Friday, December 14, 2007

Baby lost to SIDS spurs mom into action

Kure Walters wanted to raise $1,000.

But as she says, "someone" had more in mind.

Walters knew last spring she had to channel the grief of losing her 6-week-old daughter to sudden infant death syndrome into something positive, but her initial efforts opened more doors than she ever expected.

Walters and friend Detria Elsner, who lost her child to SIDS 10 years ago, eventually staged a fundraising dinner that netted $15,000 for the SIDS-affiliated nonprofit First Candle.

Now Walters has developed Sunshine Baby into a Tampa Bay affiliate of First Candle.

Over breakfast at Mimi's Cafe, I talked to Walters about her efforts.

Pull up a chair and join us.

ERNEST: What prompted you to channel your grief into action?

WALTERS: When my husband and I lost our daughter, we had - within minutes - people from our church the Crossing, family and friends at our home. They were a remarkable outlet and resource for us. They surrounded us. Every life has an impact, whether it's six weeks, 20 years or 80 years. Instead of looking at it as though we can only grieve, we're celebrating that she was here for six weeks and then figuring out what we can do to help other people have a healthy, coping bereavement process.

It sounds like your faith helped you.

Definitely. I fully believe God never left me. I don't feel God forsaked me, my husband, my family or my daughter. I believe that he chose a time for his daughter to come home. Who am I to question that? He gave me her for six weeks and he's given me two other boys. What more can I really ask for? Some people try their whole lives to have children and I have three. I'm very grateful and I hold on to my faith very seriously.

What's been the reaction from people you've reached out to?

It's really hard when you go and talk about infant death. People don't want to talk about the death of an infant. It's not pretty. It's just like doing something for children with cancer. At the same time, I've found there are a lot of people who had lost children to a miscarriage or stillbirth or SIDS. They just didn't talk about it because they didn't have anywhere to go talk about it. They didn't know how to talk about it. They were more willing to step in because they had this happen to them or they knew someone it had happened to. We had a great response.

What do we know about SIDS? From what I can gather, it's still a mystery.

First Candle launched the "back to sleep" campaign because they felt babies were lying on their stomachs and suffocating in the crib, or the crib bumpers were suffocating them. So they advised putting them on their backs so they aren't rolling over and getting their faces in the mattress. But as we've gone through medical research, we've learned a baby can just stop breathing. There have been cases where babies have been in car seats, someone has just taken them out of the hospital, and they stop breathing in the car.

What else have we learned from research?

They're finding that the brain is smaller in SIDS babies. Some people also believe crib mattresses are made out of materials (that can cause babies) to stop breathing. Some people think it's sleep apnea and the baby is not able to adapt to this world. There's a lot of different theories. That's why medical research is imperative.

It must be encouraging to know there has been some progress.

There were a great amount of deaths that were happening a few years ago. It was well over 5,000 in the country and it dropped down to about 3,000 and now it's around 2,500 a year, which is great. But that's still 2,500 children a year, and that's still 2,500 families that are suffering every year. I didn't know about SIDS before I lost my daughter. I went from a happy mother to a statistic.

Do you and your husband want to try again?

We would like to have at least one other child - boy or girl - it doesn't make a difference. We want to make sure our children are okay with it because it was a shock to them. I have accepted my daughter was gone, but for me everyday is accepting it all over again. (My choice would be) to have three children. (But) I have two here and another waiting in heaven.

DESSERT: A postscript from Ernest

One of Sunshine Baby's primary goals is to establish a resource center where parents learn about grieving as well as get information about prenatal care. For information or to make a contribution, go to .


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