Reports on July 1995 SIDS Ocurrence at Mommy

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Report No. 1
Date Prepared: July 24, 1995

Report No. 2
Date Prepared: July 15, 1996

This is an introductory note on the two reports listed above.

On July 24, 1995, I reported to you (Report No. 1) on the unfortunate event that had taken place a few days earlier. I am belatedly reporting to you below (Report No. 2) on what have taken place since then.

This second report is being mailed to those who were monthly patrons of our nursery last July but who are no longer with us.

For the information of our short-term patrons, this report will be posted on our bulletin board.

My apologies to those parents who became our patrons last August or afterward. I have not been able to discuss the details of the incident largely because of the ongoing discussions with the infant’s family.

Earlier I decided that, until I prepare a written report, I should avoid verbally relating the incident to my patrons since the tone of such talks is likely to be colored by the state of my emotions at each moment.

Please let me know if, after reading the report, you would like to receive further information on SIDS. I can supply brochures, Guidelines (500 yen), and booklets (200 yen / 500 yen) published by the SIDS Family Association Japan, as well as other materials. Please feel free to contact me about them.

Lastly, let me say a few words about my husband. He had given me strong moral support since the incidence of July 21. No longer able to stand by and watch me struggle by myself, he resigned his position at the company in January and joined me in my work at Mommy.

Although this decision was solely his, I felt bad about being the cause of his leaving his job. Fortunately, he was able to return to his former position in the middle of May through the kindness of his employer.

Although it was for a brief period, these months were valuable to my husband as he had an opportunity to come in close contact with the children and their parents. Let me take this opportunity to thank you on his behalf. He will be doing his utmost to back Mommy in the years to come. Together we seek your continuing support of our undertaking.

Noriko Nakamura
July 15, 1996

Report No. 1
Date Prepared: July 24, 1995
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Dear Patrons of Mommy Home Childcare Service:

On Friday, July 21, shortly after one o’clock, one of our caregivers discovered that an infant (aged four-and-a-half months) had stopped breathing.

A nurse immediately applied artificial respiration while an ambulance was being summoned. The ambulance arrived in about 20 minutes. Artificial respiration was resorted to continuously in the ambulance by two persons, and was thereafter continued frantically for a long time at the hospital– all to no avail.

The entire nursery staff grieved over the tragic outcome, and were deeply sorry for the family of the deceased infant.

Shortly thereafter newspaper reporters arrived at the nursery to gather information, some of whom heartlessly questioned if child abuse was involved. The caregivers who were involved in the incident made a valiant effort to hold back their tears and respond to the reporters’ questions, while continuing to take care of the children entrusted to them.

It was very hard for us to find that some newspapers made conjectures on the cause of death, and gave accounts which were contrary to facts.

The incident came as a great shock to the nursery staff since it was completely unpredictable. The authorities are working hard to identify the cause of death, but thus far they have not been able to do so. We pray that it will be found as soon as possible.

The funeral was held on Sunday. It was a very sorrowful parting.

We the nursery staff pray for the soul of the boy, the deceased infant.

As for myself, I believe that what I should do now is to deal with the family of the deceased with utmost sincerity, while making ernest efforts to continue caring for the other children who are entrusted to me.

I will go back to square one and start again in order to regain my customers’ confidence. I ask for your warm support and understanding.

I would also like to apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced–while at the nursery collecting your children–when newspaper reporters tried to interview you.

On the day of the incident, I was unable to provide my customers with an adequate account of what happened since I was preoccupied with pressing matters at hand. Please accept my sincere apologies.

This brief report is an attempt on my part to provide an account of the sad incident.

With a Prayer,

Noriko Nakamura
Mommy Service Day Nursery

Report No. 2
Date Prepared: July 15, 1996
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Dear Patrons of Mommy Home Childcare Service:

On July 21 last year, the precious life of a four-month-old infant was lost at Mommy Home Childcare Service.

Shortly after one p.m., a caregiver realized that the child was not breathing. Artificial respiration was frantically applied to him immediately afterward by the caregiver, the ambulance personnel, and the medical staff at the hospital–all in vain.

