By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski
PENDLETON Kristine Weaver wears a chain around her neck with two baby rings hanging from it as a reminder of the two children she lost to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
Weaver lost her son Tyler 16 years ago. Within a year, she had lost another baby to the same baffling syndrome.
Today is National SIDS Day. SIDS is a medical term describing the sudden death of an infant which remains unexplained after all known and possible causes have been carefully ruled out.
According to the SIDS Network website, SIDS is responsible for more deaths than any other cause in childhood for babies one month to one year of age claiming 7,000 babies in the U.S. in each year.
The devastating effects of her children's deaths have not left her even after all the years that have passed. Weaver's goal, she says, is to help others who have gone through the same thing she has. Weaver is starting a support group one person at a time.
"There is nothing here in Eastern Oregon for SIDS' moms," said Weaver, who lived in Hermiston at the time of her childrens' death. "It is pretty much swept under the carpet here."
At 9 months old, Tyler was a healthy baby boy, happily playing with his toes. Weaver and her husband were planning to spend the night away from home the night before he died, leaving Tyler and older sister Haley with a babysitter.
Weaver says she decided she wanted to come home early that night. She didn't feel comfortable leaving her children overnight.
"Tyler wanted to play so I stayed up with him," Weaver recalled. "I put him to bed about 3 a.m."
The next morning Haley came into her parents' room. Weaver says she remembers thinking it seemed odd to have one child up and the other one not making noise to get up, as well.
"I thought, ?This isn't right'," she said. "I got up and he had the blanket pulled over his head. I touched him and knew right then and there he was gone."
With her husband performing CPR, Weaver waited for the ambulance to arrive. Because of the way their home was situated, it wasn't readily apparent where the house was. The 9-1-1 operator told her the drivers couldn't find her house. It was too late. Doctors estimated the time of death to be between 3 and 3:30 in the morning.
Weaver recalled the "horror of standing in the ER while doctors are telling us it's SIDS, but that was all they knew."
In 1992, when daughter Nikkole was born, Weaver certainly did not expect to have the same thing happen again. By the age of 3 months, little Nikki was gone. In both instances, she blamed herself, wondering what she could have done differently to prevent their deaths.
"It caused a lot of emotional issues being around babies, kids and friends who were pregnant," Weaver said. "There's always that thought in your mind."
Most SIDS babies die in the winter months when it is cold, according to Weaver. The child might have a runny nose or have an infection. Whatever the cause, the babies go to bed relatively healthy and don't wake up.
Weaver wants to talk to women who have had children die from SIDS if only to help assure them they are not alone. Her number is 541-276-1370.
"I had people come up to me and tell me they knew what I was going through," Weaver said. "It was frustrating. No, you don't know how I feel. You get to hold your children. Mine were taken away from me.
"It's a huge loss," Weaver said. "It's something I relive every year. My son would have been 16 in January. Nikki would have been 15 in September."
Visit www.sids.org for more information.
Karen Hutchinson-Talaski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.