Women plead ‘never shake a baby’

Karra
Paige could have been someone special.
She could have traveled the
world–maybe even changed it.  But, the
world will never know because she died
a very early death. 
 
Only
11 months old,
Karra suffered fatal trauma from being shaken. 
She is but one of the many children who have
suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome, or abusive head trauma.
 
Two
women will share their stories
and speak out about Shaken Baby Syndrome at William Woods University Feb. 23. The
event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 4 p.m. in the
library auditorium.   
 
Shaken
Baby Syndrome refers to a combination of signs and symptoms that result from
violent shaking of infants and often leads to death.
 
Rene
Howitt, executive director
of COPE24, and Maryann Williamson, Karra’s grandmother,
have seen the horrors of shaken infants and have made it their goal to
put an end to it. 
 
Howitt,
who has spoken
at more than 150
schools in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, is
dedicated to reducing child abuse and neglect by reaching out to young adults who may not be
emotionally or mentally prepared for pregnancy. 
 
Although
she understands that reducing teen pregnancy
through education will not put an
end to child abuse and neglect altogether, she feels that it is a good place to
start.
 
Williamson
will tell about
the loss of her granddaughter,
Karra, and her struggle to
find justice in the legal
system.
 
Karra
was shaken violently by the boyfriend of Williamson’s
daughter. She suffered irreversible brain damage and
detached retinas. The man responsible served
four years of a seven-year prison sentence.  For Williamson and her family, justice was
hardly served.
 
“It
was the worst experience of my life,” said Williamson.  “It’s just
something you’re not prepared for and something you never think will
happen.”
 
She
has vowed to find that justice–not just
for Karra, but for all infants whose lives have
been taken due to being shaken.
 
Since Karra’s
death 12 years ago, Williamson has been working with Sen. Kurt
Schaefer and Rep. Jeanie Riddle
to increase the punishment for those who commit
crimes leading to this syndrome.  Riddle,
who represents
Callaway County in the state legislature,
plans to join Howitt and Williamson at the event at William Woods.
 
Williamson
hopes to inspire students to help make the change.
 
“You
can make a difference for these little babies–there were 14 in Missouri in 2010,”
she said. “The deaths that they have
are horrible and this can change your life profoundly. Someone has to speak for
them because they
can’t speak for themselves. We have to get this law passed.”
 
One
of the last memories
Williamson has of her beloved granddaughter is
a beautiful one.  She was feeding yogurt
to Karra and her sister, and
Karra wanted to make sure her sister was
getting her fair share.
Williamson imagined that Karra would grow to be
a kind and giving person. She never imagined that a week
later, Karra would be gone.
 
To
learn more about Shaken Baby Syndrome, visit the National Center
on Shaken Baby Syndrome’s website at http://dontshake.org/.

CUTLINE:
Karra on Halloween in 1999, five days before her death.