Nanny Cams: Brenda

Nanny Cams: Brenda
What do you really know about the people you turn your children over to?
"On February 5, 1998, my infant son Devin was terribly injured by his caregiver at a church daycare center," says Brenda. "She shook him so violently that he sustained multiple bone fractures and permanent brain damage. He ended up being hospitalized. They diagnosed him with Shaken Baby Syndrome. The doctor took us into the room and he said, 'Your son was shaken — violently shaken.' He had blood on his brain. He had right frontal lobe damage, damage to his speech center, damage to his brain stem and several fractured ribs, fractured leg, fractured orbit under his left eye. We went in to his room in the ICU. He had tubes and wires everywhere. He was on a cardiac monitor and oxygen. He was just laying there," she says, getting emotional. "I wasn't sure if he was going to live and I didn't know if he was ever going to call me 'Mommy' or tell me that he loved me."
Brenda continues: "We spent Devin's very first birthday in court. I was on the witness stand all day. There is nothing that can make up for what she did. On January 12, 1999, Ann was sentenced to nine years in prison and five years probation for shaking Devin. We won't ever know the pain that Devin experienced during that shaking. The damage to the right frontal lobe caused the left side of his body to be paralyzed. He went through 18 months of occupational and physical therapy to regain the use of his left side."

In the seven years since being shaken, Devin's health has improved. "Devin is doing very, very well," says Brenda. "He's really put a lot of work into the recovery to get him to where he is now." Still, she says, "Devin will never heal completely."

Brenda has turned her anger into educating others. "Every step of the way, at every trial and every hearing that she has, I'm going to be there. I want her to see me and remember why I'm there: because she hurt Devin." But she also deals with a tremendous amount of guilt. "I'm his mother and I'm supposed to protect him. And I didn't know that she was going to hurt him."
"What tipped you off — particularly looking back in 20/20 hindsight — is there anything you missed as an early warning sign?" Dr. Phil asks.

"There was a point in time when I went and picked him up and he was not happy. And Devin always had this big, huge, bright smile on his face ... There wasn't anything I could put my finger on, but my instincts said, 'This is not right.'"

"I just don't know that there is anything that is as profound as that maternal instinct," says Dr. Phil. "You do know things, don't you?"

"Yes, and I think part of it is you go into society and even when you take your child to the doctor, they treat you like a first time parent. You just don't know any better. And I don't think anybody really gives that maternal instinct any credit."

"Would you ever deny it again?"

"I never have denied it ever since that day."
Brenda explains how Devin is doing now. "He's gone through a lot of therapy and he's regained use of his left side. Originally he had damage to his speech center and did not speak. He went through a lot of speech therapy. Originally he used sign language because he didn't vocalize, and now he talks all the time — and we don't ever tell him to stop," she says.

"As he hits each developmental stage you wonder, 'Is something not going to be right? Is there something else?' And so that looms over you all the time," says Dr. Phil.

"I never feel like I can take that deep cleansing breath that it's finally over. And we're optimistic about his development, but in the back of our minds we're always prepared for that other shoe to drop. We're always prepared for the worst. Just last Friday we found out that he may have a seizure disorder and he turned 7 yesterday. We never know. We don't know what tomorrow brings," she says.
"I think it is something that you are facing that you don't know where the bottom is," says Dr. Phil. "But I know that you're spending a lot of time focusing on what has happened, the good things that have happened. He's a bright, intelligent, active, chatty young man that you have so much to be thankful for. And there's no way to give back the hurt and pain that you've been through, the months and months and months of therapy and rehab and all that he's had to go through. But you are here and he is, at this point, a vibrant young man. And you do welcome and embrace that to crowd out those other things."

"Absolutely," says Brenda.