SIDS—A Parent’s Daily Fear
“The sudden, unexpected death of an apparently healthy baby is probably the most poignant and devastating event that can overtake a young couple—yet in Western society it is also the most common kind of infant death after the first week of life.”—Professor Bernard Knight, Sudden Death in Infancy—The ‘Cot Death’ Syndrome.
IT WAS 4:00 a.m. of December 22, 1984. Ken Eberline poked his head into the bedroom to see how seven-month-old Katie was doing. Little Katie was the firstborn pride and joy of Ken and Tottie, who were in their early 30’s. The baby was sleeping peacefully. Ken left the house. He had a long drive to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to teach a seminar.
Tottie got up at 7:30 a.m. and went to see how Katie was. Katie was strangely silent. Tottie looked again, touched her, and immediately knew the worst. Katie was dead. She had died of crib death, or SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). This sudden, silent death creeps up on thousands of families every year.
A Compassionate Medical Examiner
How did Tottie and Ken react to their loss? Tottie told Awake!: “As soon as I realized what had happened, I called 911, the emergency services. The paramedics and the police arrived in haste along with a medical examiner. They were all so kind and compassionate. Of course, doubts rushed to my mind—what had I done or failed to do that could have caused this?
“The medical examiner calmed my fears. He explained that he had lost a child in the same circumstances nine years earlier. ‘There was nothing you could have done to prevent it,’ he assured me. ‘Even if you had been standing by the crib with a monitor, you could not have saved her.’ He added: ‘You cannot anticipate it and you cannot prevent it. In certain cases, everything just shuts down at once, and at present there is no way of knowing the cause.’ I am sure that his remarks saved me from a lot of guilt and self-incrimination.”
How did Ken and Tottie cope with their loss? A later article will answer that. But there are other questions to which every parent of a young baby wants answers: What causes SIDS? Are there any warning signals? Is it preventable?