Healthwatch 16: Sudden Infant Death syndrome

DUNMORE, Pa. -- The American SIDS Institute says each year there are about 4,000 Sudden Infant Death Syndrome deaths in the U.S. and that's 4,000 too many, according to researchers studying it.

A few weekends ago, on a rainy Sunday, hundreds turned out to walk and run and jog at the 5th annual Jog for Jude in Dunmore, Lackawanna County. All along the race course were pictures of beautiful babies who went to sleep and didn't wake up.

"It's a race held every year in memory of my son Jude Theodore Zayac, who died at 3 months of SIDS, so we run this race to raise money and awareness of SIDS," said Greg Zayac.

This year, Dr. Rick Goldstein from Boston Children's Hospital was a special guest. He's the director of the Sudden Death in Pediatrics program.

"There's not proper awareness of what these families go through," Dr. Goldstein said.

Dr. Goldstein says events like these are critically important for the hospital's ongoing research of what causes sudden infant death.

"The common view of SIDS is that it's a sleep accident, that these are normal babies put to sleep in bad positions, and if people stop doing that it would be the end of SIDS. Our program, for decades, has been research that asks the question, 'were these kids ever normal?'" Dr. Goldstein explained.

According to Dr. Goldstein, research has found that 40 percent of babies who've died suddenly have had some sort of vulnerability in their brain stems. Researchers want to know more about that, and they're zeroing in on neurotransmitters in the brain.

Greg says he and his wife are proud to keep organizing the effort, a way, he says, to still be Jude's parents.

"You know the kids that were born around the same time as Jude, our friends. It's a constant reminder of them, what Jude would look like, wondering what he'd be doing."

This year's Jog for Jude raised more than $140,000. Two-thirds of that goes to Dr. Goldstein's program at Boston Children's Hospital, earmarked for SIDS research.

The other one-third is given to the baby pantry at St. Joseph's Center in Lackawanna County for the community to use.

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