-degree assault, a Class A felony, for actions that resulted in severe accidents for Bre, 17 months previous on the time.
Whitten mentioned she prefers to not dwell on the previous. Her coronary heart aches for her misplaced daughter, however she holds quick to 1 prevailing hope: that by sharing Bre’s story, one youngster may be saved from shaken child syndrome.
A West Plains native who attended South Fork Elementary and West Plains Excessive Faculty, Whitten now lives in Buffalo, part of the Springfield metropolitan space. She has household that also lives in West Plains.
Whereas Bre’s dying was in the end attributed to quite a lot of medical points, these points wouldn’t have occurred if not for her accidents, mentioned Whitten.
Bre was injured March 22, 2006, and the case went to trial March 2012. Because the trial proceeded, the Quill reported extensively on testimony given.
On the time of the harm, Hawkins lived along with his girlfriend. She testified Bre was at their dwelling no less than as soon as every week, and she or he typically performed the function of major caregiver when she was dwelling throughout these visits.
Towards the tip of her shift on March 22, Hawkins’ girlfriend testified, she received a telephone name from Hawkins that one thing was flawed and she or he rushed dwelling. It was she who instructed him to name 911 and it was she who rode within the ambulance with BreAnna to the hospital, the testimony revealed.
A 911 dispatcher who testified for the state, represented by then-Lawyer Common Jay Nixon’s workplace, mentioned he acquired a name at 10:48 p.m. that evening about an unresponsive toddler. A paramedic described getting into the home to search out the toddler mendacity on the ground, unresponsive and seizing. The kid’s posture indicated she was in crucial situation, the paramedic mentioned.
The cost nurse working the emergency division testified that on the hospital, Bre was chilly to the contact and nonetheless unresponsive and having seizures. Her physique temperature was 95.6 levels. Regular physique temperature is 98.6.
Suspecting youngster abuse, the nurse known as the Division of Household Companies (DFS) and the West Plains Police Division.
Whitten discovered via an 11 p.m. telephone name from her mom, that Bre was on the hospital and being transferred to St. Louis.
She drove all evening to St. Louis Youngsters’s Hospital. As soon as there, she spoke with docs, who ran greater than 100 checks to rule out shaken child syndrome, to verify there was nothing else inflicting the signs they noticed, together with retinal hemorrhaging and bleeding on the mind.
Docs instructed Whitten they believed her daughter had been shaken, then thrown in opposition to a wall, inflicting a hematoma on her mind. A hematoma refers to blood, often clotting, that collects exterior of blood vessels on account of traumatic harm.
Whitten mentioned in addition they instructed her they believed BreAnna had been put in icy water after her accidents occurred, inflicting her to grow to be hypothermic.
“Shaken child syndrome” was an unfamiliar idea to Whitten. Her introduction to it, she recalled, was listening to docs inform her they’d by no means seen a worse case. The accidents have been so important, they calculated, Bre had 25 to 30 % of undamaged mind tissue.
Docs eliminated a chunk of Bre’s talent to alleviate swelling on her mind. Consequently, she additionally needed to have facial reconstruction. She spent seven months in St. Louis Youngsters’s Hospital and one other two months in a rehabilitation facility.
Whitten recalled being instructed she couldn’t take her child dwelling till she had organized for another person to assist her with Bre’s care.
Bre got here dwelling every week earlier than her second birthday.
Shaken child syndrome is now often known as abusive head trauma. It may be attributable to violent shaking, however accidents will also be attributable to blunt pressure, in response to the Missouri Division of Social Companies (DSS).
Youngsters and infants who expertise that form of trauma might present indicators of harm similar to irritability, lethargy, tremors and vomiting on the gentle finish of the spectrum, or extra severe indicators like seizures or coma.
The signs are attributable to modifications within the mind which can be associated to the destruction of mind cells, lack of oxygen to the mind and mind swelling, DSS explains. Most instances additionally present retinal hemorrhages in a single or each eyes of victims.
The most recent Missouri Youngster Fatality Evaluation report printed by DSS in 2016 reveals that eight kids who died that 12 months have been victims of abusive head trauma.
Nevertheless, not all victims of abusive head trauma die, or die instantly. Two of the 9 victims of deadly abusive head trauma reported by DSS in 2015 have been initially injured in 2011.
Dr. Mary Case, medical expert and forensic pathologist for St. Louis County, mentioned as much as 30 % of such accidents are deadly.
“Though she was damage, she was so glad, at all times smiling,” mentioned Whitten, recalling BreAnna’s mischievous antics. “I’d take these ornery moments 100 occasions extra.” Whitten laughed as she described the best way Bre would play along with her stepfather Terry and taunt her mom.
“She knew precisely what she was doing,” mentioned Whitten. “She was a daddy’s woman.”
Issues began to vary final summer time. Bre’s smiles have been extra subdued and fewer frequent. Whitten started to note her little woman appeared drained after 12 years of preventing for her life. Bre was sick with a number of infections that hit suddenly and her organs gave the impression to be giving up.
Whitten mentioned she knew Bre would need to dwell out her final days at dwelling, surrounded by familiarity and household.
In updates to the Fb web page Whitten makes use of to inform her daughter’s story, she reported Bre got here dwelling from the hospital the night of Sept. 1. By eight a.m. Sept. 3, Bre was surrounded by household and associates. She died that day.
“Once you spend your entire life taking good care of somebody —“ Whitten struggled to search out the phrases, choking again feelings.
“I nonetheless take a look at the clock and assume I must run dwelling and provides her meds,” she mentioned.
Caring for BreAnna was Whitten’s entire life. She didn’t have alternatives to socialize or be lively in her group.
The vitality Whitten devoted for loving and nurturing her daughter, she is now directing towards saving lives. She speaks out about shaken child syndrome and abusive head trauma, and is lively in assist teams. The web page she set as much as inform Bre’s story has 2,000 followers.
Whitten appears ahead to taking part within the Nationwide Shaken Child Convention in 2020, held by the Nationwide Heart on Shaken Child Syndrome headquartered in Utah. That convention is held each two years. This 12 months’s was held in early September.
She has been invited to share Bre’s story in different teams and assist environments, one thing that she says is usually exhausting to grasp. When she first began out on this journey along with her daughter, she’d by no means heard of shaken child syndrome. Now, she’s a part of a community of 1000’s of oldsters.
“When Bre was damage, there was no web,” she mentioned. “Now, you could have Fb and also you hear extra about it.” And Whitten mentioned she plans to make use of that platform to inform Bre’s story. Her hope, she reiterated, is to save lots of one youngster’s life.
To be taught extra about shaken child syndrome and abusive head trauma, Whitten recommends visiting dontshake.org or following “Cease Shaken Child Syndrome, Inc.” To be taught extra about BreAnna’s Journey, comply with @BreAnnasJourney on Fb.
West Plains Excessive Faculty Household and Shopper Sciences (FACS) instructor Jennifer Shipley says th…
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