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1996 California State SIDS Conference

Comments from Attendees

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 11:07:48 -0700
From: Ned Balzer
Subject: California State SIDS Conference

Hi everyone,

This is Ned writing, and I'm here in Palm Springs at the annual state SIDS conference. Andy Beale (from Orange County Guild for Infant Survival) and I are hosting an Internet resources table here at the conference. Our mutual friend Debbie Gemmill is one of the conference Chairpersons.

Yesterday the conference opened with a brief video message from actor Beau Bridges, who is a SIDS sibling. Dr. Tom Keens gave a brief review of research findings which were presented this summer at the Fourth International conference in Bethesda. A highlight of his talk, for me, was his characterization that we could think about risk-factors for SIDS being "clues" into the nature of SIDS, as opposed to "preventive measures".

At the luncheon, Dr. Margot Martin, a retired coroner from Ventura county, was presented with the Boatwright Award for distinguished service in the fight against SIDS -- this award is named for State Senator Daniel Boatwright, who was instrumental in passing legislation requiring compassionate treatment of SIDS parents by peace officers and medical examiners, and mandating standardized autopsy protocols and death scene examinations in California. Margot Martin is famous for her words to medical examiners in the many trainings she has conducted over the past two decades: "Just ask the parents: 'Tell us about your baby,' and you will learn everything you need to know."

In the afternoon, breakout sessions were held in the areas of
* Grandparents' Grief
* Men's Grief
* Support for the Newly Bereaved
* SIDS Parents: Years Later
* Surviving SIDS: How Professionals can Help

A candlelight memorial service was held in the evening; the names of about 200 SIDS victims were read as we lit candles in their memory, and a flock of white doves were released which circled overhead, among the palm trees with the San Jacinto Mountains in the background.

Today the focus of the conference is an all day seminar on surviving, coping with and acknowledging grief, conducted by Darcie Sims, a grief counselor and bereaved parent.

What else can I say other than we wish you could be here also.

-- Ned

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 19:21:45 -0700
From: Debbie Gemmill
Subject: Re: CA State Conference

Thanks, Nancy and Debbie S. for your kind comments about the CA SIDS Conference. This was the biggest conference we've had yet, and the first year that it was planned mostly by SIDS parents. As co-chairs, Kathi Tripoli and I, along with a wonderful committee, worked hard to combine education with compassion.

I opened the conference with a sobering thought. Ty's 15th birthday was yesterday, October 22. Since his death, approximately 120,000 babies have died from SIDS. That happens to be the size of my city. I asked the audience to imagine what might happen if no one in my city woke up one day. 120,000 people just dead, with no warning whatsoever. What would happen? I think that there would be an immediate intensive investigation into what caused the tragedy. I think doctors, scientists, experts of all sorts would be called in to find the answer. I think there would be immediate and ongoing support for the victims' families. And somehow I don't think there would be any problem finding the money to do all of this (especially if it was an election year!)

But when a baby dies, even 120,000 babies, those things don't seem to happen. Perhaps it's because a baby's death is so silent.

Things are changing, and I do think things are better overall than they were that awful day in May 1982. We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

The theme of our conference was Living On, because that's the thing I--and all of you, know the most about since our babies died. The doves we released during the memorial service symbolized our hope for the future and our knowledge that the love we shared with our children lives on.

Ty's birthday was yesterday. He is still here.

Debbie Gemmill

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