In 1991, Bill Schmid and his wife, Cathy, experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. They were out for the evening when a nanny discovered their infant daughter, Haley, had suddenly stopped breathing. Frantic, the young couple rushed home. But it was too late. Their precious daughter was gone.
Doctors believe Haley experienced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a condition that happens when young infants stop breathing for unexpected reasons. While the Schmids don’t live in Illinois, a small invention they created is now helping local families lower the risk of SIDS, turning a tale of loss into a legacy of hope.
The HALO® SleepSack® is a swaddling sleeper that helps prevent SIDS by encouraging parents to place newborns on their backs when they sleep. It also eliminates the need for blankets that can pose a suffocation risk for small infants. And now, every family who attends the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) discharge education class is going home with one in their suitcase, thanks to the vision of Amanda Phares, RN, BSN, and a grant from the Women’s Legacy Circle.
“Swaddle Me Safely is something I came up with to help educate parents and promote safe sleep for their babies when they go home,” Phares, a bedside nurse and NICU discharge planner at Carle said. “I wanted to not only educate parents about safe sleep, but also encourage them to attend our discharge class, which includes education on SIDS.”
While parents can meet their education requirements by watching videos, Phares believed they could gain a lot from attending the physical class, which covers everything from infant CPR to car seat safety. And she believed a free SleepSack could provide the perfect incentive, so she approached an amazing group of philanthropic women dedicated to funding programs that improve patient care at Carle.
Last year alone, the Women’s Legacy Circle awarded $86,637 gifts and funded 13 different projects, including Swaddle Me Safely. Phares has nothing but praise for the Circle’s members, although she says it wasn’t a particularly hard sale. “When it comes to babies, it’s hard not to get excited.”
Brittany Krisman, RN, teaches the classes and distributes the sleepers. She and Phares thought the $4,320 they received would cover the program for a year, providing SleepSacks for around 30 babies a month, but it turns out it will do a lot more than that.
“I was unaware at the time that HALO would give us a wholesale discount, so I was actually able to get enough SleepSacks to last us a few years most likely.”
Phares said the SleepSacks will make an important difference, helping newborns — and their parents — sleep a little easier at night.