Baby's Rare Disease Mimics Child Abuse & Devastates Family

Mom Moment 99

baby feetNobody likes to be accused of something they didn't do. My 6-year-old gets mighty indignant when I point the finger at her for something the dog was responsible for (or at least she says it was the dog). So imagine the false accusation was child abuse. And it was levied at you.

Even in the context of a hypothetical, the thought makes me angry. But for William and Tiffany O'Shell, this wasn't a hypothetical. Their sweet baby girl Alyssa had been taken away and placed in a foster home because X-rays found 11 broken bones in her 3-month-old body. Only it wasn't child abuse ravaging her body. It was a rare disease.

Spinal muscular atrophy eventually killed little Alyssa O'Shell in October 2008. But four months earlier, burdened by the accusation that he was the type of evil creature who beats an innocent baby, her dad had killed her mom and then himself.

The story is back in the headlines this week as Tiffany O'Shell's family fights with child protective services to admit they were wrong and change their practices to prevent future tragedies. And it's put a new spin on the mommy wars. Why do we fight so much? Because the job of raising and protecting a human being is a privilege and being called a bad parent is a hurt that cuts deeper than any insult.

I want to be clear here. I mean no disrespect to those who choose to be child-free. But even they were raised by people who had an incredible responsibility. They -- we -- were sent home from the hospital with a little person who was completely unable to fend for themselves. This isn't a goldfish that can die and be flushed down the toilet, replaced with an identical fish before the kids wake up.

This is a human being, and what's more, we created this human being. We are to blame for putting them on this planet, knowing full well that they would be dependent on us. It's a job you sign up for knowing full well you can never quit.

Now imagine yourself in William O'Shell's shoes. You have done everything right. You are a loving, giving, devoted parent. And not only is there something wrong with this precious person, but people think you did it, that you brought this life into this world and then did the unthinkable. You failed.

The O'Shell murder-suicide was a horrible tragedy. But I don't know a parent out there who can't understand why it happened.

What is the worst thing you have been accused of doing to your kids?


Image via Jen and Jim S/Flickr

baby health


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nonmember avatar Lord K

And yet some American women have no qualms at all making false accusations of abuse when things aren't going there way in the courts...

nonmember avatar Kyla

Such a sad story, but even that doesn't condone taking your wife's life (and your own). If he knew he was innocent, he should've stayed strong. His baby was still alive when he committed the murder/suicide, and if I was innocent, I would fight for her! I can't imagine taking my own life with my child still in the world, authorities would figure out that they were not guilty of child abuse eventually. So, so, sad though. Rest in peace all =[

GirlN... GirlNamedBillie

I get paranoid about the bumps and bruises my 3yr old & 1yr old get thinking someone will believe I actually abuse them, especially since we recently moved into a new home with a fenced backyard they're getting triple the bumps and bruises, lol. I can't imagine what these parents went through. I really can't.

Mommy... MommyMeggyG

And there are children who really are being abused and no one does anything about it :( It's such a messed up situation all around

Prett... PrettyGirlMyers

How incredibly heartbreaking, I can't even imagine how devastated I'd feel if this happened to me.

Zyva Zyva

I've heard of this disease before and almost similar circumstances on it, likewise the idea of Shaken Baby Syndrome has changed in the past few years but a lot of people are still accused of it. 


The worst we've been accused of .. was something reather heinous. We invited my cousin and her family (Three boys) to join us for a weekend at Disneyland and staying at my families beach house at Newport Beach.  The kids had all gone down to the beach and gotten rather dirty and so my husband went in with my daughter (6 at the time) to the bathroom and closed to door to clean sand out of her hair, and my son ran through the house naked to get to his luggage which I told him to do. 

From those two instances she determined that my kids were 'weird' and 'clearly being sexually abused' and that my husband of 10 years is a 'sexual pedophile', and she would not stop until my kids were taken away. 

But I called Social Services and said "Hey my cousin is accusing us of this" And they said not to worry, sounds like a Dad being a dad and that my cousin has some issues already with filing false reports. However, those few days seemed like forever, and I was near petrified of what would happen if they believed her. 

butte... butterflyfreak

Lord K, woman are not the only ones to make up abuse stories when things are not going their way in court, some men do it, too.

Kyla, while I agree that he should have stayed strong, there really wasn't any guarantee that they would have been cleared of abuse charges and even if they charges were dropped, his name would have still been sullied by those charges and it would have followed him around forever, to the point that they would have been under scrutiny if they had any other children.

GirlnamedBillie, I know what you mean, in this day and age a parent is almost afraid to take their child in for needed medical care because of the fear that someone will take one look at your child and think that you are the one to inflict the injury. Never mind the fact that kids are well-known for a lack of grace.

butte... butterflyfreak

Zyva, probably the smartest thing you did was be proactive and call them first. Even with your cousin's history of filing false reports, they still would have to look into it. I'm thinking you have probably stayed away from that particular family member since.

I wish people took the whole subject of child abuse more seriously and would stop wasting the government's time and resources with false reports. Every time someone files a bogus report, CPS has to waste time and manpower investigating, time that could be spent on an ACTUAL abuse case. That just makes me so angry that people are like that!

the4m... the4mutts

Butterflyfreak- totaly agree. People view things as "abuse" when they sooo often are NOT, that its bogging down an already strained system.

It doesn't help that there are women with a large public voice *ah-hem, thestir* who say things like CIO, swatting a kids butt, yelling at kids, etc... are abusive/inhumane/cruel.

It puts ideas into the heads of women who are already sanctimommies, that they are even better because they don't "abuse" their kids. They give a voice to false abuse, which undermines instances of actual abuse.

etk etk

the4mutts: stole the words right outta my mouth.

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