Local neurosurgeon raising awareness about child abuse

Effects of abuse can be long-lasting

By Leslie Mouton - Anchor

SAN ANTONIO - We hear the stories far too often, children injured at the hands of an abuser. And while the abuser may be brought to justice and the stories may fade away, the damage done to the child will last forever.

Dr. Kimberly Terry is a pediatric neurosurgeon at The Children's Hospital of San Antonio, and far too often the brains she operates on are damaged by child abuse.

"Our trauma team is actually thinking about doing a study because we have so much of it here, unfortunately it's really rampant here in our community." Terry said.

Every month Terry operates on three to four children with brain damage due to abuse.

Terry showed scans of a normal brain. When compared to scans of a brain damaged due to abuse, the scans had patches of dark and light grey throughout.

"The darker areas are old blood - the lighter areas are new blood. It's actually on the outside of the brain and pressing on the brain and causing pressure. We also see dark areas that are showing early signs of stroke," Terry said. 

Doctors can tell the difference between an accidental injury and a case of abuse. Many times a parent or caregiver will claim a child was injured by falling out of a crib, or hitting their head during a fall. But the scans don't lie.

"The scans will show a chronic appearance of old blood that you don't see that in a trauma that just happened. They will often show repeated abuse in children." Terry said.

While she can save a life, Terry cannot reverse the damage. She wants to remind us all that a moment of anger in an adult can lead to a lifetime of struggle for the child.

"It's really sad to see a beautiful 12-month-old or 6-month-old child who is perfectly normal and is never going to see again, never going to be able to talk, never going to be able to walk," Terry said.

She hopes educating people about the devastating effects of abuse will give people pause before striking a child.

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