My First Month, by Sarah Jane Donohue
I was born on Sunday, June 5, 2005, at 1:10 a.m. at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. I have two wonderful parents, Vanessa and Patrick (mommy and daddy) who love me very much. I was a little difficult coming out which caused my mommy to have a fever at birth. My mommy's great doctor (Dr. Jacqueline Worth) said this was not unusual and advised us not to worry. As a routine precaution, the great staff at Lenox Hill put me in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to make sure I was okay. I weighed 6 pounds and 15 ounces at birth (mommy fed me very well while I grew inside of her). Well, everyone turned out just fine - me and mommy left the hospital on Tuesday, June 7, 2005 (daddy picked us up and grandma was there too).
Mommy and daddy had arranged to have a specialist at our home when we arrived from the hospital (they call these specialists "Baby Nurses"). The nurse they hired, Ms. Noella Allick, had all the proper certificates and the best references of all the professionals they interviewed. After all, my mommy and daddy wanted the best for me and they thought some professional assistance for the first six weeks would make everyone's life a little easier.
Grandma stayed with us the first couple of nights (she couldn't take her hands off of me - I like that about grandma).
On Thursday, June 9, 2005, all five of us (me, mommy, daddy, grandma, and Ms. Allick) went to my first doctor's visit (Dr. Paul Grunfeld - he is a very wise and kind doctor). They all seemed very excited that I actually gained a few ounces since birth (I weighed in at 7 pounds and 1 ounce). You can see a picture of the visit in my photo album. I got my mommy very excited that day by latching on to her breasts for feeding (remember: my mommy wants the best for me). That evening grandma finally went home to grandpa.
Ms. Allick was supposed to look after me that evening. Instead, at 1:00 a.m., Friday, June 10, 2005, Ms. Allick shook me violently breaking both clavicals (collar bones) and multiple ribs and causing a serious injury to my full cortex of my brain. I don't know why this monster (this is how mommy and daddy describe her now) did this since I thought I was a good baby - I barely cried and I did what everyone asked of me. I am glad that I don't remember any of this horrible experience.
The monster didn't tell anyone what she did to me.
Over the course of the next couple of days a few things began to occur:
"I wasn't able to latch on to my mommy's breast (that didn't stop her from pumping and feeding me her breast milk through a bottle)
"I was very lethargic and very sleepy
"It was very difficult for me to eat (I would take at least 1 hour for every feeding)
"I couldn't cry out loud
Grandma came back to visit me on Saturday, June 11, 2005, this time with grandpa. She told mommy that something was wrong but she wasn't sure what it was. Mommy and daddy asked the monster if everything was okay, and the monster just replied, "Yep - she's just a slow eater."
By Wednesday, June 15, 2005, mommy was very concerned that I wasn't latching on so she had a lactation specialist come by the house to assist. This specialist asked my mommy if I had seen a pediatrician yet (that's my doctor) and it raised another red flag for my mommy.
Mommy called Dr. Grunfeld first thing on Thursday, June 16, 2005, and scheduled an appointment that day. Once again, all five of us (me, mommy, daddy, grandma, and the monster) went to see Dr. Grunfeld. Everyone was concerned when they saw my weight had dropped to just 6 pounds! Dr. Grunfeld told my mommy and daddy that they had been bundling me up in too much clothes - after all it was over 90 degrees everyday! He instructed them to loosen up the clothes and come back the next day. The monster just came along for the ride and didn't tell anyone what she had done to me!
They cooled me down and the next day (Friday, June 17th) when we went in to see Dr. Grunfeld (this time the monster stayed at our home) I had gained 9 ounces overnight! I was still having a difficult time feeding so Dr. Grunfeld had a very nice nurse, Stephanie, who specializes in newborns, assist mommy, daddy, and grandma with my feeding. Dr. Grunfeld and Nurse Stephanie recommended that I go back to the hospital to run some tests to make sure there wasn't something they couldn't see affecting my feeding (and I still couldn't cry).
I checked in to the pediatric unit of Lenox Hill Hospital on Friday, June 17, 2005, around 6:00 p.m. and they immediately noticed that my temperature had fallen to 92.8 degrees (normal is 98.6) - I was in hyperthermia (very dangerous condition). They got me into an incubator right away to warm me up. Once my temperature was back to a normal range, they began running tests on me to see what was going on. Remember: when I was first born they put me in the NICU and did a tremendous amount of testing to make sure I was fine.
Over the course of the next couple of days, they poked, prodded, and tested everything imaginable.
In the meanwhile, daddy told the monster on Friday to take the rest of the day off since I was going to be in the hospital for a day and he would call her on Saturday to arrange the time for the monster to return (daddy thought I was only going to be in the hospital for a day and then be back home). The monster called daddy on Saturday to inquire and daddy informed her it will be at least another day or so before I returned home. He said he would call her as soon as he knew something. Once again - the monster said nothing about what she had done.
