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!
As you have already read, my first month of life was very difficult, but I am happy to be alive!
The next five months have renewed my faith in people and in the strength of family, friends and complete strangers. During these months I have spent time in both Manhattan and our other home in Rumson, New Jersey.
The month of July was very active. My parents set up this website in order to let friends and family know about what happened but also to give them updates on my progress. I really appreciate everyone who has visited my website and who has wished me well. My Mommy and Daddy interviewed different doctors to work with me. During the process, we were referred to Dr. Josiane LaJoie, a pediatric neurologist at New York University Epilepsy Center. It was clear that Dr. LaJoie and I were meant to work together. From the first moment I saw her she had a warm, positive glow around her. She believed in me – and that is the single most important qualification Mommy and Daddy established for anyone to work with me. Now Dr. LaJoie didn’t give us false expectations. She clearly stated that my injury was very severe but there was no reason not to be hopeful. She developed a plan for me, my family, and others who were helping me. In the hospital I was put on Phenobarbital to ensure that I didn’t have any seizures. Dr. LaJoie had me continue on the daily medicine but laid out a plan to wean me off of it, assuming I didn’t have any seizures. Dr. LaJoie believes that everyone deserves an opportunity to show they don’t need medicine. This medicine made me very tired but it was important that I took it twice a day to protect me from potential seizures. It is very common for babies who experience the injury I did to get seizures.
As soon as I was out of the hospital I began a process of Early Intervention Evaluations. This is a special program for children who have special needs, which helps to prevent developmental delays and provides assistance in “catching up” if developmental delays exist. I had three very wonderful people from Visiting Nurse Services work with me to establish what my needs were: Carole Lewis (Nurse Evaluator), Francoise Ross (Early Intervention Coordinator) and Jessica Himmelstein (Service Coordinator). These individuals were all instrumental in working with me and my family to evaluate my condition. After several home visits and in consultation with Dr. LaJoie and Dr. Grunfeld, my pediatrician, it was determined that I needed immediate assistance. I was assigned an incredible Occupational Therapist, Speech, and Feeding Specialist, Sue Ohashi. Sue began working with me four days a week, but that became too much for Mommy and Grandma to bring me into Manhattan that often, so we consolidated the therapy sessions to every Wednesday and Thursday. Sue showed Mommy and Grandma new exercises and monitored my progress. I really like Sue! She plays with me and knows what I like. Sometimes, it’s hard work but I know it’s what I need. I was also assigned a wonderful teacher named Horace Caldwell, who works with me every month. He tests my development and teaches my family how to assist me in my progress. Horace gave me my first test at the end of my first visit. I got an “A”. Just think about it, I have a lifetime grade point average of 4.0. My Mommy and Daddy have very high expectations for me. They say that I am “exceptional”! I like being exceptional.
Speaking of my wonderful pediatrician, Dr. Grunfeld, he continued to monitor me with monthly visits to his office in Manhattan.
Since we were spending most of our time and especially the weekends in Rumson, NJ, my parents started taking me to the local Catholic Church, Holy Cross Church in Rumson. It’s a very special place filled with caring and wonderful people. We met the Pastoral Assistant, Eugenia Kelly, who welcomed us very warmly. She prayed to the blessed mother with my parents. Eugenia introduced us to the Pastor of the Church, Pastor Michael Manning. He used to be a doctor, but now he is a priest. He’s a very spiritual person. In addition, Eugenia introduced us to a saintly parishioner named Joan. I feel very lucky to have Joan in my life.
Joan used to be a pediatric nurse at Yale Hospital and is now retired and taking care of her 93-year-old mother. She has been extremely supportive of my Mommy and very patient in trying to help. She brought over a close friend who had one of Padre Pio’s gloves (if you don’t know who Padre Pio is, it is worth googling him and finding out how holy a person he was). Joan laid Padre Pio’s glove on my head and prayed to Padre Pio for a full recovery. I know Padre Pio heard her. Joan has also introduced Mommy and Daddy to others in the church who are praying for me and Eugenia put my name on the Holy Cross Church prayer list.
