Dad tells mom hospitalized newborn ‘choked on milk’ – within hours, the truth becomes apparent

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    A Seattle mom left her baby alone with his father for two hours and received a text message that every parent fears: the baby had stopped breathing.

    Angie Setlak’s pregnancy was difficult. Besides having a difficult pregnancy, she had a tremendous amount of success because her relationship was in trouble. Her partner was being unfaithful to her. Her baby boy, Xavier, was born four weeks early.

    However, he was born perfectly healthy, Angie says. He came out kicking and screaming and “blew away the doctors at the NICU.” He was in the hospital for 16 days. When he came home, Angie had three wonderful months with her baby. However, her first day back at work from maternity leave ended in a nightmare situation. From her post on Love That Matters:

    “I had been fielding text messages from Xavier’s father all day about how difficult he was being, and I told his dad we would find another solution so he didn’t have to watch him during the day. While on maternity leave, Xavier’s father had been alone with him for 2 hours tops, and everything had been fine. His father worked nights, and the plan was for him to watch Xavier during the day while I worked, and then I would watch him at night when he worked. My former partner had raised a 10-year-old after all, so even though I was very nervous about the situation, he kept reassuring me everything would be alright.

    On my first day back to work from maternity leave, I got a text message – he asked me if he could murder the baby now. I told him to just hang in there and I will be home soon. I kept thinking, ‘just a few more hours and then I can be back home with my baby.”

    At 2:30 in the afternoon, she got the text message from her ex saying that Xavier had stopped breathing. However, the ex lied and said that he stopped breathing because he “choked on milk and we are going to Seattle Children’s Hospital.” In a panic, Angie gathered her things and rushed to the hospital. When she arrived, she heard Xavier crying so at first, she thought he was OK. But he wasn’t.

    “He was suddenly quiet and pale. I knew something was not right.”

    As Angie and her ex waited for Xavier to come back from a CT scan, his father was preoccupied with his cell phone. When Xavier finally returned, Angie was able to hold him, but he was getting fussy again. Then the terrifying news came: Xavier was bleeding in his brain.

    “I immediately went to his father and asked, ‘how could this happen?’ His father still didn’t have much to say, and just kept repeating, ‘he was choking on milk.”

    They were transferred to another hospital and Angie was shocked when the police showed up to interview. They were investigating Xavier’s condition as suspect child abuse.

    “They told me he had a brain bleed due to a non-accidental trauma. I was enraged. Xavier was put into a medically induced coma for 2 weeks, while they worked relentlessly to stop the seizures. Slowly, they weaned him off medication and they warned me he might not wake up. They took me into room after room, with doctor upon doctor, to warn me what might be. We were fighting against 2 things. The trauma, and the time he went without oxygen to the brain. I heard everything from ‘he might be blind’ to ‘he may never be able to learn, walk, talk, move…’ But still I knew he would come back to me.”

    Xavier’s father was arrested the night of the injury. The charge was first degree chid abuse. Angie still doesn’t know the details of what happened on that fateful day, and isn’t sure she ever will know the truth.

    “Since we are almost 3 months out from the injury, I focus less on the ‘why’ and more on the ‘now what.’ I try to be present with my baby, every single moment. I thank God every day for bringing my baby back to me. For my mom who now lives with me, as I am a single parent working endlessly to provide for my baby. We have so many doctors and so many appointments, it’s a wonder I keep them all straight.” 

    Xavier goes to occupational therapy and physical therapy weekly and sees a neurologist. He also goes to speech therapy and sees an ophthalmologist and a neurodevelopmental specialist.

    “He has a neurologist. An ophthalmologist, a neurodevelopmental specialist, is in speech therapy, and is now going to be going to Anat Baniel Method therapy to help awaken his brain and re-wire it. Everyone keeps telling me how lucky we are this happened while he was so young, how resilient babies are, and how plastic the brain is at this age. He is at high risk for developing Cerebral Palsy, but we won’t get that diagnosis for another 1.5 years, if he has it.  He sees people for early intervention services, and I firmly believe the more we work with him, the better his odds are.”

    Angie says she has nightmares about losing her baby. But she and Xavier keep fighting.

    “My reason for getting out of bed every morning despite having my world crumble around me. My warrior, who was born at 3lbs 6oz and has fought this entire time. He has proven to me time and time again, he wants to live and to be here. So we fight.”

    If you’d like to contribute to the extensive costs of Xavier’s medical care, you can do so at Give InKind. For more information about shaken baby syndrome, visit Parents.com.

    All images via Angie Setlak