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Kamloops News

Not the first time baby suffered brain trauma, doctor suggests

KAMLOOPS – An infant victim in an assault and neglect case suffered head injuries from “violent forces” and it wasn’t the first time, a B.C. Children’s Hospital pediatrician suggested today.

Dr. Margaret Colbourne told Kamloops Supreme Court Justice Hope Hyslop today the baby she examined in early 2012 had symptoms “more in keeping with abusive head trauma” also known as ‘shaken-baby syndrome.’ Colbourne noted the large loss of blood in the baby’s brain and shared pictures of blood hemorrhaging in the baby’s eyes.

“Nothing else would cause that except for shaking,” said Colbourne. “These are very rare injuries.”

Michael Beakley, born in 1978, is being tried on charges of aggravated assault and criminal negligence on his own daughter. The court heard earlier this week from his former common-law wife, Cassandra Gunn. She said the couple was struggling to cope with the inconsolable child. She said Beakley was watching the couple’s two children and when she came home Feb. 14, 2012, she found her baby unresponsive—cold, grey and limp. Later the child went through seizures.

Some time later, Beakley said he wrapped the baby too tightly in a blanket and noticed she stopped breathing. He said once he unwrapped her, the baby’s breathing resumed and saw no reason to call 9-1-1.

Colbourne gave the first full assessment of the baby's injuries at the trial. While the child has recovered and is out of danger, Colbourne said that was thanks to  emergency brain surgery. Surgeons removed part of the baby's skull, drained the blood and they found evidence of prior trauma.

Colbourne said the swelling of the baby’s brain was intense enough to “mushroom” out of the surgery incision; the removed piece of skull was replaced in a second surgery after the swelling subsided.

When asked to compare the trauma of the baby to other cases, Colbourne testified similar brain injuries could occur from the baby being thrown from a moving vehicle, struck by a vehicle, falling down stairs, and falling from a second storey window. No other injuries in this case suggest the baby had trauma from an accident.

While the baby survived the injuries, she continued to seize afterward, which Colbourne says is normal after a severe brain injury.

Gunn, Beakley and their families have been present during all court proceedings.

The trial continued this afternoon and is expected to continue tomorrow.

To contact a reporter for this story, email, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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