The month of August turned out to be a little more exciting than anyone planned. First of all, in early August the Monster had her first court appearance and her slick attorney tried to get bail set for her. However, the Assistant District Attorney, Robert Hettleman, was prepared for his shenanigans and the judge continued to hold the Monster at Rikers Island without bail. It was very difficult for Daddy to see the Monster in court. My godmother, Aunt Tammy, went with Daddy to the first court appearance. It feels very good that so many people are fighting for me! After the court appearance, Mr. Hettleman asked my parents to go public with what happened to me. He said that it could accomplish three things: find out if there are other children out there that the Monster attacked; find out if there are other people who know the Monster and can provide some insights into this evil person; and to make people aware of what can happen and to help prevent future cases. Mommy and Daddy told Mr. Hettleman that they would do whatever they could to help! It was discussed that we would do something publicly after Labor Day.
That was the plan; but on Thursday night, August 18, as me, Mommy and Daddy were taking the ferry from Manhattan to New Jersey, we received a call from Mr. Hettleman. He said that a reporter from the New York Daily News found out about the case and was planning to write a story about it. He asked if we were prepared to go public now and suggested that we cooperate with the Daily News reporter. We agreed. On Friday my Daddy spoke with the Daily News reporter, Pete Donohue (no relation that we are aware of). Pete was very respectful with his questions and my Daddy referred him to the website to answer many of his questions. He indicated that the story should run in Monday’s edition. We had no idea what to expect.
On Monday morning, August 21, my Daddy received a call from Mommy while he was getting ready to take the ferry from New Jersey back to Manhattan. I was on the front page of the New York Daily News with my Mommy! Me, Mommy and Grandma headed into Manhattan later that morning. By mid-morning, just about every local news station had called wanting to interview us. After consulting our family attorney, Eddie Hayes, and after he spoke with a number of the reporters, we agreed to the interviews. That afternoon, me, Mommy and Daddy were interviewed by New York 1, WCBS-Channel 2, WNBC-Channel 4, WABC-Channel 7, UPN-Channel 9, and WPIX-Channel 11. In every interview my Mommy and Daddy explained there were three reasons why they agreed to the interviews: 1) to have as many people praying for me as possible (we asked to make sure they reported about my website), 2) to make sure there weren’t other babies out there that were harmed by this Monster so they could get immediate treatment, and finally, 3) to send a message that we DID NOT want people to stop trusting other people and that you cannot find out what’s inside someone’s heart. I was very proud of my parents for their strength in conducting all these interviews. Every reporter that interviewed us handled themselves with such dignity and class. My story was on every local newscast that evening. By the end of the night there were over a thousand postings on my website, mostly from complete strangers, saying they were praying for me!
On Tuesday morning, my story was on the front page of the New York Daily News again! They had new photos of me, Mommy and Daddy. In addition, the New York Post reported the story. We received a call from The Today Show and then from Good Morning America. We told The Today Show we would do their show and then Good Morning America called. It was too difficult for me to appear on both programs so we did not go to Good Morning America. We also received a call from the Oprah Winfrey Show. By now there were new postings on my website every five minutes!
Wednesday morning we were picked up by The Today Show staff and brought down to their Rockefeller Plaza Studios. Everyone was very nice to me and my family. Ann Curry conducted the interview. She was very reverent in her questioning and after the interview explained that she was saying a prayer for me (thank you)! My Mommy looked so beautiful on The Today Show. It reinforced me wanting to grow up to be just like her. In addition, Good Morning America had a segment on my story using the interview we did with their local ABC affiliate the previous day. We received several new phone calls from television programs from around the country asking to interview us (including The Oprah Winfrey Show again). Mommy and Daddy agreed to be interviewed the following day by Solidad O’Brien on her CNN Morning program. That night, Mommy was having second thoughts about doing the interview the next morning. By Wednesday evening there were over 4,000 postings on my website! People saw us on The Today Show and Good Morning America from around the world. Mommy and Daddy decided that we would do the CNN interview and that would be it.
Thursday morning we were picked up by CNN and brought to their new studios in the Time Warner building. Mommy was very anxious about the interview and Daddy agreed to hold me and to do all the talking. When we sat down on their set, Solidad came over during the break before our segment. She asked whether the Monster was a baby nurse or a nanny. Mommy explained that she was staying home with me full-time and that the Monster was hired to assist us just in the first month. Solidad explained that it didn’t matter whether she was a baby nurse or a nanny; that if it were her, she would feel exactly the same way that my Mommy did about what the Monster did to me! Well that statement snapped my Mommy out of her anxiety and she did most of the talking throughout the entire 10 minute interview (I think Daddy said six words)! Thank you Solidad – your words meant a lot to us. We called back The Oprah Winfrey Show and let them know we weren’t doing any other programs with the exception of Oprah’s program (our family has the highest respect for Oprah). The producer said they would call back when they figured out their programming but we never heard anything more.
