Three years ago, Amanda Hall received a photo via text of a baby hooked up to machines in the ICU. It was her three-month-old nephew, Jeffery. 

At this stage, no one knew what had happened to Jeffery – only that he was bleeding in the brain and fighting for his little life. 

Amanda, who had lost contact with Jeffery’s mother (her sister), a month earlier, raced to the hospital to be by her nephew’s side. Since then, she has rarely been without him.

In fact, Jeffery is now her son. This is their incredibly brave story of infant abuse, recovery and adoption.  

Disclaimer: This story contains details of infant abuse which may be upsetting for some. 

Jeffery’s story begins while in utero,” Amanda tells Love What Matters. “His birth parents were unprepared and not, by any means, interested in becoming parents. Abortion was mentioned but they decided to continue with the pregnancy.”

After a rough pregnancy, Amanda’s sister gave birth to a bouncing baby boy with a clean bill of health. For the first weeks of his life, Jeffery lived with his mum and his grandmother as Jeffery’s mum battled mental health issues and Jeffery’s father had drug addiction problems. 

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A beautiful baby boy. Source: Love What Matters (

However, Jeffery’s mum eventually moved her and her baby into the father’s house. 

They lived in the basement next to the furnace and water heater. Jeffery did not have a nursery. He didn’t even have a crib. He only had a little rocker chair in the corner of the room.

I wasn’t ready for what I was about to see

Amanda lost touch with her sister during this month. However, on September 5th 2019, she received a photo, in a text message of a baby in the hospital. 

As soon as I found out I dropped everything, left my job, and drove over an hour to be there with Jeffery.

I wasn’t ready for what I was about to see. I still remember the smell of saline and alcohol as if I was there. The beeping and the sounds of the machines working to keep my nephew alive still haunt my dreams. Yet this was only the beginning of his story.”

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Amanda soon discovered Jeffery was the victim of infant abuse. Source: Love What Matters (shaken baby syndrome)

shaken baby syndrome

The details surrounding what had happened were hazy. Amanda’s sister explained how Jeffery was with the father, working on a farm, while strapped in a baby carrier. 

She stated he had bleeding on the brain and they had no idea what caused it.”

The truth started to slowly trickle out. 

On this particular day, my nephew had only just turned 3 months old, barely old enough to lift his head, and whilst being in a chest carrier on a tractor plowing hay, lost consciousness.

He stopped breathing. My sister’s boyfriend noticed something was wrong and got off the tractor. He removed Jeffery from the carrier and ran to his boss who was able to perform CPR to get him breathing. Shortly after this the ambulance arrived and rushed him to the hospital where he was put on life support.”

Later, Amanda would discover that her nephew suffered from Non-Accidental Head Trauma, aka Shaken Baby Syndrome.

There was no way the damage caused was accidental. The neurologist explained the injuries my nephew had sustained were similar to the damage a small child would receive if they went through a windshield from a high-velocity car crash.”

Fighting this fight alone

As upsetting as it was to see Jeffery fighting for his life, Amanda was also heartbroken that her nephew’s parents didn’t seem to care. 

My sister had not let on, in any way, that she and her boyfriend had any knowledge of the abuse. I did find it odd neither of them was attentive or even concerned about Jeffery at this point. 

How were these two ‘parents’ not a wreck? How were they able to smile and laugh while this little angel laid there in pain, scared for his life? These are the questions I will never get answered.

No one will ever know what was going through their minds besides them. But one thing for sure was Jeffery was fighting this fight alone.”

Jeffery remained in the hospital for three weeks. Jeffery had sustained blunt force trauma to the head, resulting in a detached muscle and hemorrhaging in Jeffery’s right eye.

He had two tubes draining two different bleeds from his brain – one that occurred around a week ago, and one that occurred several weeks earlier.

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Jeffery suffered from not one, but two brain bleeds, suggesting this wasn’t the first time he was abused. Source: Love What Matters.

It would be a long road to recovery. 

