As soon as he was put into my arms, I vowed to protect him for as long as I lived. I don’t think a day went by where I didn’t tell him how precious he was and how much he was adored.
Four months and four days followed, with River being the light of our life. He loved anything but sleep, especially playing with his little blue elephant, dancing with his Nan to the Wiggles and walking in his pram along the beach… but nothing compared to his nightly baths where his chuckles could be heard echoing through the house.
On the night of Sunday 6 November, he was so smiley and happy as he was bathed, even though he was getting over his first little cold. As he fed, he slowly drifted off to sleep. I lay him in his cot and crept out of his nursery.
We had introduced River to his cot only two weeks earlier, as he’d begun to roll in his bedside bassinet and we were fearful of him rolling and falling. I was under the false perception that our visual/audible monitor would provide us with “bedside like” surveillance. This haunts me to this day.
River woke a couple of times, wanting cuddles back to sleep as normal and at 11.30pm I fed him again, popped him back into his cot, thinking it wouldn’t be long until he woke again.
I checked the audio-visual monitor and saw he was sound asleep; as an exhausted Mum I fell quickly into a deep sleep myself.
The next morning I awoke to sunlight streaming in through the blinds in our bedroom. I stared straight at the monitor thinking, why hadn’t River woken me earlier?
My Mum had arrived from the UK just a few months before and was living with us, so I assumed she had got up to him to allow me to get some much needed sleep, as I couldn’t see him on the monitor screen. I thought I’d better check they were ok and wandered out into the lounge. The rest of the house was silent and I rushed into Mum’s room. She was fast asleep… I screamed at her ”Mum, where’s Riv?!” As she woke, startled, I rushed out of her room.
I approached his cot and stood frozen. River had moved up from the foot of the cot, but was out of view of the audio-visual camera. Still on his back, his face was turned away from me. I touched him in a panic and instantly screamed for help.
This scream will forever haunt Karl and my Mum.
Our little man, the light of our life, the most precious thing in our world, had died, sometime between 11.30pm and that morning.
This was on 7 November 2011. River was just 128 days old.
Our beautiful baby was healthy, happy, loved immensely and slept safely. How could this have happened?
The days that followed were a blur as we planned our baby’s funeral. There were times where I couldn’t see how I could carry on or if the tears would ever stop.
We had it confirmed by the Victorian Coroner that River was a category 2 SIDS case. Along with approximately 40% of SIDS babies, River had an inflamed trachea, which comes with the common cold. This was by no means enough to be a cause of death.
There were no external risk factors present in River’s cot and he was on his back when I discovered him cold and lifeless. Following the forensic autopsy, it wasn’t found that he had any virus or organ defect. River was healthy, strong and perfect in every way.
So now we need to discover WHY this happens. We have to make sure that our future generations don’t suffer the loss that we have, and that we put River’s name up in lights for eternity as a symbol of hope for the prevention of sudden and unexpected infant death. My baby’s death will never remain as purely a statistic. Our cause is River’s gift to the world.
Alex Hamilton | Director of River’s Gift