By the end of the week there were over 5,000 postings on my website from people all over the world. We realized that there were thousands of people praying for me because not only were they posting prayers and good wishes, they were also adding me to their local prayer lists. I felt and continue to feel every prayer that has been said for me. Thank you!The newspapers reported on two other cases involving the Monster in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. You can find out more about these stories and see all the newspaper stories that have been written by simply going onto any online search engine and typing in “Sarah Jane Donohue”.
In addition to all the media attention, I was very busy with doctor visits and therapy sessions with Sue and Horace. The doctors started to get concerned when the circumference of my head was not growing, as most babies’ heads do each month. Most babies’ heads grow 1-2 centimeters each month as the brain grows and therefore expands the skull. My skull was not expanding at all since the injury. They expected it to be slow and they outlined that my development was more important at this stage than simply head growth. I continued to make developmental progress during the months of July and August. By the end of August I was lifting my head while on my belly! Everyone was so excited when I first did this. I just wanted to look around and see what the commotion was about.
Dr. LaJoie thought it was time to do another EEG in order to determine if they could take me off the Phenobarbital. This was a very uncomfortable procedure. They had to glue about a dozen electrodes to my skull and then monitor my brain activity for at least an hour. In addition to the normal difficulties, the day I was scheduled for this procedure happened to be one of the hottest days of the year. The air conditioning in the room used to perform the procedure wasn’t working. What should have taken about 1 and a half hours took almost three hours. The result was no seizures and Dr. LaJoie said I could be completely weaned off the medicine. This was certainly good news. Within weeks I would be off this stuff. Yeah!
Throughout the summer months I had many friends and family visit me. My Aunts Tammy (and Uncle Josh), Cindy, and Mary (and Uncle Chris) were over quite frequently. They would usually visit me on the weekends in Rumson and then mid-week while I was in Manhattan. In addition, my Daddy’s Aunt Cathy and Uncle Peter, and his Uncle Kenny, came out to visit. I also saw most of Mommy’s extended family at her Uncle Robert’s birthday party. It was really special. My great-grandmother was there and she held me and prayed for me. She is a very spiritual person and it was a very important moment for me. I felt the love of God while I was in her hands!
In addition to the thousands of prayers I received every day, there were many friends, family, and even complete strangers who sent me gifts. I know Mommy and Daddy haven’t been able to send thank you notes to all the people – so let me thank all of them for my parents. The gifts are really thoughtful. Thank you so much.
In early September, my Mommy and Daddy attended another court appearance with the Monster. Grand-Daddy Peter accompanied them to the State Courthouse along with Mr. Hettleman, the prosecutor. The Monster’s lead attorney was there this time, Mr. Heller of the law firm Heller and Heller. This sleazy attorney sat in front of my Mommy and Daddy inside the courtroom and proceeded to tell a colleague that the Monster was innocent and demonstrated with his hands how the Monster shook me. It took all the patience in the world to prevent my Daddy from clobbering this slimeball right in the courtroom. The judge was presented with a few motions by Mr. Slime and was given the Grand Jury testimony and the videotape confession of the Monster by Mr. Hettleman. A reporter from WPIX-Channel 11 was present and interviewed my Mommy and Daddy after the hearing.
Grandma was able to take Labor Day weekend off and spend it with Grandpa Donald. Aunt Cindy came down for the long weekend to help Mommy and Daddy out. By early September I was able to stop taking the Phenobarbital. It made me more alert and I was very happy to be off the medicine. By now I was able to roll over from my belly to my back a few times. Everyone was so excited. Sue continued to work with me twice a week and Grandma and Mommy continued to exercise me throughout the week.
Also in September, I met with Dr. Grunfeld again and he gave me my first vaccines. (I don’t like those shots, but Mommy and Daddy said I was very strong not to cry afterwards). Dr. Grunfeld suggested that I get a physical from Dr. Brian Campolattaro, who happens to be one of the best pediatric ophthalmologists (eye doctor) in New York City.
