MANILA - “Losing a child is next to death.”
Six months before what was supposed to be baby Alonzo’s second birthday, his mother Angelica de Leon-Panganiban kissed his forehead as she laid him to rest.
Baby Alonzo had just been playing a few hours before his death on Jan. 14. A few hours later, his lips had suddenly turned purplish while sleeping after being breastfed, said Panganiban who had just finished cooking when when she checked up on him.
It was just the two of them at home when the incident happened as her husband was at work, she added.
“I tapped his cheeks and shouting for him to wake up but when I held his hand, it's already cold. I did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but I can no longer hear his heartbeat,” she said.
Baby Alonzo was rushed to the nearest hospital, Panganiban said. Doctors had tried to revive him but he was declared dead by 2 p.m.
Panganiban said her second child died of aspiration and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to doctors. Her first child, daughter Lauraine Amarah, was born premature in 2017 and died when she was 14 days old, according to Panganiban.
“I just kept on crying and continued shouting his name and thinking that he still might wake up. I was there the whole morning and the moment I went out the room just to cook, the next thing I know is he was gone when I came back. Everything happened so fast without a warning,” she told ABS-CBN News.
Children may aspirate when food or liquid enters their lungs, according to the Boston Children’s Hospital. It occurs when children are put on their backs and left unattended, said Dr. Cynthia Cuayo-Juico, pediatrician and fellow at the Philippine Pediatric Society.
SIDS as the cause of a child’s death is rare in the Philippines, she added.
“Yung SIDS usually yan nangyayari sa mga batang maliliit o kaya mga premature na hindi nababantayang maigi. Kaya we try to avoid putting the child less than 1 year old na nakadapa. Hindi dapat pinapahiga kasi kung minsan pag less than 6 months di nila mataas ang ulo nila. Especially kung galing lang silang dumede,” she told ABS-CBN News.
(SIDS usually occurs when small children or premature babies are left unattended. This is why we try to avoid putting a child less than a year old on their back, because they can’t put their head up, especially if they had just been fed.)
The pediatrician also advised parents against feeding their babies with gelatin.
"Hindi nila nakakagat. Pagka nilunok nila minsan, hindi sa stomach napupunta, sa lungs," she said.
(They can't chew it. When they swallow, it sometimes goes to their lungs, not their stomach.)
“I am torn and shattered but I am breathing. I have to live the life my son left me. I have to try with every strength left with me to share my pain with others so that on a positive note, will inspire them,” she said.
“I know that I am not alone in these dark times. To all the mothers who grieved and who are still grieving, I am with you. I am crying with you…We may lose our children in different circumstances but I know that the pain we are feeling right now cannot be put into proper amount of words. I hope and pray that wherever you are, you have a strong tribe of support who will help you each day.”
Panganiban advised parents to “always keep an eye” on their children.
“Always put them first. Always appreciate and be thankful for each day with your children. Motherhood is tiring, yes. But please do not get tired for one second of being a mother. Because no one knows, in just a snap, they will be gone,” she said.
“Hug your children tighter today. Everyday. Love them as if there's no tomorrow.”