She shrieked and called for her mom who tried to do CPR, but only knew how to perform it on adults. Then Keston, who had ta ken an infant CPR class, took over. As she gave rescue breaths, Benjamin’s color turned from gray to white, and he started barely breathing.
The ambulance arrived in less than five minutes and paramedics told Keston she had saved her son’s life with her quick thinking.
He spent three days in the NICU at California Pacific Medical Center. Doctors performed tests that provided no clue to the cause. Keston had her own theory: the Percocet given to her for pain after delivery transferred into her breast milk and then into Benjamin’s system. But the doctors said they couldn’t prove that theory.
They told her there was nothing she could have done differently at home. Benjamin was nearly a Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) case.
When Keston looks at her now 5-year-old son, she knows how lucky her family is. “He’s in preschool. He loves building, playing with his sister, swimming and puzzles,” she says.
But many families don’t have this happy ending.
SIDS refers to an infant death that can’t be explained after a thorough investigation, which includes examining the scene of the death, autopsy and clinical history, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). While 70 percent of infants who die of SIDS have some type of brain-stem abnormality that affects things like heart rate, breathing and the ability to wake up, there’s no proof they died from these health issues.
Thanks to the Back to Sleep campaign, which encouraged parents and caregivers to put babies to sleep on their backs, the number of cases has declined by more than 50 percent. Still, SIDS remains the third-leading cause of infant mortality and the leading cause of postneonatal mortality (28 days to 1 year of age).
Some startling evidence came out of a report done by the AAP Task Force in 2011. After forensic teams started examining more closely beds and other areas where infants died, it was discovered that many of these deaths could have been prevented. Deaths that would have once been classified as SIDS were now being attributed to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed (ASSB) and “ill-defined and unspecified” deaths, according to the Task Force report. In fact, the number of ASSB mortality rates more than quadrupled between 1984 and 2004, from 2.8 to 12.5 deaths per 100,000 live births.
“For a long time, accidental suffocation has often been attributed to SIDS, but it’s been hard to get proof,” says Eric Zee, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland. “I think there’s a lot of accidental suffocation, but it’s very hard to prove a cause or relation.”
All of these abrupt infant deaths have been given a common term: Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). It’s used to describe any sudden and unexpected death (including SIDS), whether explained or unexplained, that occurs during infancy. It can be attributed to suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, infection, ingestions, metabolic diseases and trauma.