On October 2nd, my parents set up a special healing ceremony at Holy Cross Church with Pastor Michael Manning after the 12 noon Mass. My Daddy’s Aunt Cathy and Uncle Peter drove all the way up from Delaware to be with us in Church. Aunt Cindy, Aunt Mary, Uncle Chris and my beautiful cousins, Shannon, Meagan, and Kelly were there during the special ceremony. Of course Mommy and Daddy were holding me during the service. Everyone had a few tears in their eyes but my Daddy told me everyone was praying for me. Afterwards we all went back to my house and had a little bar-b-que. Daddy and Uncle Chris even caught two fish in the Shrewsbury River right from our backyard. They cooked up the fish that night and JB and Jen (our wonderful neighbors and friends) came over to enjoy the feast.
I met Dr. Campolattaro in October. He told Mommy, Grandma, and Aunt Cindy that I could see (I could have told him that) but that because of the injury my visual development was two to three months behind schedule. He suggested more visual stimulation and to try visual-only exercises too. Aunt Cindy came up with a great idea. Since they couldn’t find any toys designed specifically for vision only (all the toys that have lights also have sounds), they went out and got some flashing Christmas lights which they put over my head as I lay on my back. The lights are fun and work! I get very excited when I do these eye exercises.
During the month, I met with Dr. Grunfeld and Dr. LaJoie again. They measured my head and there was still little growth. They became concerned that my skull may be closing, so they scheduled a skull x-ray and another M.R.I. If this were the case, by the time my brain began growing they would have to operate and remove part of my skull in order to give it them room necessary. I went to Lenox Hill Hospital and the M.R.I. was very difficult because they couldn’t give me anesthesia for the procedure. They had to tape my head in place and strap me down while I cried throughout the entire time. Daddy and Grandma stayed in the room with me but I was in this long tube and it was very, very scary. I cried for a long time and it was very difficult to stay still. Afterwards, Daddy held me and rocked me to sleep while waiting for the skull x-ray. During the procedure, Daddy was able to hold me so I wasn’t so scared. I always feel safe in my Daddy’s arms.
The skull x-ray showed that my skull had not closed so there was still room for my brain to grow. However, the M.R.I. was not very accurate since I was moving around too much. Dr. LaJoie scheduled another M.R.I. the following week at New York University Hospital. They are experts at pediatric anesthesia and it was necessary for me to be knocked out to ensure accurate test results.
I went to N.Y.U. Hospital with Daddy and Grandma. Daddy held me while they gave me gas and then gave me anesthesia. The procedure went very well and they were able to get a very extensive M.R.I. done. The results were sent to Dr. Grunfeld and Dr. LaJoie.
In between these tests I got dressed up for Halloween. I was dressed as a female rooster (there’s a picture of me in the outfit in the photo section of the website). My Mommy says it was a big hit with everyone. Next year I will actually get to eat some of the candy instead of just handing it off to Mommy (I think she liked my candy).
By now it’s November and Dr. LaJoie had time to review the results of the latest M.R.I. It was the first clear test since I left the hospital. It showed significant damage to the rear of my cortex. This area of the brain handles vision and languages. Also, I had some additional damage to my frontal cortex. Because of the serious loss of brain cells in my rear cortex and the replacement of the cells with water, Dr. LaJoie wanted to increase my therapy and make it more extensive, including visual therapy. Dr. LaJoie strongly suggested that my parents look into Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to assist the growth of my brain. This is an expensive experimental treatment that works for some people but there is no guarantee of results. Daddy immediately scheduled the next available appointment which turned out to be at the end of November.
During this month we had another court hearing with the Monster. This time Mommy and Daddy’s new friend Daryl Gibbs attended the proceeding with them. Daryl lost his daughter Cynthia five years ago when a close family friend shook Cynthia while babysitting. This other Monster was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The worst thing is Cynthia laid at the house for hours, still alive, while this Monster just let her die. Daryl told Mommy that Cynthia is my Angel looking after me. I feel Cynthia’s presence all the time. She is a wonderful soul and a great comfort to me. On this occasion, my Monster and her attorney, Mr. Slime, weren’t there but another of the Monster’s lawyers was present. It was clear that the judge had read the Grand Jury testimony and watched the videotape confession. The hearing was uneventful and another hearing date was set for January.
