“Even on his medicine, he keeps having seizures,” said the baby's grandmother, Patti VanOmmen. “But the doctors are aware. They are working on that.”
The 4-month-old Ferrysburg boy may look healthy on the outside, but he may always struggle from the brain damage he received when he was allegedly shaken by his father on Aug. 24.
Justin McIntyre, 23, is charged with first-degree child abuse and has been jailed on a $75,000 bond since the late-night incident.
Nothing changed following a pre-trial conference on Monday, so McIntyre will proceed to trial as planned Dec. 18, according to a spokeswoman from the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s office. A plea deal between now and then also remains possible, the spokeswoman added.
VanOmmen said she was glad the case was still in the news.
“The worse thing for me is, once things settle down, the aftermath is still there,” she said. “... People forget, until the next case and the next case."
Bentley’s family is settling back into a family routine, VanOmmen said. She said her daughter and Bentley's mom, Kaylee Zalsman, is under a lot of pressure.
“It’s a lot of stress for a young mom, but she has a lot of support," VanOmmen said.
Dealing with the baby's injuries is a big change for the 19-year-old mother who went from a family with two full-time incomes to spending the majority of her time caring for her child, VanOmmen said.
Zalsman has returned to college, but continues to live with family members so she has help with Bentley and expenses.
Bentley's care is being covered by Medicaid, but Zalsman still has rent, car payments, school bills, food and other expenses related to getting her child back and forth to doctor visits two or three times a week.
VanOmmen said her daughter understands the importance of finishing school — she’s studying to be a medical assistant — so she can properly care for her son.
A gofundme.com site has been set up to help Zalsman take care of those expenses. VanOmmen said they also have "Prayers for Bentley" bracelets available for sale through the website.
While she said she's uncomfortable asking for money, VanOmmen said she’s not shy when it comes to raising awareness about child abuse.
The family has been selling T-shirts that have a footprint and the words “Prayers for Bentley” on the front. The back reads, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child. Stop child abuse.”
The shirts are currently sold out, but their message needs to stay in everyone’s mind, VanOmmen said.
“Maybe more people would get involved, step in and intervene to prevent something like this from happening to someone else," VanOmmen said. "That could be the one shot that saves a child’s life.”
Despite the seizures and motor skill issues on his right side, Bentley “progresses in small, little ways,” VanOmmen said.
“Overall, he’s happy," she said. "He smiles a lot. A couple of weeks ago, he rolled over for the first time.”
VanOmmen said one of the bigger milestones has been getting the infant to bring his hands together in the center of his body. He’s also starting to get some teeth.
VanOmmen said she wished young parents had to go through a licensing procedure so they would know more than the basics about how to care for a child.
"There’s options out there for parents,” she said.
One of those options is the Children’s Advocacy Center of Ottawa County. For information, call Leigh Moerdyke at 616-396-2301, ext. 127.
The center is also promoting a DVD, “The Period of Purple Crying,” which talks about why babies cry, when the peak crying stages are and how to deal with it.
To see the video, click here.
“(The video) explains that there are these significant periods of crying,” said Amy Dalman, an educator with the Children’s Advocacy Center. “If all of their needs are being met, it’s OK to put them in a safe place and walk away if you are frustrated.”