A mother in Iowa who tragically lost her son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is now working to try to protect other babies from the same fate. Elisha Palmer, a writer from La Porte City, Iowa, has started a foundation in her son's name to try to lower the number of deaths from SIDS, which is the leading cause of death among babies 1 to 12 months old. Palmer started a foundation to prevent more parents from losing a baby to SIDS, and it's all because of her little boy, Knox.
In December 2016, Palmer’s 3-month-old son, Knox, suddenly died in his sleep, according to People. She said there were absolutely no warning signs that anything was wrong with her child, and she and her family were totally devastated by the loss. She told People:
He was completely healthy. He just went down for a nap and didn’t wake up. There was nothing that would have been a red flag. We did everything we were supposed to do.
But that's unfortunately how SIDS works. According to the Mayo Clinic, SIDS is the unexplained death, often during sleep, of a supposedly healthy baby less than 1 year old. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, back in 2015, there were around 3,700 sudden unexpected infant deaths in the United States, and about 1,600 of those deaths were due to SIDS.
Palmer explained to People that she had heard about an advanced baby monitor that tracks a baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels — and that although she considered getting it, she ultimately didn't purchase the item. Now it is her goal that no baby go without the device, because she thinks it may have helped prevent Knox's death if she had bought one.
Palmer started the Knox Blocks foundation, as well as a Facebook page in her son's name, to raise money to give away the high tech monitors she now wishes she’d had, and to raise awareness about SIDS and about how the monitors may help stop it from happening to other babies.
Because the CDC reported that, though the cause of SIDS is not known, "it appears that SIDS might be associated with defects in the portion of an infant's brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep." So, presumably, if a baby were wearing a monitor like the ones Palmer is trying to give away, a major change in breathing would be registered and would alert parents who could get help before it's too late.
Of course, there are other things parents can do to try to lower the risk of their child dying from SIDS, and risk factors that every parent should be aware of just in case. For example, recent studies have shown that babies born prematurely have three times greater the risk of dying from SIDS before their first birthday, according to The Daily Mail. The co-author of one study, professor Barbara Ostfeld, who is the program director of the SIDS Center of New Jersey, told the publication:
While we can't undo a preterm birth, we can help compensate for the accompanying elevated risk of SIDS by helping families adopt the beneficial practices that include putting an infant on his back to sleep and keeping the sleep environment clutter free.
And while those are excellent practices for any parent to adopt, Palmer's efforts will hopefully help to make a change as well. It may be too late for Knox, but in the wake of losing him, Palmer and her family have raised more than $33,000 for their monitor give-away effort to help other families.
And now, the company that makes the devices, Owlet, has agreed to match what Knox Blocks raises dollar-for-dollar. Together, Palmer's family and the company have already given away 100 monitors.
According to People, the foundation has an application process in which every family explains why they want one of the baby monitors. And Palmer said reading the applications can be very emotional, but also rewarding. She told People:
One of our moms that we donated to — her first son was in her arms when he took his last breath. She has another baby who was also born premature and we’ve given her some relief. It’s the greatest feeling. I feel like this is Knox’s legacy. He’s touching so many lives.
The fact that Palmer withstood such an awful loss, and turned her efforts to something so amazing to help other families, is really remarkable. And if her efforts mean less babies die of SIDS, that's an even more amazing, wonderful thing.