November 17 is a very important date for me. It is the anniversary of my Angel Cynthia’s death. This year was the fifth anniversary and we all said a prayer for her. Daddy went to church and lit a candle for Angel Cynthia. In addition, Daryl Gibbs had been explaining to my parents that legislation dealing with Shaken Baby Syndrome was being held up in Albany by Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Democratic-controlled Assembly. Daddy contacted Mr. Daniel Conviser, the counsel in Speaker Silver’s office on Angel Cynthia’s anniversary. The counsel claimed that the legislature was close on a compromise bill with the Senate (for years, the State Senate had passed very tough criminal penalties, but the Assembly always tried to water them down). Daddy told Mr. Conviser that he was expecting the Assembly to pass this legislation first thing when they return in January and would accept no more excuses. We shall see what Speaker Sheldon Silver does. He has been under greater pressure recently for letting child sexual predators go free even if they are at great risk of harming children again. This legislative session my Daddy is going to make sure us children have a voice!
The following week was Thanksgiving week!
The day before Thanksgiving, my Daddy organized a meeting of most of the people who have been caring for me: Grandma, Aunt Cindy, Dr. LaJoie, Dr. Grunfeld, Sue Ohashi, Horace Caldwell, and Jessica Himmelstein. They met to discuss my progress, map out a plan for the next several months and to outline the services that I will need.I had two special Thanksgiving Dinners. Thursday afternoon was an extraordinary day since Uncle Josh proposed to Aunt Tammy on the beach out near Uncle Josh’s family house in Quogue, Long Island. We were all at the dinner table when they came back from the Big moment (of course she said yes, Uncle Josh is great). The Thanksgiving Dinner included me (I can’t eat turkey yet), Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa Donald, Aunt Tammy, Uncle Josh, Josh’s wonderful parents and his brothers. Everyone said the food was delicious, especially Grandma’s stuffed mushrooms, but how would I know, I couldn’t have any.
The next day we traveled down to Daddy’s Aunt Cathy and Uncle Peter’s home in Delaware with Aunt Cindy. Daddy’s cousin Kieran and his wife Jen were there as well. Once again it was a delicious dinner and everyone had a great time. Aunt Cathy and Uncle Peter really enjoyed holding me (and I must confess I really enjoyed them holding me too). Kieran and Jen bought a beautiful Precious Moments figurine of Jesus holding a baby called “Safe in the arms of Jesus”. It brought tears to Mommy and Daddy’s eyes.
At the end of the month, Daddy brought me to the Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment. Grandma met us at their upstate New York offices. Dr. Guissepina Feingold runs the clinic. She and her husband are both pediatricians. They set up the clinic because of an injury their daughter suffered and the results were amazing for her – so they decided to open their own therapy clinic. Dr. Feingold examined me and felt very confident that the treatments would help me. She suggested 40 one-hour treatments and said I should start to see some progress within 20 treatments. My Daddy is working to schedule some sessions for me right away.
On December 1st, my final early intervention evaluation took place at the New York Lighthouse in Manhattan with Dr. Michael Fischer. He examined my vision and said that my visual development is still a few months behind schedule.
Today is my six month birthday. To sum up my life so far is to say that I am lucky to be alive and I try to enjoy every day I can. Everyone tells me that I am a happy baby! I think that’s true because I am surrounded by people who love me and have great faith in me. Please continue to think of me and pray for me. I won’t let you down.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!
As you may have heard, the Monster who assaulted Sarah Jane pleaded guilty on Thursday, October 26, 2006, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The Monster recently pleaded guilty to assaulting another baby in Nassau County.
Since her six month update, Sarah Jane receives hyperbaric oxygen treatments to help stimulate brain growth and activity.
She undergoes 40 one-hour treatments and then takes a two-month break before beginning another round. We have seen positive results.
In addition, Sarah Jane now has an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a vision therapist, a feeding and speech therapist, and a special educator.
These wonderful professionals work with her at least twice a week for up to an hour each visit. They have helped Sarah Jane continue to make slow but steady progress over the past year and a half. Her development continues to lag but she is surrounded by hopeful and optimistic people.
During her first 16 months of life, Sarah Jane has been in and out of hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices and she has done all this with amazing grace.
No one can tell us what Sarah Jane’s future holds; however, we can tell you that Sarah Jane works very hard every single day to reach whatever her potential is. Thank you for thinking about Sarah Jane and please continue to pray for her.
Here are her words,
“The Monster may have broken my bones and damaged part of my brain; she didn’t destroy my will to survive nor impacted the most important part of my body – my heart!
To sum up my life so far is to say that I am lucky to be alive and try to enjoy every day I can. Everyone tells me that I am a happy baby! I think that’s true because I am surrounded by people who love me and have great faith in me. Please continue to think of me and pray for me. I won’t let you down.”