Seconds of abuse, a lifetime of struggle after father shook daughter causing brain damage


Note: Cross posted from [wp angelfury] Mothers Global Justice Alliance.




Last updated 05:00 24/08/2009



shaken baby


KISSES FOR CAITLYN: Bevan Matthews' mission in life is to help his granddaughter, Caitlyn, four, lead as full a life as possible despite her multiple disabilities.

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It takes $20 million per child to care for a shaken baby, and a lifetime of love and commitment as two brave Christchurch grandparents have discovered.

Caitlyn Matthews was a healthy, bubbly baby, until her father, Christopher Matthews, shook her.

Christopher Matthews was sentenced to two years and nine months jail in June for assaulting Caitlyn in September 2005, when she was only three months old.

The Christchurch father left Caitlyn with severe disabilities she is visually impaired, cannot talk or walk and requires constant care.

Now aged four, she lives with her grandparents, Bevan and Kay Matthews. It is the second marriage for both, and they had planned to spend their retirement cruising in a converted bus and playing indoor bowls.

However, nearly four years ago they brought Caitlyn home and gave up work to care for her. Soon, they will apply for full custody of Caitlyn.

The seconds it took to shake Caitlyn changed their lives for ever, and those of their family.

Bevan Matthews, 60, said he could no longer bear to be in the same room as Christopher, one of his three children.

"When I am in the same room as Christopher, I can't talk to him."

Kay Matthews said her husband's biggest problem was "getting his head around the fact his only son did that damage to his only grandchild".

Bevan Matthews said his son has a short fuse and violent temper, but they never saw Caitlyn's assault coming.

During their visits shortly after she was born, Caitlyn was bright and bubbly.

"As she got older, we didn't get to see her as much. She was often in bed, so we weren't catching up with any visual changes," he said.

"Had we seen her, we would have noticed she was getting lethargic and unhappy."

The Christchurch couple did not know anything was wrong until Caitlyn was flown to Auckland's Starship Hospital in September 2005.

It was only when Caitlyn returned to Christchurch Hospital and all her visitors were supervised by Child, Youth and Family, that they realised there was a police investigation under way.

It was believed she would not survive, and Caitlyn was sent home in October 2005 to spend her final days with her grandparents.

"We were told to inform the police when she died because she was evidence," Kay Matthews said.

But Caitlyn defied the odds with a lot of love and care at her new home.

"She's a real tough fighter," Bevan Matthews said. "The medical staff are amazed and say it is due to the love we give her."

Rather than wrapping her in cotton wool, the couple decided Caitlyn's life would be full and social and they strive to keep her active.

She attends mainstream kindergarten, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy and Christchurch's Champion Centre, which helps children with multiple disabilities.

Caitlyn's arrival has been a huge upheaval for the couple. Their unfinished bus sits in the back yard and their days and nights are now filled with caring for Caitlyn.

They know her requirements for care will stretch beyond their lifetimes, but Bevan Matthews hopes he can care for his precious grandchild for at least the next 15 to 20 years.

"I wouldn't have wished this on anyone, but we enjoy it and I have no regrets," he said.

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