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Grandfather mourns loss

Jessica Klinkinburg
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - A Yellowknife man says he wants to raise awareness towards shaken baby syndrome now that it's suspected his infant granddaughter died from it.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Paul Matwiy's granddaughter Emilia was taken off life support Aug. 4. It's suspected that she was shaken to death. - Jessica Klinkenberg/NNSL photo

Paul Matwiy was stuck in Yellowknife while his daughter buried her four-month-old baby, who was taken off life support in a Calgary hospital Aug. 4.

A funeral service was held for little Emilia Elizebeth Matwiy in Calgary yesterday. Matwiy's daughter and Emilia's mom, 22-year-old Jessica Matwiy, was supposed to be getting married on Saturday but the wedding was cancelled.

"None of us were there for her when she needed us," Paul said.

"(Jessica) was breaking down, she couldn't understand what was going on."

According to newspaper reports, Jessica noticed something was amiss July 31 after coming back from a doctor's appointment and picking her baby up from a caregiver.

Later that night Emilia appeared pale and listless.

"When my daughter woke up in the morning...(Emilia) was this colour, white, in the crib," said Paul.

"Her eyes were rolled back in her head, not responsive to anything: sound, touch, anything. Just totally not responsive."

Jessica took the baby to a medical clinic where staff called an ambulance. At the hospital doctors said Emilia had brain damage and was not expected to live.

Calgary police were called in when the hospital staff ruled it a suspicious death.

Homicide Staff Sgt. Kevin Forsen of the Calgary police department is investigating what is a suspected case of shaken baby syndrome.

"The investigation will continue," said Forsen.

"Right now we're waiting for the autopsy results to determine what happened and that will dictate the direction of the investigation."

He said no one has been arrested and only interviews have occurred.

Autopsy results will not be available for three weeks to a couple of months, said Forsen.

Paul Matwiy said he feels angry at the thought that his granddaughter was shaken to death.

"This, for me, is like a mission," said Matwiy. "I want to raise awareness."

The impact of the case has had a strong effect in Calgary too, Forsen said.

"A suspicious death of a baby is very difficult for everybody involved: medical personnel, investigating officers and first and foremost with the family."

According to a study conducted by the Canadian Shaken Baby Study Group in 2004, shaken baby syndrome (SBS) is a form of abusive head trauma and accounts for 95 per cent of fatal or life-threatening injuries attributed to child abuse cases.

SBS occurs when a baby is severely shaken, which causes damage to the spinal cord, and intracranial damage.

Fifteen to 27 per cent of children that are shaken die due to the injuries. The majority of survivors suffer from serious neurological consequences and require long-term medical care, specialized education, and adaptive housing among other things.