“I see him on the coffee table, legs apart”

It was in 2014. Almost three and a half months old, young Tom died after being abused by his nanny. For Yahoo, his father, MP Bertrand Gimonet, has agreed to tell his story, and hopes through his testimony to lift the veil on shaken baby syndrome. A cautionary tale.

Child abuse is still highly taboo and yet it continues to rage every year. Among the victims, Tom, a three-and-a-half-month-old baby, died in October 2014 from physical injuries caused by a “malicious” nanny. A trauma also known as “shake baby syndrome” (SBS). At Yahoo’s microphone, his father, the representative Bertrand Gimonet, agreed to participate in this drama. She candidly confessed her battle and also shared her painful rebuilding since the loss of her son.

“She was abused three times”

“No parent should have to see their child die in their arms”, in these words this father sums up the tragedy that has become a victim of his family. Her life turned upside down in September 2014 when she entrusted her children to a nanny, a certain Béatrice. As he went to look for them one night, he noticed an unusual fact. His son Tom is not in his normal state. “I hugged him and he threw up immediately”he says.

Find Bertrand Gimonet’s full testimony on our podcast

The next morning, he consulted a doctor who was reassuring. His throat was just irritated. According to him, it is a simple nasopharyngitis. Reassured by her words, she decided to return her two children to the nanny. But the troubles soon start again and Tom ends up in the hospital. Again, nothing alarming. A simple cow’s milk protein allergy, according to emergency physicians. The nanny returned to duty and three days later, everything was speeding up. On September 29, Bertrand Gimonet received the phone call that would change the course of his life.

“My wife was telling me that Tom was having a cardiac arrest. I came home and found him on the coffee table, his legs apart, his bare chest covered only in a diaper. A fireman was giving him cardiac massage, it’s violent”. His heart restarted and the doctor ordered the transfer of the little one to the Besançon University Hospital by helicopter. There, the ax fell. Bertrand understood, thanks to the explanations of a neuropediatrician, that his son was being mistreated, shaking several times.

His heart beat once, then the second time never came

Hospitalized for several weeks, the baby gets worse and worse. His brain is broken. Finally, after a great struggle, Bertrand and his wife agreed with the doctor to disconnect him. It was a long process of two and a half hours that he remembers being sick every minute. “In the first hour, Tom was breathing, he was very warm. He was in our arms”he said, full of emotion. “In the second hour, there were whistles. He had trouble swallowing. Saliva was starting to block his bronchi. His muscles were straining to take in air, it was getting worse and there was nothing we could do”.

Finally, as he explained, the last quarter of an hour was the worst. “He pulls a lot more into his lungs to breathe. He makes bubbles in his saliva, in his nose”he remembers explaining with sadness upon seeing the straight line of his heartbeat, announcing his end of life: “He breathed his last breath, his heart beat once, then the second time never came.”

“We have the will to fight”

From there, reality turns into a nightmare. Bertrand crashes but passes “warrior man” for “Understand what happened” and “identify who did what”. As she explained, the nanny quickly admitted the truth. Confessions that allowed this family to begin their mourning. Eight years after the tragedy, he and his wife admit that they have recovered despite the deep sadness that still surrounds them. “My husband and I love life, we have the will to fight”she explained, while pointing out that she always had heartache on anniversary dates. “It’s part of life, only time will allow us to erase our pain”. But a fair sentence is also needed.

“Someone who abuses a child should be banned from practicing for life”

After the tragedy, many questions remain unanswered. Bertrand and his wife “I didn’t expect an apology” but looking for answers. The trial was held on October 15 and 16, 2018 at the Assizes of Besançon. “We confronted him, we showed him that he didn’t win, that he had to live with this for the rest of his life.” After deliberations, the verdict came down but did not reach their expectations. In total, the nanny was sentenced to seven years in prison with a five-year practice ban. An incongruous sentence for Bertrand and his wife.

“Someone who knowingly abuses and kills a child should be banned from training for life”, he explained with enthusiasm. This is why, since the tragedy, Bertrand Gimonet has made it his hobby. In the National Assembly, this deputy fights to honor his son’s memory and does everything possible to ensure that someone who mistreats a child never has contact with him again, willingly or not. “Must be systematic.”

“It only takes an hour to kill a child or cripple it for life”

From now on, Bertrand wants to break the taboo of mistreatment through avoidance. Through various tools, he wants to inform the shaken baby syndrome to alert and prevent new tragedies. “Everyone has emotions, everyone has the right to be tired”, he admitted while offering some advice to parents and professionals who can’t manage their emotions. “You have to pick up the kid, put him downs his bed, safe on his back and left the room to regain his composure”. And add: “Getting this distance with the baby makes it possible to avoid an act of too much because it only takes an hour to kill him or cripple him for life”. And this, regardless of the force with which the child was shaken.

Find the full interview with Bertrand Gimonet:

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