January 14, 2011

Injury to an infant is the last thing parents want to think about. During the past few months in childbirth education classes at the CAMC Family Resource Center (FRC), educators have made sure that new and soon-to-be parents think about their actions and the consequences by using infant simulators from Realityworks, Inc. to demonstrate what happens to shaken, fetal alcohol and drug addicted babies.

"We utilize these baby simulators during our educational classes to help drive home the point that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, drug addiction and Shaken Baby Syndrome are real," said Kelly Gilbert, RN, BSN, CCCE, family life educator at the Family Resource Center. "We show slides on the importance of avoiding drugs and alcohol and then hold each baby up in comparison with a 'healthy' baby doll."

The impact of these demonstrations is amazing.

"Some people have a stunned look, while others gasp and hold their hands over their mouths," Gilbert said. "For example, the Shaken Baby Syndrome doll cries and its brain lights up. It is utilized in a way that demonstrates how a small amount of shaking can create a large amount of damage. The baby stops crying after only a few shakes and the areas of the brain that are damaged light up. It is a powerful demonstration of how easily a baby can be injured."

"At first, almost everyone is hesitant to shake the baby, and they are amazed at how fast damage can happen when they do," said Bev Kitchen, RN, Regional Care Coordinator for the Right from the Start Program. "It is literally seconds! Most people that see the drug addicted baby are disturbed with its physical presence. It is thin and has a high pitched cry and jittery shaking of its body."

In addition to childbirth education classes at the FRC, the babies are also used at health fairs, the Teddy Bear Fair, baby safety showers, conferences, staff education sessions and more. "Designated care coordinators use them for childbirth education like Kelly does, and can work with individual clients providing education on harmful behaviors during pregnancy," Kitchen said. "The Office of Maternal Child and Family Health purchased the babies for all the Right from the Start Regional Lead Agencies in the state to provide education by the regional and designated care coordinators."

CAMC Women and Children's Hospital is the Regional Lead Agency for the Right from the Start Program for Region III, which includes Kanawha, Putnam, Boone and Clay Counties. These dolls are a very useful way for these counties to help visual learners realize the impact alcohol, drugs and shaking can have on a baby.

"After demonstration, we lay the babies on a table for participants to look at again as they exit the classroom," Gilbert said. "Many people make comments on how ugly the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome baby is, how hard it must be for a drug addicted baby to detox and question how anyone could really ever shake a baby. The addition of these dolls has created conversation amongst the pregnant population, and I am amazed at the impact they have made on our classes."

"I think as health professionals we often say if people could see what we see, it would be different," Kitchen said. "In this regard, the Realityworks simulators are very valuable. Parents and others can see what could happen and then take steps toward prevention."

The Family Resource Center has been providing services like this to the community for more than 20 years. In addition to childbirth education classes, it offers counseling for individuals, couples, adolescents and children; psychiatric medical interventions; community offerings that deal with family issues such as parenting, divorce/blended families, infertility counseling, geriatrics, women's health issues and more; and many support groups.

For more information about FRC programs, call (304) 388-2545, or visit www.camc.org/frc.


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