Karla Roy says her son Kyle is still part of her family, just in a different way.
In February 2011, four-month-old Kyle died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). He would have turned three on Oct. 19.
"He was perfectly healthy and it was a normal day," said Roy, 34, a perioperative nurse at Health Sciences Centre. "He rolled on the floor for the first time that day. We were so excited."
The couple checked on Kyle later that night, but when Roy and her husband, Scott, 42, woke up at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, the couple was "a bit panicked, but not overly alarmed" when there was no noise coming from Kyle’s room.
When Karla and Scott entered Kyle’s room, he wasn’t moving and had flipped onto his stomach during the night. He was stiff and grey and his arm was dangling through the slat in his crib, Roy said.
"There was no question in our minds he was gone. I screamed and put him on the floor and called my mom to come over and called 911. Watching the paramedics do CPR was a horrific sight. They carried him out in a little blue blanket," Roy said.
Noting her family also includes sons Derek, aged five, and 14-month-old Dylan, the south St. Vital resident said that being open about their grief is helping them move forward and raise awareness about SIDS and help break through the taboos associated with it.
"Our response is to be open about it, which is helping Derek. We’ve all been remarkably open about it. Kyle is still very much part of our lives. We try to include him in our family and we’re always talking about him. I have three sons and I’m still his mother, but my role has shifted in how I care for him. Maybe because he was here and he died means it will prevent another child from dying," Roy said.
To help increase awareness, promote dialogue and raise funds for SIDS research, the south St. Vital-based family will hold a charity event on Sun., Oct. 27 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Norberry-Glenlee Community Centre, located at 26 Molgat Ave.
The event will include consultants from companies such as Mary Kay, Tupperware, Norwex, Epicure, PartyLite, Scentsy and Cocodeen Jewels. There will also be a silent auction, bake sale and craft table, as well as Derek’s Kool-Aid for a Cause, where Roy’s son will be selling "a cup for a buck" from a specially-made stand.
"He came up with the idea by himself and wants to help in any way he can," Roy said.
She stressed that even if parents take precautions against SIDS, the unthinkable can still happen to anyone.
"I want people to be aware that doing the precautionary things to lessen the odds, it can still happen. I’m a nurse and I knew to not have bumpers, toys or blankets in the crib; always put him on his back to sleep; he was never around smoke and lived in a clean environment and he was also breastfed. For the most part, breastfed babies experience less illness," Roy said. "And there is still a stigma surrounding SIDS. Less so from me, as I’m a nurse, but a lot of people I’ve met consider it a huge stigma. I’ve heard general comments — not directed at me — like it’s a cover-up for murder, you suffocated your baby or sat on your baby. Unless we put in more effort to change that perception, it’s never going to change."
Organizers at the event will also be selling SIDS awareness wristbands and Empty Arms Foundation T-shirts. The non-profit organization was started by the family.
"We went searching for answers and found some promising research that might finally be able to explain how such a thing can happen," Roy said. "There’s new research that’s very promising and intriguing, so there’s a glimmer of hope."
For more information, visit www.emptyarms.ca