WICHITA, Kan. — April was Child Abuse Prevention Month but KAKE News is continuing the discussion this month, hoping to raise awareness.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of abuse that's hard to quantify because so many cases go unreported.
Rarely do we see the aftermath of this act, but one mother hopes sharing her son's tragic story might help save others.
A baby's first step for most children is simply another milestone. But for one-year-old Gabriel, it's a goal many thought he would never accomplish.
"Any achievement for a child is awesome, but with him it's like overcoming Mount Everest," said Gabe's mother, Briana Stoner.
At three months old, Gabe became a victim of abusive head trauma - also known as Shaken Baby Syndrome.
"I just get flashbacks to seeing him so bruised, he was nothing but a bruise. Or seeing him so swollen I couldn't see his eyelashes," Stoner said. "No parent should have to see their child like that."
A CT Scan revealed he had a subdural hematoma, as well as retinal bleeding and a liver laceration.
"They kept telling me he wouldn't make it overnight, he wouldn't make it the next couple of days, and he continued to fight and be strong and proved them all wrong," Stoner said.
Gabriel may have survived the abuse, but everyday he faces barriers and complications as a result. He wears a helmet to protect his fragile brain. He also has problems with his vision as well as a mild form of cerebral palsy. Because he is so developmentally delayed, he goes through extensive therapy.
"We work on lots of things," said Gabe's physical therapist, Pam Chiles. "We work on walking and talking and learning how to use objects in his world."
"They say shaking shatters lives and it's not just for a few months," she continued. "For Gabriel it will be a lifetime of struggles."
Sadly, Gabe is just one of many children living with these daily consequences.
"There was one study out of North Carolina that predicts that possibly three or four babies undergo this abuse every day in the United States," said Dr. Amy Seery, a pediatric physician.
Doctors say one of the most important steps in reducing these cases is prevention. For example, before patients leave the hospital at Via Christi, they watch a video teaching proper handling techniques.
"It's that rapid back-and-forth high velocity, or the forcefully setting a baby down rapidly that causes some of the more devastating injuries," Dr. Seery said.
That split-second decision left Gabe with a lifetime of struggles that he's now working to overcome, one step at a time.
Gabe's mother did not want to identify his abuser, but that person was ordered to serve just 60 days in jail followed by 36 months of supervision.