Before I entered the ambulance, a thought crossed my mind about closing the nursery for the day. Looking at the children who were playing innocently, however, I determined that the day’s work had to be completed come what may. I thereupon told one of the caregivers, “Call up every available person and keep the nursery open” before getting into the ambulance.

In the ambulance, I found myself yelling out at the baby–who was receiving an intense application of artificial respiration supported by a respirator–“Come on! Hang in there!” I was convinced that he would make it. I kept praying for the child outside the hospital room where artificial respiration was continued. Soon the baby’s mother, and then his father, arrived, and rushed into the room.

Outside, I was asked many questions by a police investigator. Then, I heard the crying of the mother turning into a wailing. Hearing that, the unthinkable crossed my mind, and tears welled up in my eyes.

Shortly afterward, a doctor came out of the room. I ran to him and asked about the child. “We’ve lost him,” said the doctor in a painful voice.

When I asked him where the parents were, he said, “They went to the mortuary.” There was a policeman standing by the mortuary door. I asked him if I could go in, to which he replied yes. I was scared to open the door, however, knowing that the deceased infant and his parents were on the other side of it.

In the room I saw the child lying in a coffin, looking as if he were asleep. About the only thing I could do was to kneel before the parents and ask for their forgiveness.

The precious life of the child was entrusted by his parents to my care, but I was not able to return the child to them fit and alive. The sense of remorse brought more tears to my eyes.

Back at the nursery, I found the police interviewing people and conducting an investigation of the death scene. We were also inundated with numerous phone calls and were besieged with newspaper and TV reporters trying to get the story.

In the evening, I visited the home of the president of the residents’ association of the housing development to offer my apologies and gave an account of what had happened. Later in the evening, an insurance agent and an official of the city’s Childcare Section came to our home.

On the next day, an autopsy was performed on the infants’s body to determine the cause of death. I attended both the wake and the funeral, where I could not stop shedding the tears of remorse.

On July 24, three days after the incident, I sent a letter to my monthly customers to provide an account of the incident. I was fully prepared to accept a rush of parents withdrawing their children from my day nursery.

Having witnessed the loss of a precious young life, I found it difficult and painful to continue my work. Even though I started operating a day nursery seeking to live a life that would bring joy and happiness to other people, I ended up depriving the parents of their beloved child. I was beginning to lose a will to continue running the nursery.

What gave me the courage to continue working was the smiling faces of the innocent children at the nursery and their captivating voice calling out “Obachan!” [auntie] to me, as well as the words of “Thank you.” from their parents.

Even though I was called “a murderer” and was hated by the family of the deceased child, I was still useful to many people, and was needed and appreciated. This realization, in the final analysis, was what gave me the will and courage to continue my work.

Every time my husband and I made a call of condolence at the family of the deceased, we could sense the agony on their faces and in their voice. We were tormented by the thought that our very presence intensified their grief and tribulation.

At each visit, I apologized to them in my heart, saying without words “I am sorry I caused all this grief. baby boy(name is covered for privacy), Mom, and Dad, I am sorry I have made you suffer so much. Please strike me with your anger and sorrow.”

When we made a condolence visit three weeks after baby’s death, we were told by his grandmother that they had just been informed by the police that the cause of death was a disorder called “sudden infant death syndrome” (SIDS).

Hearing that the cause of death was not an accident but a medical disorder, however, did not ease my mind. I could not bring myself to embrace the notion that the incident could not have been helped since it was caused by a “disorder.”

The reality was that a child lost his life at Mommy. To me, the distinction between disorder and accident was immaterial. What mattered was that I was expected of returning the child entrusted to my care to his family without a scratch or bite. On the contrary, I could not send the child home alive. I was truly sorry about this failure, and my heart was filled with bitter remorse.

On one evening more than two-and-a-half weeks after the death of the child, three from his family came to visit the nursery. When I led them to the room where he died, one of them said in an angry voice, “Why, there are not even flowers.”

Considering the grief-stricken state of their minds, I was only sorry and had no word of excuse to offer. Those words made me realize then that I was thinking merely of my own piece of mind when I placed a small statue of Buddha in a private room upstairs where no parents–not even the nursery staff–would enter, and was offering daily prayers to it. They made me realize, too, that I did not fathom the depth of the family’s sorrow, even though I thought I did. My thought was not deep enough.

