MADISON (WKOW) — A former nurse who abused infants in a Madison hospital neo-natal intensive care unit was sentenced Thursday to thirteen years in prison.
Christopher M. Kaphaem, 44, pleaded guilty in September on 19 felony charges.
Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky sentenced Kaphaem to 13 years in prison followed by seven years of extended supervision on one count of child abuse - intentionally causing great bodily harm.
On the other 18 counts, Karofsky sentenced Kaphaem to three years in prison, followed by three years of extended supervision. That sentence will run concurrent to the other sentence.
Parents of victims testified Kaphaem's actions made them paranoid over allowing anyone other than family to care for their children, and wracks them with guilt for failing to protect them.
"Guilt: that's all I'm left with," the mother of an injured boy said. "As I was moving toward the parking ramp to go and see my other three kids, I had one of the NICU nurses's reassuring words to ground myself: 'This is the safest place to leave your baby.' "
"My belief and trust in health care is shattered," another injured boy's mother said. "We feel betrayed."
"You put your trust in me to care for your most precious loved ones and I failed you," Kaphaem said.
Kaphaem offered no explanation for his actions.
Audio of a police interrogation of Kaphaem shortly after the February 2018 discovery of the series of injury cases with the infants was played in court. Kaphaem denied hurting any patient. "I'm not rough with the babies...I don't mistreat them," Kaphaem told interrogators.
"He knows exactly what he did to these children," Deputy Dane County District Attorney Matthew Moeser said.
Kaphaem was suspended from UnityPoint Health - Meriter Hospital when authorities first suspected his involvement with patient injuries.
A criminal complaint describes a variety of injuries to infants in Meriter’s NICU between March 2017 and February, including a child identified as Infant 1. “Fracture to his skull, a wrist fracture, and a left humerus fracture,” the complaint against Kaphaem states.
Kaphaem had been a nurse at Meriter for fourteen years. He previously worked at UW Hospital. A source with knowledge of his employment says he was fired.
Karofsky praised the parents of victims for their resiliency and dedication, and tried to reassure them. "You are good parents," Karofsky said. "This is not your fault."
Parents say the victimized infants have recovered from their physical injuries, but they worry about potential, long-term impacts.
"The only solace in all of this is my son - Infant #4 - constantly reminds me how to be strong," the mother of an injured boy said. "He's endured and overcome so much. He's showing me the way."