Shaken Baby Prevention Education launches at Northland DHB

Vicky Hei with Jaysha, 11 – a survivor of Shaken Baby Syndrome.(Photo: John Stone)

Jaysha was born a healthy baby but, at four weeks old, was shaken by her father and, from that day, her life took on a different path. 

Jaysha suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome – the result of a single shake. A single shake can cause brain damage, blindness, paralysis, deafness, seizures, broken bones and delays in normal development and even death.

To help prevent this Northland DHB today launched an education programme that empowers parents and caregivers with the skills to protect their children.

All caregivers that visit the Special Care Baby Unit, the Children’s Ward and antenatal services will receive the Shaken Baby Prevention 10-minute education session incorporated into learning lifelong skills, such as CPR and safe sleeping.

Jaysha’s mum, Northland DHB staff member Vicky Hei, was first alerted to the difference in her daughter as soon as she returned from work that day and heard her high-pitched cry. 

“As soon as I got to Jaysha I knew something was wrong, she had no colour, was limp and her eyes had diverted to one side and were flicking.

“I tried to breastfeed Jaysha but she wouldn’t latch on so I kept asking what has happened here,” says Vicky. “Dad just repeated his story and said I should wait a while, that baby would come right.”

Jaysha didn’t ‘come right’ and the next time she received food it was through a tube at ICU.

The diagnosis was that the injuries Jaysha had sustained were the equivalent to having had a very bad car accident.

The true story finally came out and Jaysha’s Dad admitted that he had shaken his daughter. 

“From that moment on, our life changed forever,” recalls Vicky.

Jaysha was left with right side hemiplegia and developed severe epilepsy, having up to 15 seizures every day. Her development was delayed significantly in terms of learning to walk and talk.

She was taking up to 10 pills per day to reduce the amount of seizures she was having.

“She always looked sedated and the spark in her eyes had gone. Jaysha endured a lot of knocks and bruises from falling, tripping up and her drop seizures.”

Last year Jaysha had major surgery on her brain to stop her having seizures.  Since then she hasn’t had a single seizure, which has completely turned her life around.

“She is a gutsy kid and has a strong bunch of friends who include her as much as she is able,” says Vicky.  She is full of colour, life and has some big aspirations.

“Our message is never, ever shake a baby and be careful who you leave your baby with. Never leave a baby with anyone who might lose control - it’s okay to walk away.”

Every year in New Zealand, on average 20 babies under two are admitted to hospital with injuries after being shaken, and around five die. 

The Shaken Baby Prevention Programme is a component of the National Violence Intervention Programme, and it is included in Violence Intervention training provided to all frontline Northland DHB staff.


  • Crying is how babies communicate – this can be very frustrating
  • It’s okay to walk away
  • Never, ever shake a baby
  • Never leave baby with anyone who might lose control
  • Share this information with everyone
  • If you think baby’s hurt, seek medical help at once

National co-ordinator for Shaken Baby Prevention Kati Wilson, Vicky Hei and Shaken Baby Prevention project manager Karen Towns at this morning’s launch. (Photo: Liz Inch)

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