“I didn’t think I would ever be able to do anything again,” said Kendrick, who was the infant’s daycare provider. “It literally hurt to breathe. What happened is as bad as it gets.”
Jacob died a year ago this month while in the care of Kendrick, owner of Jenna’s House, an in-home childcare facility in Oakley. Diagnosed as a Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) fatality, Jacob and his sister Samantha, 3, were at Kendrick’s home on Feb. 22, 2007, when their dad Dave arrived to pick them up.
“I remember walking into the room where Jacob was sleeping, and I just knew, I just felt something right away,” said Kendrick. “I immediately called for Dave and then I called 911. Dave began working on Jacob, but I already knew it was probably too late.”
Both the Calkins, Dave and mom Jackie, are paramedics, and in a cruel twist of fate, Jackie was at work when the emergency call went out, and when she heard the address, she knew. By the time she arrived at Kendrick’s home, it was too late.
“It’s been hard, but we had five wonderful months with Jacob and we are so grateful for that,” said Jackie. “Since we’re both paramedics we understand the SIDS thing and know that it was no one’s fault, and that gives you a little peace of mind.”
Despite the Calkins’ unwavering support and love, “They have treated me like a member of the family,” Kendrick said, she has continued to struggle with her guilt and grief, searching for a way to right what she perceives as an unjust wrong. And now, a year later, she believes she has found a way.
On April 18, in memory of Jacob, Kendrick will participate in the National SIDS Awareness Day, a nationwide fundraising event designed to promote awareness of SIDS. Kendrick plans to collect donations from local residents and businesses, and contribute the proceeds to the American SIDS Institute.
Kendrick also plans to plant a tree and release butterflies that day in Jacob’s memory, and while she understands it won’t bring him back, it will, she believes, serve as a lifelong memorial to him and his family.
“We totally support what Natalie is doing and we will do whatever we can to help her with this,” said Jackie, who plans to continue with Jenna’s House when it comes time to go back to work. “She asked us for our approval and, of course, we think it’s wonderful.”
In the year since the loss of their boy, Dave and Jackie have gone on to have another baby. David Michael was born last Jan. 9 – which also happens to be Kendrick’s birthday.
“He’s a wonderful little boy,” said Jackie. “He has a little bit of a look of his brother, but he’s his own person. This baby doesn’t replace Jacob, but he’s a comfort and a gift.”
And as both families continue to heal, Dave and Jackie with their new baby, and Kendrick with a renewed sense of purpose, the spirit of Jacob continues to be a palpable presence.
“SIDS awareness is so important,” said Kendrick. “I wanted to do this a year ago but it was still too raw. If we can help prevent one less child and family from going through this, then we’ve done our job. I fly on the wings of Jacob every day. He continues to inspire and sustain me.”
Over 7,000 babies in the United States die of SIDS every year. Affecting infants of all races and ethnicities, SIDS occurs in apparently healthy babies between the age of 2 weeks and 1 year. A SIDS diagnosis is given when all other causes of death have been ruled out. To date, SIDS cannot be prevented, but research continues to determine what causes these infants to simply stop breathing in their sleep.
For more information on SIDS, visit www.sids.org.