The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 2, 2013

Period of PURPLE: Click for Babies initiative an attempt to reduce infant deaths in Oklahoma

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — When Cherokee parents Cassandra Bisel and Sean Bostwick took their first baby, little Bentley Ryan Bostwick, home from the hospital, they also took home some very special gifts meant to help them cope.

A little purple cap and tiny crocheted blanket given to them by St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center are more than merely layette additions. They are a reminder the parents are going to hear lots of crying.

St. Mary’s is one of 29 Oklahoma hospitals participating in the Click for Babies, Period of PURPLE Crying Caps initiative, part of a statewide effort to reduce infant deaths in Oklahoma.

About a month ago, nurses at St. Mary’s started meeting with each set of new parents to educate them about normal crying, and how to handle the frustration that can arise when a crying baby cannot be soothed.

Dawnella Heim, a registered nurse at St. Mary’s birthing center, said she helped get the program started at the hospital because Oklahoma has a high rate of shaken baby syndrome.

“It’s to educate people about normal crying periods,” Heim said.

Parents get a DVD with tips on how to handle crying newborns.

Cyndy Shepherd, marketing director for St. Mary’s, said the frustration parents feel when the baby cries and cries is a universal phenomenon, one that most parents will experience at some point during the early months.

“You can say these things to new mommies and daddies, but you can never say it enough,” Shepherd said.

“It may seem like a small thing, but the impact it can make is a big thing,” said Barbara Chandler, director of St. Mary’s birthing center.

“Our overall goal is to reduce abusive head trauma, also called shaken baby syndrome,” said Lisa Rhoades, Period of PURPLE Crying project co-leader and Oklahoma Child Death Review Board member.

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome defines the syndrome as injury caused by violent shaking of the baby, with or without a blow to the baby’s head. About one in four babies diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome will die. Among those who survive, about 80 percent will have lifelong neurological damage from being shaken.

Taylor Randolph, clinical director of Youth and Family Services, pointed to ongoing development of the brain during infancy and childhood.

“It is important that people realize that infancy is an essentially critical period for long-term neural development,” Randolph said. “As infants, toddlers and children, our brains are developing and are foundationally ‘wired’ for all the learning that will take place throughout our lives: learning to walk, run, talk, read, etc. Brain damage from severe shaking is permanent, and destroys the foundation from which other abilities were supposed to develop. One moment of adult anger can lead to death or lifelong disability.”

A partnership with James Crabtree Correctional Center at Helena provides many of the purple caps for the St. Mary’s Period of Purple Crying program. The inmates who crochet the purple caps also crochet baby blankets and changing pads.

“It makes them feel like they are giving back to the community,” said John Meadows, unit manager at the prison, who oversees the inmates creating the baby items. “Some of the guys get in and don’t know how to crochet a stitch, but the others get in there and teach them how to do it.”

The Period of PURPLE Crying program is hardly the inmates’ only crochet project. They also crochet larger blankets, premie caps, lap blankets and American flags. All items are donated to organizations such as hospitals, nursing homes and the like.

Tami Grogan, head of the programs department at the prison, said inmates made 630 items for donation during 2012, including 254 full-size blankets.

The program is set up for inmates who cannot work other jobs. Donations of yarn and other items inmates can use to make crafts always are welcome.

“We don’t have a budget for the program, so people donate items to the program throughout the year,” Grogan said.

Integris Bass Baptist Birthing Center presents a different program called “Portrait of a Promise” to new parents, to educate them about shaken baby syndrome. The video features three families whose lives were affected by shaken baby syndrome and a message from Carolyn Levitt, a nationally recognized child abuse specialist.  

Moms-to-be also get this education during prenatal classes offered at Integris Bass. New parents are encouraged to share this information with extended family and care providers.

“We recognize it’s important to give new parents the proper education and instruction to prevent these types of injuries from occurring,” said Anita Luetkemeyer, director of public relations at Integris Bass Baptist Health Center. “The best time for this type of education is at the beginning of the parenthood journey, so all of our new moms are required to view the video before they are discharged from the hospital.”