CULVER CITY (CBSLA.com) — Life felt nearly perfect for parents Eric and Angela Weingrad when they completed their family by providing their young daughter, Stella, with a new baby brother.
When their newborn son, Holton, was 11 weeks old, the couple decided it was OK to leave him in the care of their nanny, who had been with them and watched their daughter for the past two years.
It was the first time she had ever watched the infant on her own.
As the Weingrads describe, they had gone to the mall, to buy Holton Christmas clothes.
“We were no more than seven steps into Nordstrom when her phone rang,” Eric said.
Eric grabbed Angela’s cell phone and heard the frantic behavior of the receptionist from their apartment complex on the other end.
” ‘Your son isn’t breathing, he is on his way to the hospital right now, and you should go there,’ ” Eric heard her say.
Upon arrival at the hospital, Holton was in a hospital bed, crying uncontrollably.
“He was making these weird guttural sounds, and his eyes were rolling back and he was clenching his fists,” Eric said.
Doctors had determined that Holton, who was not even three months old at the time, was having seizures.
“The next time we saw him, he was completely unconscious. He looked like a science project,” Eric said. “He had wires all over him, he had a breathing tube. It was the worst sight of my life. ”
As it turned out, Holton had suffered a cracked skull when he was admitted into the hospital. He had experienced a traumatic brain injury and had temporarily stopped breathing. The couple’s nanny came by the hospital a few days after the initial ordeal, and what she had to say shocked Holton’s parents.
“She says she left him on the couch, and she left the room and heard a ‘bang’ and came back out, he was on the floor and he was crying, and she picked him up to soothe him, and she rocked him, and he just stopped breathing,” Eric said.
After a nine-month investigation, the District Attorney’s Office decided not to press charges against her, despite the fact that the family believes she was negligent. Ultimately, Holton’s injury was ruled an accident.
“He can’t track, he can’t hold things, he can’t hold his head up,” Eric said. “He is almost a year (old), and he can’t sit up. He is not comforted by our voices. When we hold him, it’s like he doesn’t know he is being held.”
The Weingrads are now on a mission to prevent this from happening to other children.
My advice to parents is to be diligent,” Eric said. “Put cameras up. Don’t be afraid to let your caretaker know, like, ‘I’m watching you.’ ”
Child safety experts say that before hiring a nanny, parents should request a birth certificate, Social Security card and a driver’s license or state identification. They should then confirm that all personal information matches. Parents should also confirm the home address with a utility bill, and ask for recent references, calling all of them.
Experts also recommend parents visit the home of the references to confirm they actually have kids. Do a criminal background check, and ask the caregiver to sign a waiver that you can run their name at local police departments for records.
“If I am a parent, and I am hiring a nanny, and I go to this list and I see that this woman was involved with an injury with an 11-week-old, and his skull was cracked and he mysteriously stopped breathing, I am probably not going to hire her, and that may save my child’s life,” Eric said.
Holton turned 1 earlier in October, and his parents threw him a joint birthday party with his 3-year-old sister. Family members took turns cuddling and holding Holton, and though he is unable to walk, despite his age, he is alive.
“Our son is never going to be the man he was born to be; it can’t happen,” Eric said. “But, I believe he is going to be someone he was meant to be, meaning I believe he’s going be someone who inspires change in this world.”
The Weingrads started a Facebook page shortly after Holton was injured, The Incredible Holt, to update family and friends of his progress. The page has more than 8,000 followers, and the family says they hope their story helps other families dealing with traumatic brain injuries.