Confidential Conference on the Causes of Sudden Death in Infants 2016

In Short Stories by Meg Sternbee0 Comments

“The Hanson case shows no apparent infection, but both the medical examiner and leading investigator specialized in SIDS cases assert the evidence verified a minor respiratory infection in the infant and his parents may have known, however the daycare in which the child attended and died at, have specific guidelines for parents to keep children home if sick. We have reason to believe there was a barrier in communication due to the sensitivity of the subject.” A frown meant to portray sincerity sags the face of Dr. Anne Douglas. I’m not sure her swan like neck will maintain fidelity for her head.

Dr. Jay Bartell coughs, miffed by the previous monologue. “No parent wants to believe they had anything to do with their child’s death, however, you cannot assume a parent wants to remain in denial and therefore ambiguity. You want a mother to face the fact that the belief of law enforcement and the medical community sugar coated the truth about SIDS merely to save her from guilt?”

“I mean no such assumption. I state only that with the evidence at hand, it’s difficult to determine whether or not the Hanson baby died of unknown causes—therefore SIDS or, as the coroner deduced, a respiratory infection that led to a weakness in constitution.” Finally, some juice squeezes out of this unripe bunch. I’ve been waiting all morning while these doctors, lawyers and law officials walk on the surface of issues, moving ever so slowly inward. Thin ice begins to crack.

“What about the theory that the child’s sleep pattern was disturbed at a key point in his development by being placed in day care? Could we not argue that this is a social issue, one that demands we see those families with two working parents as an increase risk of SIDS?” Kimber’s children’s book on bereavement has become a bestseller, instigating a strong self-worth in her expression. I’d like to splash cold water in her face to see if she becomes unpleasant. So far she’s the quintessential of grace and good manners. I’ve never really got along with people like this and I am determined to interview her privately before we are let off the boat.

“What I find most peculiar is this idea that we are searching for a definition of an obstructed situation—one whose answer may wipe out its very existence.” A young doctor, whose reputation is still in its genesis has a voice neither pompous nor naïve, simply provoked, looks upon his fellows with amusement. I already know he is in the “SIDS does not exist” camp.

“Isn’t that what we are trying to do? Solve the mystery of this horrible occurrence with hope of diminishing its impact?” Kimber, uncharmed, tightens her mouth. Awe, so there is life under all that veneer. Later I would learn she and the greenhorn physician were making hay and that this fact might be the reason for her switch in tone or maybe it was the just bright lights.

“Yes, Ms. Franz, but in the majority of cases all we will accomplish is shifting blame, possibly to a new more horrendous cause. The idea that SIDS is lessening only means previously undefined symptoms are shifted around and redefined. Take the Bailey case, their doctor and coroner ruled out suffocation. They did everything right. The infant was breast fed and slept on her back, occupying her own crib in the parent’s room. Mrs. Bailey stayed home. The child was past a year by two months. The doctors found nothing unusual save for thymic changes, which often indicates infection.”

I turn my head around when a new voice comes from the back of the room, one I am familiar with from scouring U-Tube videos. “I’d like to address the matter of vaccines.” There is a series of grunts and shifts. Metal chairs screech against the floor. My pen is poised. “We cannot ignore this issue. If we do it could get out of control. There’s new research relating gene malfunction with SIDS. One impairs an infant’s ability to process fatty acids, inducing the sudden and fatal interruption of the heart. The other is an electrical disorder resulting in meteoric heart beats.”

“How does this have to do with vaccines?” Dr. Douglas glowers.

“If you would let me finish…”

“By all means…”

“Genes are what help us engage in activities, they are the codes by which our actions and thus ourselves are created. If we are given a bit of a virus our body has never heard of and we have an infection or weakness in health due to any number of circumstances, maybe this effects how our genes operate. Maybe it pushes some to suicide, for newborns this could mean death.”

“I’d like to say something. Thank you, Stacy, for that lovely concept however, I think the cause can be simplified—though genes may still be affected. If I am correct, MDADD and QT only account for less than 15%, am I accurate? Yes. What I mean, before I forked, we may be looking at an unhealthy level of serotonin due to a brain stem abnormality. We have learned of a study done on mice proving an overproduction of serotonin can lead to a SIDS-like death in the rodent.” A thin-lipped women with short cropped blonde hair and an expensive suit sits down.

“Could it be that vaccines were the cause of SIDS prevalence in the 70’s and 80’s but the improvement of vaccines decreased the deaths in the 90’s in conjunction with new information on the prevention of smothering?” The young doctor looks directly at Stacy when he speaks.

Dr. Bartell exhales. “We need to refrain from turning this into the mystery of the century. There is not going to be one answer. Like cancer, each case is as individual as the body it attacks.”

“Let’s not forget why we’re here to begin with.” A bearded man who has not spoken before and who I do not remember seeing since we boarded the cruise ship proposes, “In order to confirm the validity of data, we must accurately and consistently define SIDS.”

“I agree whole heartedly with this Mr. Hughes.” Dr. Douglas pipes up, her long neck looking more elegant than ever. My point is that we cannot assume there is no cause just because of initial perplexities.” These docs speak like they are being filmed for an annual fundraiser or a political race and for a moment I think this has all been staged for my benefit. After all I am the only journalist aboard, however getting on deck let alone inside was a bit of a pinky twister. This conference was designed to have open dialogue without worry of what might be printed and how each of their personal views might come to light and scar them. I have been sworn to secrecy. I am not allowed to write about anything I have heard here for 24 months. I wonder if by then others will have discovered the truth. This idea that some doctors want to abolish the title Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is going to take a lot of heat, especially from all those mothers who have lost babies in the past and who were told the fault lay in the hands of mysterious killer that would never be known. I have forced myself to have no personal position, yet I can’t help worry about all those parents who have lived with the idea that their child died of unknown causes and who are now going to be told their baby was defective. It would be like having a child kidnapped and learning twelve years later they were down the street being kept in someone’s basement. Ok, maybe not that drastic, but I’m having a hard time with this concept that people actually want to know what is going on. To this day, most individuals do not consent to science making a specimen of their loved one’s corpses. They don’t want to believe what actually caused their death. They want to believe it is something romantic and untreatable such as heart failure rather than obesity.

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