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Baby Henry's Progress

July 8, 2009, 5:53 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Baby Henry's Progress
We're getting an up close look at Baby Henry Johnson, 18 months after doctors said he was shaken so badly his life was in jeopardy.

In November 2007, Henry's parents picked him up from Amy Dierks' day care and he was limp, lethargic and wouldn't wake up. A Minnehaha County jury found Dierks not guilty of abusing Henry last week. The family says doctors tell them Henry was shaken and he is now living with the consequences. But Baby Henry has come a long way and is one of the few survivors of shaken baby syndrome.

"He loves music.  He loves music and if ever he's fussy or anything, that's how we calm him down.  We sing to him," Henry's mother, Marissa Johnson, said.

When Henry Johnson sings to his parents, it's music to their ears because it's a song they thought they'd never hear.

"He is a living miracle that he's come out of it and doing so well," Marissa said.

After Steve Johnson picked up Henry from Amy Dierks' day care, doctors diagnosed him with shaken baby syndrome. And while he's a living miracle, his life isn't without challenges. The toddler sees four different therapists on a weekly basis, is blind, just started to crawl and is now pulling himself up to stand.

"Look at Henry now.  You can see that he has come so far with the excellent doctors he had, the nurses, the therapists.  We've been extremely fortunate that he's had the help he's had," Marissa said.

But Henry's head is also not growing as fast as it should.

"So we're praying that he's going to overcome that and at this point, he's still learning and he's still developing so that's what we're focusing on right now," Marissa said.

The Johnson family is also focusing on raising awareness about the dangers of shaken baby syndrome and changing state laws to protect children at day cares.

"You just have to know, know yourself.  If you are one of those people who feel angry or stressed or in situations like those. Know to put the baby down in a safe place, let them cry while you walk away and take a breath," Marissa said.

And right now, the Johnsons are the ones stepping back and taking a deep breath and enjoying every song Henry sings. 

"We're just happy we still have him and so many families that have gone through this don't have their baby anymore and we're fortunate.  We're lucky," Marissa said.

The Johnsons want the state legislature to help them raise awareness about shaken baby syndrome by tightening state laws. For example, right now in South Dakota you can care for up to 12 children at your home without having a state license; they'd like to see that number lowered.

For more information on shaken baby syndrome go to www.dontshake.org or www.aboutshakenbaby.com.

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