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SIDS: A Mother's Story

by Deborah Mihalko

SIDS: A Mother's Story, appeared in the Fall 1996 edition of The Gold Cross, the magazine of the New Jersey State First Aid Council, as the follow-up article to the cover story, SIDS: The Anonymous Killer written by John Zasowski, MS, MICP, a paramedic at Hackensack University Medical Center. These articles are written for first responders. As such, they would be useful information to share, if an opportunity exists, with other first responders.  Written by Deb Mihalko, this story offers one parent's perspective of how first responders can impact a very tragic situation ... a SIDS death.

On September 15,1989 all my dreams became reality with the birth of my daughter, Margaret Joy. Our little girl had finally arrived after a very difficult pregnancy and delivery. Meg was a very content and happy baby. Her brothers Jay, ten, and Jon, five, loved their new roles as big brothers. They played with their new sister, and even took turns changing her diapers. Life in our household seemed charmed.

About a month later, I nursed Meg around midnight and put her in the same crib that both her brothers had slept in. At 6:30 a.m., I woke as I heard my husband Chuck getting ready to go to work. I became concerned when I realized that Meg had slept through her usual 2 a.m. feeding. My husband, certain that his little girl had just slept through the night for the first time, went to get our baby.

Chuck suddenly yelled: "Quick! Call 9-1-1! She's not breathing!" He then began CPR.

I dialed the numbers 911. I heard myself say: "My baby is not breathing." The local EMS unit responded within minutes and the paramedics were close behind. A paramedic grabbed Meg and ran with her to the ambulance. I was relieved: everything that could be done was being done.

A neighbor drove Chuck to the hospital. I couldn't leave as our sons were still asleep. I was thankful that a few of the responders had remained behind to assist me in any way possible. One woman asked if there was anything she could do to help. I asked her to put her arms around me and hold me. She cried with me. Her embrace gave me the strength to continue what I had to do. I will always remember her kindness.

I made arrangements for a friend to care for my boys and I began the longest, saddest journey of my life. When I arrived at the emergency room, it seemed unusually quiet. Across the room I saw a young doctor. To me he appeared very small, maybe because he was diminished with his own grief. He had tears in his eyes as he struggled to find the words to tell me what happened. In my heart I knew our precious Meg was dead. "You don't have to tell me," I said. "I already know. Please take me to her."

On a very large table lay my sweet little girl. She seemed so small, so lost and all alone in that cold, silent place. I picked her up and sang to her. With all my heart I wished for her to cry out or draw a breath, all the time knowing that I would never again share in what so many parents take for granted.

Months later we received a request from our local EMS group to share our experience, and more important, meet with those who had responded to our call. We were deeply honored by the request since we wanted to personally thank everyone who had fought for the life of our precious little girl. The meeting gave us the opportunity to embrace and cry with those whose lives had touched ours at a time when we needed them most. They had handled the situation in a non-judgmental, loving manner which set the tone for our recovery. Their support set us on a positive road to reaching the grief destination of "resolution" finding a way to incorporate the event in life and moving on. This does not mean forgetting but remembering with love.

I have told Meg's story hundreds of times in many different settings, but this is the first time I have put it into words on paper. I was unprepared for the emotional impact this process would have, even seven years later. Since you allowed me to share Meg's story, you too hold a special piece of her in your heart. You will carry her with you if you are ever called upon to respond to an infant death.

If there is such a thing as a positive scenario to such a tragedy, my family had one. The emergency personnel who responded to our call were kind and caring. They strived to attend to the needs of the entire family, and we are grateful to each and every one. This gratitude extends to all emergency responders who dedicate themselves to serving others in their time of greatest need. From the bottom, of my heart and the depth of my soul, thank you for all you do, and all the lives you have touched.

Deborah Mihalko
Ledyard, Connecticut

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