This past November when my days on maternity leave were numbered, I needed a backup person to watch my baby when my parents could not. My daughter was so fragile and tiny, but also a fussy baby who spent a lot of time crying. The only person my husband and I mutually agreed upon that we trusted whole-heartedly was Mariel Grimm, our previous neighbor.
We moved August 1st, 2016 and the Grimm family was who we were most sad to be leaving. We lived across the street for two years, ate in each other’s homes, enjoyed time together, and loved watching their four children grow-up. In that time, my husband and I watched Mariel be the most patient, attentive, and caring mother to all of her children. Someone I knew without a doubt that I could trust with both my stepson and future children.
I had my first child September 20th, 2016. I brought my daughter over to Mariel and Andy’s house in November to show her off, but also to ask Mariel if she would be willing to babysit occasionally while I went back to work as a nurse. Instead of giving me an answer, she told me about the incident of the 13-month-old boy in her care becoming unresponsive and stiff. How the boy needed emergent brain surgery and was still in rehabilitation but not progressing how doctors had hoped. How detectives questioned her and her children, swabbed and took photos of everything in their home. How she was struggling because the little boy and his family, all of whom she cared for so deeply were having to go through this and live with this difficult diagnosis. She was also struggling with the trauma left from being with the boy when all this happened. Due to this tragic event, Mariel told me she wasn’t going to take on watching anymore children at this time. I completely understood because I would feel the same way.
In late March when I found out that Mariel, the woman born to be a nurturing mother, was being accused of harming the little boy the day he had become unresponsive while in her care, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how someone could know Mariel for even 5 minutes and think that she would ever hurt anyone, let alone a child. I read all the stories online including one doctor’s opinion that this case was shaken baby syndrome saying that with that type of hematoma the boy would have become unresponsive immediately or shortly after experiencing head trauma. Pointing their finger at Mariel since the boy was in her care at that time. I know from the bottom of my heart that this is not possible and is something Mariel would never do.
Working as a nurse, I have seen a lot of things and met many types of people. I have learned that medicine and physiology are both very complex topics, which is why it is so important to use evidence-based practice and collaborate care across multiple professions. This allows the team to be able to visualize all aspects of a patient’s health, rather than just focusing on one area. Without these things, we would be doing a disservice to our patients, revealing an incomplete or even inaccurate diagnosis. For example, this young child’s brain showed forceful trauma which was evident on scans and in surgery. However, externally he lacked bruises, fractures, or neck trauma which would have been evident if he had been shaken violently enough to cause such a severe brain hemorrhage. How can a small child be shaken so forcefully and not even have bruises from being grabbed hard enough to do so?
Evidence and research are changing the discussions on shaken baby syndrome, proving that these types of brain bleeds without external symptoms can be caused by a variety of things, but most predominantly from accidental falls. To not listen to the most up-to-date science can be absolutely detrimental. By giving this child a misdiagnosis, medicine is failing him by not finding the real reason for his injuries. It also threatens to tear an innocent mother out of her home and away from her own children. Thankfully Mariel was there to quickly respond and help this little boy.