From Asahi Shimbun, April 29, 1997, Morning Edition
Mrs. Noriko Nakamura
Owner-Operator of Day Nursery Campaigns for Prevention of SIDS
SIDS claims 600 lives each year. “Providing information on SIDS
prevention means saving lives,” says Nakamura, age 37.
“A murderer”–that was how she felt others thought of her.
Two years ago an infant of four months died while sleeping at the day nursery which Mrs. Noriko Nakamura operates in Hiroshima City. The police conducted an investigation of the death scene, and the media reporters who besieged the nursery suspected her of child abuse.
Though she was not a Christian, she was drawn into a church. The priest’s words “God sees all.” moved her to tears. She made a vow “to forget about protecting herself and be honest.”
The death was attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is a disorder that causes a sudden death of otherwise healthy babies, and there are no adequate medical explanations for it. Suspected risk factors include prone sleeping position, overheating, and cigarette smoking during pregnancy.
Subsequent to the occurrence of SIDS, Mrs. Nakamura added more air conditioners and lowered the temperature in nursery rooms. She and other caregivers place babies down for sleep on their backs, touch and stimulate their bodies every 10 minutes by setting a timer, and check their breathing. They adopted every measure known to help lower the risk of SIDS.
In contrast to many hospitals and day-care facilities that defiantly maintain that deaths from SIDS were not their fault, Nakamura made a conscious effort to publicize the details of the death. She keeps sending information on SIDS prevention, including the materials she prepared at her own expense, to municipalities, organizations, and childcare practitioners across the country.
“Day-care facilities generally have better childcare environment than private homes. There was no excuse that I, a childcare professional, did not detect the stoppage of breathing for so long,” says Nakamura.
She did not suspend the operation of her nursery although many criticized her for that. After leaving a clerical position in a corporation, she started running a day nursery at home. She chose to offer this service because she knew very well the hardships of working women who have babies to nurse.
Before visiting the family of the deceased infant boy for making a call of condolence, she wrote a will asking that her four children be properly taken care of. She felt she couldn’t complain even if the family chose to kill her for the loss of life of their baby. Every month, she called on the family on the date of the child’s death. Facing the family’s inconsolable sorrow and anger, Nakamura had no words to offer.
Eight months later, she received a letter from the family, inviting her to visit the grave. The words from the bereaved family asking her not to let the little boy’s ephemeral life be in vain now prop up her life and work.
(Text and photo by Maki Okubo)
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