Getting back to me in the hospital, by Saturday evening they ran a CAT scan to check my head and brain.
On Sunday evening, June 19, 2005, Dr. Grunfeld and the pediatric neurologist, Dr. John Wells, explained to mommy and daddy that I had a severe brain injury to my full cortex and they were not sure what had caused this. The doctors explained that the cortex part of the brain controls everything that I do other than body functions (i.e., breathing, circulation, reflexes, etc...). This was very devastating news to my mommy and daddy. They cried for me!
They continued to run tests to find out what had caused this. They weren't sure if it was some strange metabolic condition, a virus or infection, or some genetic problem. The staff at Lenox Hill worked very hard for me. They were also very friendly.
On Monday, June 20, 2005, the monster called my daddy and he told her that I had a severe brain injury and I would be in the hospital for at least a couple of more weeks. Once again, the monster didn't say anything about what she did to me.
By Monday afternoon the doctors had a MRI performed and it reinforced the results of the CAT scan - severe brain injury to the full cortex. On Tuesday, the doctors arranged for an x-ray to be performed to rule out trauma as the cause of my injury. Mommy and daddy had everyone praying for me.
On Tuesday, June 21, 2005, daddy arranged for Father George Rutler (our parish priest and one of the great scholars in the Catholic Church) to come to Lenox Hill and have my baptism right in the hospital. My godfather, Paul Juhasz, and my godmother, Tammy Janulis, were there to support me as were a few other wonderful family members. After the baptism, the staff at Lenox Hill arranged for me to be moved back up to the NICU to be more closely monitored.
On Tuesday afternoon, my mommy and daddy had a meeting with the head of Pediatrics at Lenox Hill, Dr. Armando Grassi (a very wise and thoughtful doctor) along with Dr. Grunfeld, Michael Conroy (Director of Patient Care Management at Lenox Hill and a very gentle person) and Grace Propper (Director of Maternal Child Health at Lenox Hill who has been tremendously supportive of me and my family). It is at this meeting my parents were told of the conclusion of the medical staff that my injuries were due to a violent shake and the x-rays had revealed the additional broken bones which made it conclusive. Mommy and daddy were shocked! They realized immediately what this meant - the monster hurt their baby!
Tuesday evening my parents met with two detectives from the New York Police Department's Special Victims Squad, John Savino and Josh Ulan, along with a case worker from New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS). It was their job to determine who did this to me and to protect me. I couldn't have asked for better people working for me! John and Josh are two of the finest police officers in the greatest police force in the world - I had the best.
Between Tuesday evening and Wednesday, the detectives interviewed my mommy and daddy (mothers are always the first suspect in shaken baby cases) along with my grandma and Godmother, Aunt Tammy. This process was very difficult on my mommy but she was so strong and withstood some very intense questioning. After eight hours of questioning by the detectives they told my parents to go back to focusing on me.
By now I had received many visitors at the hospital. Aunt Cindy was there almost every night holding me and feeding me and singing to me (she sings better than daddy - but still no Beyonce if you know what I mean). My other grandmother (my daddy's mother - she flew up from Florida) came to see me as did my grandaddy Peter and grandmommy Jean and so many others. Please see my page where I thank everyone.
On Thursday evening my parents received a phone call from Detective John Savino informing them that the monster was arrested and confessed to shaking me! On Friday morning the Assistant District Attorney for the Family Violence and Child Abuse Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Robert Hettleman, spoke with my mommy and daddy and explained what was going to happen legally.
I continued to do better in the hospital - I was eating well and I began crying again (I never thought it would feel so good to cry!).
Not only was I getting so many visitors at the hospital - every day I was being told of someone else who was praying for me (I am told the entire island of Mykonos, Greece is praying for me since I'm 25% Greek and I was conceived on Mykonos last September). If you are one of those that have been praying for me, please continue to do so - I feel every prayer and God is definitely listening.
Over the weekend the doctors and nurses continued to report on my positive progress to my parents. On Sunday, June 26, 2005, another MRI was performed to make sure I wasn't getting worse and it indicated that I was stable. That MRI combined with the progress I was making was enough to release me to go back home the next day.
On Monday, June 27, 2005, I was released from Lenox Hill Hospital and I was very excited about going home. Grandma decided that she would stay with me and my parents to help out - of course grandma still can't keep her hands off me and now she won't stop kissing me!
My parents went down and testified to the Grand Jury on Wednesday, June 29, 2005, as well as Dr. Grassi (Nurse Grace was there if needed) and Detective Josh Ulan. The monster was charged with First Degree Assault with Depraved Indifference - a Class A Felony. We have found out that the monster is under investigation for harming other children in Nassau County and Suffolk County, New York.
I have been home ever since surrounded by people who love me and believe in me. I am going to work very hard to overcome this injury - I just ask that you continue to think of me and pray for me!
Please visit my updates page to find out how I am progressing since my first month and visit my room to see my photo gallery, light a candle for me, or listen to some of my favorite music.