Stephanie Spurgeon is the child care worker that took care of the toddler the day the toddler sustained the severe injuries. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the matter. News stories report that the child was taken to a local hospital after family members noticed the child was sluggish after being picked up from day care. Witnesses report the child was alert when she was dropped off at Ms. Spurgeon’s day care earlier that day. The identity of the deceased toddler has not been released. Ms. Spurgeon was arrested and charged with child abuse on August 22, 2008. She was bailed out of Pinellas County Jail and released on August 23, 2008. Sadly, the toddler has died from the injuries since Ms. Spurgeon’s arrest.  

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is an injurious condition caused by the shaking of an infant or child.  The action of rapidly shaking an infant or child causes the sudden forward, backward and sideway motion of the head. During the shaking action the brain is injured from hitting against the inside of the bony skull, causing inflammation, bleeding, separation of vessels and nerve fibers in the soft brain tissue on all sides of the brain. The brain of an infant or child is very soft because it has more water content and it is easier to injure than an adult brain. Therefore, less energy is required to cause lethal injury to an infant or child’s brain.  In SBS, the eyes may get injured by the sudden increase in pressure and motion around the soft tissues that make up the delicate structure of the eyes. After the shaking, the brain and the eyes bleed inside the confined spaces they are contained in.  This bleeding causes high pressure to build within the head and eyes. The damage caused by shaking the head, brain and eye structures and the increasing high pressure that follows causes permanent injury or death for the infant or child. If death does not occur the infant or child may be left with permanent brain damage, blindness, neuromuscular disability, paralysis, deafness, learning disabilities and/or a seizure disorder.  

The signs and symptoms of SBS include poor feeding, failure to thrive, vomiting, weakness, irritability, a change in overall muscle tone, decreased alertness, seizures, pale skin color, cool skin temperature, difficulty breathing and sudden respiratory or cardiac arrest. The fontanelles may be swollen depending on the age of the infant. It is important to remember that there may be no bruising, scrapes or outward physical signs of trauma. There may be only a change in behavior as described in the first sentence.  

Shaken Baby Syndrome is a medical emergency. It is important to seek immediate medical attention for these symptoms.

Christopher Keane
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California Child Abuse and Child Injury Lawyer
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