LETTER TO THE EDITOR | 40 years of helping parents through their darkest days

A REAL LIFESAVER: The funds raised by four decades of Red Nose Days has reduced the number of sudden unexpected infant deaths by 80 per cent. Photo: FILE PHOTO
A REAL LIFESAVER: The funds raised by four decades of Red Nose Days has reduced the number of sudden unexpected infant deaths by 80 per cent. Photo: FILE PHOTO

I wonder about him sometimes. He had dark hair like my parents. I like to imagine he would have had a piece of each of us in him. As grounded as my big brother, but with a mischievous side like my sister. He’s as strong and energetic as my middle brother and has the same moral fibre as my twin.

And from me, well I think he would share my delightful sense of humour and a touch of my imagination. If he were here today he’d be 35. But he’s not, and I’m left wondering.

My eldest brother died in his sleep before his life had really begun. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) stole him from us.

It’s something I dwell on from time to time. I shed a tear for the sibling I never knew and wonder where he would fit in my big, crazy family. But ultimately, I escaped a lot of the sadness. After all, how can you really mourn someone you never knew?

But for my mum and dad? First-time parents who lost their otherwise healthy son with no warning? The pain is unimaginable. My head spins when I try to understand what they went through.

To fight through the grief and the necessary but ugly police investigations, to make peace with the inevitable guilt, even though you did nothing wrong; and then to go on and become parents again - good, loving and grounded parents to five more children - well I think that’s as close to superheroes as I’m ever going to see.

But my parents had help. They stumbled across the Armidale branch of a then small, volunteer-run organisation called SIDA. Most of the members were also bereaved parents of children gone much too soon. They bonded together, provided support in their grief and expanded to help those who lost children to neonatal complications. 

Now known as Red Nose, their 40 years of research and education for parents on safely sleeping babies has reduced the number of sudden unexpected infant deaths by 80 per cent. That’s an estimated 9,450 lives saved. 

But with 3,200 babies and children dying suddenly and unexpectedly each year from causes including stillbirth, SIDS and fatal sleeping accidents, they’re not done yet. 

Every red nose, badge or toy bought this Red Nose Day paid for vital research into child deaths and support for bereaved families. 

With their research, every year fewer parents have to go through what my parents did. And every year there are less people left wondering about a child who never grew up.

Naomi Shumack

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