Greatest Fears: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

By KBJR News 1

April 29, 2013 Updated Apr 29, 2013 at 10:45 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Baby Lila was just five months old when she died. By her doctor's account she was a beautiful, perfect, baby girl.

"She was healthy and had not been sick," said Dr. David Hyjek, with the Essentia Hermantown Clinic.

The morning Dana Zakowitz dropped her baby off at daycare she had no worries. So when the babysitter called later that day she couldn't believe what she heard.

"Lila stopped breathing, she's not breathing, I called 911, they're taking her to St. Mary's; and I dropped the phone, I didn't even turn it off, and I ran out the door, I called Cory," recalled Dana.

"I was on the cook line with my manager and I got the phone call and he just, he just saw my face, and he said if you need to go just go. And I just walked out," said Cory Zakowitz.

The couple rushed to Essentia St. Mary's not knowing what to expect.

The nurse just came up and, she just came around the corner and hugged us," said Dana.

At the hospital Dana and Cory were hopeful because Lila had been such a healthy baby. She was meeting all of her development and growth appropriately.

Mom and Dad held each other as they waited for word.

"A few minutes later they came back and told us that unfortunately there was nothing they could do to save our daughter," said Dana.

"We just stayed there and held her and a lot of our family came by," said Cory.

"We held her hand while they stopped breathing for her," said Dana.

"Just a final good bye," Cory said has he began to tear up.

"We laid her down on the hospital table and it was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do was to not turn around," said Dana.

Their grief was unimaginable. To help with their recovery Dana and Cory looked for a SIDS support group.

"We found it was really difficult to find a group of people who had lost a child to SIDS specifically." Dana recalled.

What they did find was a lot of misconceptions about SIDS, some of it very hurtful.

"People would make awful comments to us, that we were bad parents, that SIDS was suffocation," said Dana.

Medical experts say SIDS is not caused by suffocation or choking or smothering or infant shots. It occurs unexpectedly and quickly to apparently healthy infants, usually during sleep.

"One of the leading proposed ideas is based on some of the studies of babies that have died of SIDS, is that there may be and abnormality with the nervous system; the part of the brain that controls the respiration and heart rate," said Dr. Hyjek.

Leading SIDS researchers are looking at the possibility that levels of certain brain chemicals may contribute to the problem.

"They found that some of these babies in that area have abnormal levels of Neurotransmitters like Serotonin," said Dr. Hyjek.

Dana and Cory have started the Northland SIDS Foundation to help with research and awareness and this weekend marched to raise money for that research.

"It was just really heart-breaking for us to lose our daughter and then to have people not understand what we were going through," said Dana.

They say the research gives them hope that other parents won't have to suffer a loss as terrible as theirs.

Boston Children's Hospital is a world leader in SIDS research, investigating the key questions about this mysterious syndrome:

A. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is one of the leading causes of death among infants one month through one year of age in the United States. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) defines SIDS as the sudden death of an infant under one year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene and review of the clinical history.

Some recent studies indicate that the underlying cause for SIDS is potentially a serotonin deficiency, along with one or two other risk factors, such as sleeping face down.

Q: How can I prevent SIDS from happening to my baby?
A: Unfortunately, many parents do everything right and still lose their baby to SIDS. Here is a list of things experts recommend to help reduce the risk:

* Place your baby to sleep on his or her back
* Do not let anyone smoke around your baby
* Make sure to get pre–natal care as early in your pregnancy as possible
* Place your baby to sleep on a firm mattress
* Do not leave toys, stuffed animals, or pillows in the crib with your baby
* Make sure your baby isn't too warm or too cold
* Brest feed
* Sleep near your child (in the same room), not with your child (in the same bed)
*Sucking on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS. One caveat — if you're breast–feeding, wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 1 month old and you've settled into a comfortable nursing routine.

SIDS is not caused by baby shots, suffocation, choking, or smothering.
SIDS is not caused by child abuse or neglect.
SIDS is not contagious.
SIDS occurs in families of all races and socioeconomic levels.
SIDS cannot be predicted or prevented and can claim any baby, in spite of parents doing everything right.

Barbara Reyelts