Next day, I moved the statue of Buddha from the room upstairs to the room where the child had died. I then racked my brains for ways of easing the pain of the family of the deceased.

After agonizing over the matter for some time, I placed a phone call to a person who had lost his own child to SIDS and was now working as a volunteer for the SIDS Family Association Japan. (It was painful for me, one who was on the wrong side of the fence, to place such a call.) Nonetheless, he welcomed my inquiry with open arms and gave me a great deal of information.

What I learned through the conversation I had with him convinced me that the best thing I could do at that time to help the family of the deceased ease the pain of loss was to provide them with brochures and booklets published by the SIDS Family Association Japan, and the book entitled Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Words for SIDS Families written by Professor Hiroshi Nishida, leader of the SIDS research team at the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

In early November, I had the first of the series of discussions with the victimed baby’s family, at which time I delivered to them the brochures, booklets and the book. They talked to me in a calm manner for the first time since the incident, and listened to what I had to say.

Afterward, I had several more discussions with the family, either on the occasion of our condolence visits or through the lawyers. The series of discussions was concluded in the middle of February. I was happy to learn that they had understood our feelings and intentions.

On March 21, my husband and I were invited to visit the grave on the occasion of laying the ashes to rest. I was very grateful to be given this opportunity.

The deceased infant and the members of the baby’s family taught me many valuable lessons, with or without words.

The patrons of Mommy grieved with me over the child’s death, deeply sympathized with the family of the deceased, wished the future happiness of the family, and spoke comforting words to the caregivers.

The nursery staff at Mommy was also very grateful to its patrons for their kind words of encouragement. For this we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Buttressed by the encouraging words of our patrons, we at Mommy have been able to tide over a difficult period, overcoming the almost unbearable grief.

I cannot forget the words of the child’s mother, who told me in tears “Please don’t forget my baby’s death; don’t let him die in vain.” When I spoke to the volunteer worker of the SIDS Family Association Japan who had lost his child to SIDS, I recalled, he uttered exactly those same words. I then realized that this is a sentiment shared by all the families who lost their children to SIDS. When I heard those words, I doubled my resolve not to let the boy’s death be in vain. I immediately joined the SIDS Family Association Japan as a supporting member.

At present, the public at large does not have much information on SIDS. Consequently, there arises a great deal of confusion among health practitioners, family members, and day-care providers whenever SIDS strikes them.

What I plan to do first, within my limited capacity, is to share information on SIDS–for example, measures known to lessen the risk of its occurrence–with other childcare providers in Hiroshima City by distributing to them the brochures, booklets, and Guidelines published by the SIDS Family Association Japan.

The present condition in Japan is such that adequate measures to prevent SIDS are, as a rule, not taken by most childcare providers because of the absence of knowledge on the exact cause of SIDS. It is the leading cause of death of infants under one year of age in the Western countries, and in Japan it is the second major cause of infant mortality. The sad reality is that SIDS claims the lives of about 600 infants in Japan each year.

It is my fervent desire to be a useful tool for protecting as many little lives as possible from SIDS.

Mommy Home Childcare Service is now collecting unneeded goods found at homes. Proceeds from the sale of these goods will be donated to the SIDS Family Association Japan. I seek your cooperation and support in this project.

Although I wanted to report to all my patrons on the causes of the child’s death immediately after it happened, I was prevented from doing so by the ongoing discussions with the family of the deceased.

Even after the middle of February, I could not force myself to organize my thoughts enough to write a formal report to my patrons. Hence the delay, for which please accept my sincere apology.

Soon after the incident, I placed a small statue of Buddha in a back room of the nursery and a stone image of Jizo, the guardian deity of children, at the gate. If you happen to notice them, please offer a prayer remembering baby boy who lost his precious four-month-old life.

The nursery staff at Mommy will continue to do our utmost so that this sad and painful experience will not come to naught, while wishing the happiness of the family of the deceased and of all other parents and children. We seek you warm moral support.

I have prepared this report outlining what I have thought and done since July 21 of last year. Articulate it may not be, but I can assure you that I wrote it as honestly and sincerely as I could.

Let me again I apologize for the delay in preparing this report. I thank you very much for your understanding.

With a Prayer,

Noriko Nakamura
Mommy Home Childcare Service

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