Fostering Jeffery

After that first day of being with Jeffery, Amanda knew that she couldn’t let her nephew fight this battle alone. She went back home to her husband, who had cystic fibrosis, and her eight-year-old son, Peter. After a lengthy discussion, they all agreed that Jeffery needed to be with them. 

When she arrived at the hospital the next day, CPS was there. They had removed the parents from the hospital. 

My sister had confessed to throwing my nephew, stating she had raised him above her head and threw him on the bed multiple times over the past few weeks.

She said she was tired and he wouldn’t stop crying. She would later recant the statement, saying she was forced to confess because the investigator was too intimidating.”

Jeffery needed a foster carer and without a doubt, Amanda put her hand up. Jeffery came home with a G-tube and a left eye patch. He needed medication for acid reflux and seizures and still had stitches on the top of his head. 

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Jeffery’s physical injuries took months to heal. Source: Love What Matters

He also had a lot of fear, from nightmares to not wanting to be lifted above my head. For example, when being taken out of a chest carrier he would scream.

Amanda quit her job to care for Jeffery, as well as her husband. Jeffery had several appointments every week with the hematologist, gastroenterologist, and ophthalmologist, to the neurologist and neurosurgeon. For several months Jeffery suffered infantile spasms, sometimes over 100 times a day.

‘I wouldn’t give him up for anything’

The brain bleeds had severely delayed his development but they got PT and OT on board immediately.

Progress was slow but he worked hard every day to gain on his development. Two months went by and he was making small strides at improvements.” 

As Amanda took on the role of foster mum to Jeffery, a court case against Jeffery’s biological parents loomed. They were meant to have scheduled visits with Jeffery but they rarely showed up. 

Covid also hit and, tragically, Amanda lost her husband in April 2021. 

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Amanda’s husband Brandon loved Jeffery like a son. Brandon passed in April 2021. Source: Love What Matters

After Brandon’s passing, we made due with what we had and tried to rebuild our lives. We were in and out of court fighting for my sister and her boyfriend to have their rights terminated. 

Adoption was now the best option for Jeffery. [He] was already where he belonged and I wouldn’t give him up for anything.”

14 months later, on June 1st, 2022, Jeffery’s adoption was finalised.

Jeffery, Amanda and her new partner, Steve, on adoption day. Source: Love What Matters

Despite the losses and struggles of the past few years Jeffery, Peter, and myself are able to wake up every day knowing we are loved and have a family. We are safe. Jeffery will never be hurt by anyone ever again. 

Jeffery continues to beat the odds every day. He might not meet society’s standards; he may not look like anything special to you. But to me, Jeffery is amazing! Jeffery will always struggle to catch up with others his age, but I will be right here pushing him to be all he can be. Jeffery is the best of us all and deserves the world. Jeffery is my son and I’m so proud to finally be his mum!”

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Amanda with her two boys. Source: Love What Matters

Amanda shares her brave story in hopes to raise awareness for Shaken Baby Syndrome. She started Life Personalized as a way to bring this message forward and hopefully aid in the prevention of SBS. A portion of the proceeds are donated to charity. 

Amanda’s sister is still with her boyfriend despite several instances of police-reported domestic abuse. Amanda does not have contact with her. 

It’s so easy to pass judgment on the parents but this is not why we share Jeffery’s story. We share his story to raise awareness for infant abuse head trauma and to remind the world that there is a lot of good out there – Amanda is proof of this. 

The truth about infant abuse head trauma

According to RACGP (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners) infant abuse head trauma is devastatingly common. A recent study into the incidence of AHT in Queensland found 29.6 cases of acute head trauma for which hospital admission was required per 100,000 infants aged 0–24 months and under per year.

In the United States, between 1200–1400 children may be injured or killed by shaking every year. More recent incidence studies in the USA have suggested rates of infant head trauma occurrence are approximately 10 times higher than that of the most common childhood leukaemia.

We shared two stories just this year of infants dying due to infant abuse head trauma. Jakobi Wilson was just six months old when he lost his life at the hands of his father and Ryan was just 10-weeks-old when his father lost control and shook him to death. 

Help is available. Please, if you or someone you know is struggling or you are concerned for a child’s safety please speak up.

Where to get help

 

Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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