From Sankei Shimbun, May 27, 1997, Morning Edition
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Report on Infant Fatality Cases Republished after 15 Years
A booklet entitled 130 Little Cries, an investigative study of fatality cases at childcare facilities, was recently republished 15 years after it was first published by a group of parents of deceased infants. The woman who undertook the task is Noriko Nakamura, owner and operator of a non-licensed day nursery, Mommy Home Childcare Service, in Hiroshima. What prompted her to take it upon herself was the sudden death of an infant at her nursery. (Motoko Hattori, staff reporter)
It was in July 1995 when an infant of four months died suddenly at her day nursery. There was a caretaker present in the nursery room, but the stoppage of the infant's breathing during his nap was so quite that nobody noticed it.
Two weeks later, she was told that the cause of death was sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is a fatal disorder that strikes apparently healthy infants with no visible warning signs. Although the death was not caused by an accident, the fact remained that a little life was lost at her nursery. Mrs. Nakamura says the sense of guilt almost deprived her of the will to continue working.
Hearing the words of the child's mother exhorting her not to forget the death of the child and not to make his death be in vain, Nakamura was resolved to become involved in SIDS prevention activities. That was when she discovered 130 Little Cries (published by the Association For Studying Childcare Issues So That Keiichi-chan Did Not Die In Vain, 1982).
In 1972, a 14-month-old baby Keiichi Azuma died at a "baby center" in Tokyo. The booklet reports results of 10-year investigations into 130 cases of fatalities at childcare facilities conducted by Keiichi-chan's parents and their supporters. The report contains indignant criticisms of government agencies and childcare facilities which merely skirted the issue and failed to draw any lessons from the tragedies.
"I wanted to make the material available to every childcare practitioner," says Nakamura. She took this wish straightforwardly to the parents of Keiichi-chan and asked them to grant her permission to reprint the booklet. She was prepared to face a refusal knowing that the Azumas might regard her as one of the "offenders."
On the contrary, the Azumas welcomed her request, saying that they had been hoping that nurseries which experienced SIDS take active part in SIDS prevention activities. With a help of the association, Mrs. Nakamura decided to send copies of the republished booklet to the Childcare section of all the municipalities in the country. Meanwhile, she published her own reports detailing her responsibilities and regrets, and has started answering questions from other childcare providers on ways of lessening the risk of SIDS.
"At present, there is no way to prevent SIDS from occurring. But if we find out what the risk factors are, and eliminate them one by one, I think we can lessen the risk of SIDS," says Nakamura.
Specifically, she lists five points to be observed, including not to put down babies to sleep face down, and not letting the bedding to cover part of the infant's face. She also suggests ways to detect SIDS early and deal with it appropriately.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, SIDS is the third most serious killer of infants under one year of age, claiming one baby for every two thousand births.
"Unlike ordinary homes, childcare facilities are dedicated to the task of nursing infants. As a childcare professional, I failed to live up to my responsibility of returning the infant fit and alive to his parents. My heart ached with the sense of guilt toward the family. I believe that what I have to do now is to relate my experience and what I have learned about SIDS prevention to other childcare professionals," says Mrs. Nakamura.
Copies of 130 Little Cries (700 yen) may be obtained from Mommy Home Childcare Service, Phone: 082-878-9219.
This article is translated into English by Mommy Home Childcare Service and reproduced here with permission of Sankei Shimbun. Mommy Home Childcare Service is solely responsible for the accuracy of translation. All acts of copyright infringement including reproduction, translation, transmission, republication, and distribution of this material without written permission of Sankei Shimbun, the copyright holder, are prohibited.