Sharing her story to save lives

Don Heinzman
ECM Columnist

Once you read this story, you’ll never shake a little baby violently.

Tami Revering, of Coon Rapids, is paying the price for shaking the 4-month-old son of her best friend in an uncontrollable moment three years ago, she told ABC Newspapers staff writer Olivia Koester.

What’s more, Revering is willing to share her story of shaken baby syndrome with others including high school students, young mothers and families in crisis, ones who are at or have been at their breaking point.

She remembers well that day in November 2010 when she was at a breaking point, exhausted from a sleepless night of caring for her close friend’s baby, Anders. She fed him his bottle, laid him down in his crib and laid down to rest.

Anders started to cry. Revering sat on the couch for a few minutes trying to calm herself and told herself he was safe in the crib, to leave him alone. She got up, went to the crib, picked him up and shook him and threw him down on the bed twice.

Something told her she was hurting him, but the dark side won.

Immediately Revering dialed 911 for help, the baby was rushed to a hospital and lived. Paramedics later told her Anders most likely would have died had she not sought help.

Anders is subject to seizures, controllable with medication, and has a few lifelong learning disabilities. Anders’ mother sometimes accompanies Revering for her talks to high school girls, but their friendship is not the same. She updates her on Anders, now 3, and sends photos. Revering and her husband have three little boys of their own.

Revering is so sorry she shook the child.

Her message is powerful.

“No one is immune to shaking a baby. You need to know the breaking point, and you need to know when to ask for help. Never hold a baby when you are frustrated,” she said.

After Revering’s talks, mothers tell her they did not realize what to look for in their newly postpartum days. They are surprised to learn first-hand that it is more dangerous to shake a baby than it is to drop the child.

Revering is learning to cope with her consequence with the help of a psychiatrist and therapist. If she goes a few weeks without giving the talk, she feels a little ache in her heart that she’s missing something and needs to speak publicly again, she said. You can email her at [email protected] or call her at 763-498-1831 (evening calls are preferred).

There’s an understandable difference in Revering’s friendship with Anders’ mother, Angie. Imagine, they graduated together from the University of Minnesota, Duluth; their husbands still are buddies and participate on the same fantasy football draft, she said. Before the incident, the families were inseparable, but Revering said this spring they were not ready for their families to meet again.

Angie saved Revering from years in prison. The judge sentenced her to a year in jail on staggered terms in the full month of June, which is Anders’ birth month, and 15 days in November, when the shaking happened.

Telling her story gets a little easier each time.

If the story can help save a baby’s life, it’s worth telling, she said.

Don Heinzman is a member of the ECM Editorial Board.