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From shaken baby to adult: Family raises awareness

Claire as a baby. Doctors said she was the victim of shaken baby syndrome. (Family Photo)
Claire as a baby. Doctors said she was the victim of shaken baby syndrome. (Family Photo)
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A family is sharing their experience to raise awareness about shaken baby syndrome.

Each year, as many as 3,000 children suffer from the violent form of abuse, and of those who do make it, 80% suffer permanent damage.

No one knows this better than a Rhode Island woman -- who's here by way of Ohio -- where her baby suffered the unthinkable 22 years ago.

But this mom and her daughter say it's important to share their story to raise awareness.

Claire Fishpaw was 11 months old when her mom and dad put her in child care, but not before doing a background check and three interviews with the sitter.

On day four -- Feb. 28, 2000 -- Michelle Fishpaw went to pick up her daughter.

"She was lying face down," recalled Michelle. "When I turned her over, her blue eyes, her pupils were so dilated they looked like two dark marbles staring back at me under the skylight."

Claire was rushed to the hospital where a CT scan was done.

"And when the results came back, it showed pools of blood on her brain. They did the retinal scan -- pools of blood were behind her eyes," said Fishpaw.

The doctors said Claire was the victim of shaken baby syndrome.

"To this day, she's never admitted to shaking Claire," said Fishpaw of Claire's sitter.

But a few years later, the sitter was convicted on a felony charge.

It didn't erase the damage she'd inflicted.

Since then, this family has become proactive.

In Ohio, they pushed for what's now known as Claire's Law.

"We were able to get the bill passed into a law to track shaken baby cases. That way, they could build a database," said Fishpaw.

Other states have followed suit, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Mom has written a book to educate parents: "Claire's Voice."

"First and foremost, trust your instincts," said Fishpaw.

And pay attention to red flags.

"I never knew the correlation between Claire's inconsolable crying that the sitter complained about on the third day of part-time care and the connection to shaken baby syndrome," Fishpaw said. "I didn't know that was a red flag."

Excessive crying is the number one reason caregivers give, as to why they lose control and violently shake a baby.

That's part of this family's message.

"It's OK to take a break and just place the child in a safe -- in a crib -- and to walk away and to give yourself a moment," said Fishpaw.

At 23, Claire is smart, but because of her traumatic brain injury she is delayed in processing what she hears and says.

"I'd like to speak out a little bit about what I've been through," said Claire.

And she is speaking out, along with her mom and dad, and younger sister.

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