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12 Years After Being a Shaken Baby, Girl Now Has Chance at Recovery with Cutting-Edge Therapy

“I don’t know if I really believed if this therapy was going to work,” Julie said. “I say that because once we got there, the first week she was saying all these new things … but she kept doing it. When I saw her standing, taking a couple steps while just holding her shoulders, I was seeing it and I almost couldn’t believe it.”

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – In the days after tiny Olivia Taylor was shaken and critically injured at the hands of a babysitter, Julie Taylor was told her 5-month-old daughter likely would not survive.

Fast-forward 12 years. Olivia’s abuser was convicted and sent to prison. While Olivia has beaten those early odds, the brain damage she suffered left her with severe disabilities.

A student at Lincoln School in Grand Rapids, Olivia needs a wheelchair to get around. She also needs her mother’s help with daily tasks like eating, brushing her teeth and putting on her clothes. Julie, a single mom, said she’s tried to create a happy life for her pre-teen, surrounded by loving family members.

But she believes her daughter now has the chance to thrive, if she can continue receiving the cutting-edge Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and the intensive Physical Therapy using the TheraSuit Method. The catch? The $12,000 treatments are not covered by the family’s insurance.

In August, Olivia began what could be monthly treatments at the Oxford Recovery Center in South Lyon, where pressurized oxygen jumpstarts her body’s stem cell production.

So far, Julie has seen small victories. She says Olivia is starting to balance on her own, and has been more aware of her surroundings and more social in recent weeks.

“I don’t know if I really believed if this therapy was going to work,” Julie said. “I say that because once we got there, the first week she was saying all these new things … but she kept doing it. When I saw her standing, taking a couple steps while just holding her shoulders, I was seeing it and I almost couldn’t believe it.”

The physical therapy Olivia receives helps to increase her strength, balance and coordination, while accelerating her motor skill improvement.

Olivia undergoes about three hours of physical therapy and 90 minutes of hyperbaric oxygen therapy five days a week. In September, she had two weeks of treatment. This month, she is booked for three weeks of treatment.

While Olivia is in therapy, Jule and her daughter stay in hotels or rooms through AirBnB. With room costs, rent at home and food on top of the $12,000 per month treatment fee, Julie is looking for financial help and has started a GoFundMe page.

https://www.gofundme.com/hopeoliviat

Olivia receiving a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treatment

Their Darkest Day

About four months after Olivia’s birth in 2003, Julie, then 29, went back to work. She had found a 9-5 job and a state-licensed daycare provider, Diane Robinson, to watch Olivia.

But just three weeks into the arrangement, Robinson called Julie at her new job to tell her something was wrong with Olivia. Julie left work for Robinson’s home. When she arrived, she picked Olivia up and noticed that her daughter’s arms went limp and she began having seizures.

Olivia was taken to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for a CAT scan. Robinson continued to call non-stop; Julie assumed this was the daycare provider’s way of expressing concern. The CAT scan showed swelling and bleeding on Olivia’s brain, leading doctors to believe she was hurt intentionally, most likely by being shaken.

Julie was questioned. She wondered if her strap-on baby carrier could have caused her daughter’s injury. But investigators told her that was not possible and she was cleared. Bouncing a child or a minor fall are not enough to cause the injuries associated with shaken baby syndrome.

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome estimates there are 1,300 cases of shaken baby syndrome each year.

As authorities investigated Olivia’s injuries, suspicion fell on Robinson. Julie said the daycare provider changed her story more than once while talking to police about Olivia’s injuries. Robinson told authorities she tripped and landed on the baby, then said the infant fell out of a swing.

In June 2005, Robinson pleaded no contest to first-degree child abuse, insisting the whole ordeal was an accident. She was sentenced to prison.

Judy Mulder, an Ottawa County senior prosecuting attorney who worked on Robinson’s criminal case, said the maximum penalty for first-degree child abuse has since been increased to life in prison.

“(The cases are) sad all around and the results of shaking a baby are lifelong for the parents,” Mulder said.

About 80 percent of shaken baby syndrome survivors suffer brain damage and permanent disabilities, according to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Mulder said she remembers Julie Taylor as a prayerful person who believed her daughter would eventually recover.

“She was so hopeful of a full recovery,” Mulder said. “She was always insistent her daughter would be totally well.”

A New Hope

Julie believes the new treatments her daughter is receiving could get her closer to that goal. She hopes Olivia will reach at least 50% independence.

“We have so much love and joy,” Julie said of the life she’s built with her daughter. “Sometimes I’m bitter, but most of the time I’m happy and thankful. Even before we found out about this treatment, we were happy.” 

Julie and Olivia Taylor read a book at their home.

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