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Ryan's Story

by Charlotte Sweeny

Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998

Ryan died just as he started to discover his world. He was smiling for us, was locking onto our gazes and was taking note of his surroundings. In retrospect, this new stage of alertness might have been a symptom of a brain that was developing too rapidly. We'll never know.

I have a picture of him on my desk, taken the very morning that he died. He looks so beautiful, so bright. I wonder if he knew. I wonder how I could NOT have known.

On Sunday, May 17th, he started to come down with a cold. He was only a little stuffed up but it was enough to make it hard for him to eat and hard for all of us to sleep. We woke up on Monday and made an appointment with his pediatrician. I had read the books, so I knew the doctor was likely to tell me to get some saline nose drops to free up his stuffiness so that I could suction his nose, but I figured I'd wait for him to tell me what to do before buying anything.

Sure enough, the doctor gave Ryan a clean bill of health, nothing but a little cold, and suggested we get the nose drops. I picked them up on the way home but never got a chance to use them. At home, I took Ryan in the house in his car seat and left him sleeping while I made a couple of phone calls and grabbed some lunch. When I checked on him a few minutes later, I noticed that his color was off and it sank in that he was not breathing. I tried to start CPR. I called 9-1-1. My neighbor, a fireman, ran over and successfully started CPR. The fire and rescue crew arrived in minutes. But it was all too late. Within ½ hour of leaving the doctor's office, Ryan was dead.

Ryan was with us for 6 ½ short weeks, only 42 days. He has been gone for four months now. I wish more time had passed. I wish this year were over. Time definitely helps. It changes the shape of the pain. Makes it more round, smoothes the edges.

We were aware of SIDS throughout my pregnancy, but thought it was something that happened to parents who put their babies to sleep on their stomachs. After all, news reports often used the word "prevent" when talking about SIDS. So if we took good care of Ryan and put him to sleep on his back, we could prevent SIDS from touching our lives. Or maybe it was even child abuse. There were stories of that nature in the news during the time I was pregnant. With my new awareness now, I find most news stories about SIDS to be irresponsible and sensational. But at the time, we didn't know. So we were blind-sided when Ryan died. He was not high risk. He was full-term, 71/2 lbs., slept on his back, was not exposed to smoke, and on and on. But I don't expect that there are any SIDS parents who were NOT blind-sided when their baby died. Babies are supposed to be loved and to thrive. Babies are not supposed to die.

I wish that the buck could stop here. That Ryan could be the last baby to ever die of SIDS. But, unfortunately, in the time I have taken to put my thoughts on paper, another baby has died of SIDS, another parent's life has been changed forever, another infant marker will appear at the cemetery.

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