As my boy wheeled up and down the path, his enthusiasm was infectious. Sam, 21 months, loved the new bike we’d picked up from the toy library. He was proving to be bicycle mad, just like his daddy, Pete, 37.
Sam was our first bub and we were completely smitten. He filled our lives with joy.
Later that day, Pete came home from his job as a paramedic.
‘Dadda,’ Sam chimed.
Pete was on call that night, so we knew there was a chance he’d have to leave. After dinner, I gave Sam a bath and put him into his cot.
From the lounge room I heard him practising words. ‘Dad, dad, mum, mum,’ he babbled. My sociable little boy loved chatting away to himself. After 20 minutes, his room finally went silent.
As expected, Pete was called out so I relaxed on the lounge. Just before 9pm I decided to go to bed. Going in to check on Sam, I used the torch on my phone so I didn’t wake him.
As the light beamed into his cot, I noticed he was laying face down on his tummy. My heart started hammering.
Sam never sleeps on his front, I thought, running to his crib. Scooping him into my arms, I could see his face was ashen and he felt limp. My hand shaking, I used my mobile to call Triple-0.
‘My boy’s not breathing,’ I cried down the line.
I put the phone on speaker while the operator told me how to administer CPR.
Suddenly my mind turned to Pete. ‘My husband’s a paramedic. Is he going to hear this?’ I asked.
His was the only ambo in the area so there was a high chance he’d get the call.
‘My boy’s not breathing,’ I cried down the line.
The operator said she’d check while I carried on doing compressions. Then my neighbour Brent arrived. I knew then Pete must have got the news and called Brent.
‘Let me take over,’ Brent said. He began pumping Sam’s chest.
When the paramedics arrived, we stepped aside to let them do their work. They said Pete was 45 minutes away on a different job, but radioed him with Sam’s condition. I could tell by the way they were talking that we’d already lost Sam.
‘I’m sorry Georgie, there’s nothing we can do,’ one said as they stopped resuscitation.
Tears streamed down my face as I gasped for air.
‘This can’t be happening,’ I sobbed.
From then, all was a blur, my mind clouded by unimaginable grief. When Pete arrived home we had some time alone with Sam. Still warm, it just looked like he was asleep. It was so comforting to kiss and cuddle him one last time.
‘Mummy and Daddy love you so much Sammy,’ I whispered.
How could we ever say goodbye?
Eventually, we took Sam in an ambulance to hospital for an autopsy. All signs pointed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) but I always thought it only happened to very little babies.
Going back home without our boy broke my heart. Our house, once so full of life and the giggles of a toddler, was now silent. I couldn’t bear it.
Sam’s first autopsy proved inconclusive, so we gave the hospital permission to do more tests. Sam had shown no signs of sickness and his death had been so sudden.
Meanwhile, life without Sam was unbearable. His little play trucks and bikes were a constant reminder that he wasn’t coming back. Pete and I vowed we wouldn’t let this tear us apart.
Eight months after he died, Sam’s death was ruled as undetermined and put down as a case of sudden and unexpected death in infancy, or SUDI.
Our house, once so full of life and the giggles of a toddler, was now silent.
I worried that I’d done something wrong, but the conclusion made me realise it was just a terrible tragedy.
Since Sam passed away in June 2012, Pete and I have been lucky enough to welcome two more precious bubs into our family.
Anna, three, and Lucy, 18 months, are the light of our lives. They know all about their big brother Sam and love looking at photos of him. The girls are both beautiful, just like their brother. They have finally helped us see some light in the darkness, but I was also terrified something might happen to them, constantly checking on them at night.
Pete recently cycled from Sydney to Canberra to raise $30,000 for the charity SIDS and Kids.
I’m telling Sam’s story to raise awareness of SIDS. Nothing will bring Sam back, but we’re keeping his memory alive to save other kids.
When I heard over the radio that there was a cardiac arrest of a 21-month-old male in Rye, I knew straight away that it was either Sam or one of his buddies from mothers’ group.
‘Is that my house?’ I asked.
As soon as I discovered it was Sam, I radioed through to the paramedics on the scene. When they told me Sam’s heart had flatlined and there was no sign of life, I knew too much time had passed for him to come back from that.
My thoughts turned to Georgie coping alone. I knew I had to get to her.
When I got home, we had some time with our boy. I got to hold him and gave him hundreds of kisses and cuddles. It was so hard to say goodbye.
One good thing that came out of Sam’s death is that Georgie and I love each other more than ever.
Going through such a tragedy united us and we’re determined to raise awareness.
To donate to Pete and Georgie’s fundraiser visit sydney2camberra2016.gofundraise.com.au/page/ridingforsam
Originally published in that's life! issue 25 - June 23, 2016