Monday, September 01, 2008

Link between seizures and shaken baby syndrome

A pediatrician who consulted in the care of an 8-month-old Salina boy testified Friday in Saline County District Court that the seizures and vomiting the baby experienced usually occur within two hours of the traumatic injury that caused them.

Dr. Beth Heflin was a member of the child abuse evaluation team at Wesley Medical Center, Wichita, that evaluated the boy after he was airlifted to the hospital on April 28. The child had symptoms known to be caused when a baby is violently shaken by an adult.

If the baby's symptoms did occur within two hours of the injury, that would mean the child would have been in the care of a Salina child-care provider, the child's mom, Ofelia Rodriguez, testified.
Testimony will resume at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 2 in the preliminary hearing of Tiffany L. Axelson, 24, 107 Hays Court. She's charged with child abuse and aggravated battery. District Judge Daniel L. Hebert will rule at the hearing's conclusion whether there is enough evidence to bind Axelson over for trial.

On the morning of April 28, Rodriguez testified, she pushed her 8-month-old son in his stroller to Axelson's house shortly before 8 a.m. Axelson had been the boy's child-care provider for the previous two months, she said. That morning the baby was a little fussy because he was teething, but otherwise she thought he was in normal health, Rodriguez testified.

Rodriguez said shortly before 4 p.m. that day, she received a call at work from Axelson, who said something was wrong with the baby.

"She said she sat down and fed him a bottle, and he threw up all over her," Rodriguez said. "Then her voice started sounding shaky and she said she thought he was having a seizure."

An inflicted injury

The baby was taken to Salina Regional Health Center and then flown to Wichita.

"I got told while I was at Salina Regional Health Center that this was an inflicted injury, and they could not care for him here, so they were going to transport him somewhere else," Rodriguez testified.

Dr. Heflin testified that medical tests revealed hemorrhages between the lining of the child's brain and his brain, as well as hemorrhages and tissue swelling in the back of his eyes. He was also diagnosed with a moderate to severe concussion, which brought about seizures, vomiting and breathing irregularities.

While some of the brain hemorrhages may have been caused previously, onset of symptoms such as vomiting and seizures usually occurs immediately or within two hours of trauma, Heflin testified. Since the baby had not been in his mother's care during that time, the child abuse evaluation team determined that the child could safely be returned to his mother when released from the hospital, she said.

Attorney Roger Struble, who represented Axelson, questioned Rodriguez and Heflin about several falls the child had had in the months before April 28, including a time he fell off a bed and another time he hit his head on a metal heater in Rodriguez's apartment.

n Reporter Erin Mathews can be reached at 822-1415 or by e-mail at


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