This isn't going to be one of my standard blog posts and for that I apologize in advance but this is going to be something near and dear to my heart and something that is a part of who I am as an adult, a sister, a daughter and a wife.
SIDS- If I say that how many actually know what it means? I know I didnt know what it stood for until I had to know. SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Technically the definition is known as cot death or crib death, is the sudden unexplained death of a child less than one year of age. Diagnosis requires that the death remains unexplained even after a thorough autopsy and detailed death scene investigation.SIDS usually occurs during sleep. Typically death occurs between the hours of 00:00 and 09:00.There is usually no evidence of struggle and no noise produced.
The only reason I even know about this topic is because my family went through this tragic event in February of 1999. Let me give you the backstory first.
It was December 1998. Our little family was complete. Mom, Dad, big sister-10 (Me), little sister0 4, and a newborn baby (Zackary). We had an newborn just in time for Christmas. things were perfect. Christmas came and went, everything was perfectly fine. Hit February 10, 1999 and everything changed. It was a normal day. Dad went to work, I was at school and sister was at daycare. Zack was staying with a family friend while Mom was at the doctors. I took the bus home from school like I did every day and my parents were driving beside me as I got off. They had me get in the car and the whole feeling in the car was off. When we got home they told me they had to tell me something. My mom looked at me and said that my brother Zackary had died. I looked at her at first shocked and told her it wasn't a funny joke. I saw the tears in her eyes and in my dads eyes and realized she was serious. My little brother was no longer with us. He was dead. He died. As an 11 year old thats lot to process. I remember being numb, but I also remember being there for my sister so that she wasn't aware of what was really going on. I needed to be strong for her because I was all she had at the moment. My parents were dealing with so many emotions, feelings, and having to help a 4 year old understand was something they didnt need.
I remember a wonderful older man Ward coming to the house to talk to us and try to help us understand more what happened. He tried to help my sister and I make sense of it. He tried to help my parents understand what happens from here. No one can tell you what to feel, how to feel, or how to react. We all react in our own ways and thats the only way that is right for us.
I remember not understanding how he just died in his sleep. I remember asking a lot of questions. I remember going to a therapist who helped me cope with what I was thinking, what I was feeling. I will forever be grateful to her for everything she did for me.
I want everyone out there to understand something. There is no reason for SIDS. There is no true cause. There is only sadness followed by it. My family used our voices for good and we started a non-profit and we tried to help families going through the same thing we went through. My mom spoke at SIDS conferences, we traveled to Canada. I went to Maryland for a SIDS walk. I have met some wonderful people throughout the years and I hope to continue helping into the next 20 years.
No one prepares you for having to go through the death of your sibling. As a child you should never have to have a memorial for your infant brother. You should be watching him throw his first baseball, his first football, get his first black eye, go on his first date, kiss his first girl, go to prom, and graduate high school. Those are the things siblings do with one another. Instead I only have my brother in my memories and in my brain. When I got married, my brother was there but he was watching over us, instead of being a groomsman. When my sister had her daughter our brother was there watching over her instead of holding his niece. We are so fortunate that yes he will always be with us, but trust me I would take a tangible brother any day.
Today as I write this is October 15, 2016. It is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day. Today we light candles all over the nation in memory of our babies that have left us way too early. Today we remember and we respect. We don't celebrate that they aren't here. We reach out to them so they know we are still thinking of them.
I didnt write this post to make anyone feel sorry for me or sad for me. I want everyone out there to understand SIDS a little bit more. I know when you are pregnant it isn't something doctors are going to come right out and tell you about. Who wants to hear about it when they are so excited for the birth of their baby. Unfortunately my family always thinks about it when we are around babies. When my brothers were born no one slept for the first year of this lives. We all had one eye open. I know when my sister had her daughter she was worried, but she didn't let it consume her. I just want everyone to take a closer look at their babies, and their children. Hug them a bit tighter tonight. Give them one extra kiss today. Say one little prayer extra. It doesn't hurt to do those things, because you never know when the last time might be.
I am starting to get back into the SIDS world. I want to help other kids who are going through what I went through. I want to inspire them that there is a future. They will be alright. They will move on with their lives but never forget. If you are a SIDS parents or a SIDS sibling please don't hesitate to reach out to me and I would love to chat. If you are wanting more information I am posting a couple websites that can help. I am also adding a few picture of my wonderful brother.
In memory of Zackary Shane Herkins
American Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Institute
CJ Foundation for SIDS