NICU nurse pleads guilty to harming at least 9 babies

Hospital staff documented injuries after complaints.

September 22 2019

According to the complaint filed in September 2018, UnityPoint Health-Meriter hospital staff documented sickening injuries including broken ribs, broken legs, bruising and a fractured skull.

Eight of the injured babies were born prematurely, the youngest as early as 27 weeks.

The complaint offered no explanation for why Kaphaem would intentionally harm infants. The father of one baby told investigators he had a “negative interaction” with Kaphaem after the father told the nurse his daughter’s bed was wet. The mother of another baby said Kaphaem “had made statements” to her husband about her son being fussy and crying.



UnityPoint Health-Meriter hospital

UnityPoint Health-Meriter hospital


Dr. Barbara Knox, a child abuse pediatrician, described the injuries she observed on one of the infants as bilateral forearm bruising and bilateral hand bruising. 

The infant that Knox examined suffered 17 fractures, including one to the skull and eight to his ribs. She stated that the rib injuries were “indicative of someone performing forces to that child,” describing them as “squeeze-type forces that are in way excess of any normal care.” 


Christopher Kaphaem

Christopher Kaphaem


The complaint also stated that nurse Karin Smylie observed one infant with bruises to the palm of the hand. “Never in my 32 years working in NICU have I ever seen anything like that,” she stated. Additionally, nurses observed that Kaphaem had also cared for an infant with low light behind closed doors and would frequently reject offers of help for care, reported Babygaga.

Christopher Kaphaem had worked at the hospital for more than 14 years.


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Crime /