Officials said three babies have been killed in the last week, and they’re worried that if nothing is done, more may lose their lives.
On Wednesday, Jacksonville police charged 35-year-old Donald Crystalus with murder in the death of his 4-month-old son.
“Child abuse and neglect is alarming, but this is an unusually high number,” Wolfson President Michael Aubin said. “And when we saw that, for us it was, ‘We need to do something about this and we need to talk about this in our community.'”
Since Jan. 1, the hospital has dealt with six deadly cases.
Also since Jan. 1, Wolfson Children’s Hospitals Children’s Emergency Center employees have reported 131 probable cases of abuse or neglect, with symptoms ranging from bruises, fractures, brain injuries, burns and neglect. They reported 25 last month.
“You go through a range of emotions,” said Dr. Solange Benjamin-Thorpe, medical director of the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “You are angry, you are sad, you are bitter at the way that society has somehow managed to fail these children.”
According to the Department of Children and Families, 47 children throughout Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Nassau, Baker and Putnam counties have died this year due to abuse or neglect.
Doctors and nurses at Wolfson said they want to stop the abuse before it happens so they don’t have to see anymore of the devastating cases in the hospital.
“We need to be thinking about ways we can get messages to parents about how do you cope with babies? What should you expect from babies? And most importantly, when it gets to be too much, don’t let it build up. Call somebody, bring other reinforcements in,” said Dr. Randell Alexander, who’s in charge of the state’s Child Protection Teams.
He said many times a parent or caregiver shakes a baby too hard.
“They get stressed and then they get so angry, briefly in a moment of passion, that they let lose with big-time forces,” Alexander said. “And it is later that they sit and think, ‘Wow, I wish I hadn’t done that.'”
“If you take a child and shake it vigorously, there is no bruising on the outside, no broken bone on the outside. All the damage is done to the brain, which you can’t see from the outside,” said Benjamin-Thorpe. “And the damage can be expensive to the point of the child dying.”
Doctors say it’s up to everyone to watch out for the helpless.