Tag Archives: sudden infant death syndrome

Reporter explores ‘dying peacefully in his sleep’

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Spurred by the unenviable task of writing a very personal obituary to look beyond the stock phrases so common in those pieces, Virginian-Pilot reporter Elizabeth Simpson set out to find exactly what she was saying when she wrote that her 88-year-old father “died peacefully in his sleep.” She started with two simple questions.

What is it you die of when you don’t wake up in the morning?

And, is it the peaceful death everyone assumes?

She learned from a coroner that most common culprit for these deaths, including her father’s, is a cardiac arrhythmia, but that bit of knowledge raises more questions than it answers. She gained more insight from a post on AHCJ’s electronic discussion list (members can sign up for free!), where reporters shared both professional experiences and personal insights so compelling that Simpson included them in the story (you’ll find quotes about a third of the way down the page, under the “I posed the subject” subheading).

Simpson’s investigation takes her through the worlds of hard-nosed medical description, hospice and palliative care, life support and even sudden infant death syndrome, but ultimately ends up back where she started: “peacefully.”

Bush explained that sometimes you can die in your sleep during a massive stroke or a ruptured aneurysm. But in those cases, a person usually will have complained earlier about symptoms like a headache or other pain. A heart attack or pulmonary embolism usually will cause enough pain to lead the person to wake and go to an emergency room.

But death during sleep with no symptoms at all is likely due to the heartbeat going haywire. In Bush’s opinion, it is the way to go.

Peaceful? She thinks so.

Sometimes, she said, such a person will be curled up in a sleeping position, the blankets tucked around them, no evidence of thrashing about. Their faces are serene, their eyes closed. By contrast, in cases where death comes while not sleeping, there’s a 50-50 chance the eyes will be open.

Reporter looks at black infant mortality in Wis.

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Crocker Stephenson took a look at disparities in infant mortality in that area and explored both their cases and ramifications. In Wisconsin, black babies die at twice the rate of white babies, a finding which may just be the tip of the iceberg. For national and international comparisons, see the companion infographic. According to Stephenson, infant mortality rates are an early indicator of a community’s degeneration. When mortality rises, so do other dire indicators.

The bottom third – the group of ZIP codes with the most poverty and lowest college graduation rates – had the highest infant mortality rate.

It also had the highest premature death rate, chlamydia rate, HIV rate and teen birthrate.

It had the greatest percentage of low birth weights; preterm births; uninsured adults; people who hadn’t seen a dentist in a year; births to mothers who received no prenatal care during their first trimester; smokers; pregnant smokers; obesity; violent assaults within the past year; single-parent households; and children who tested positive for lead poisoning.

Milwaukee’s health commissioner called it a “crisis,” one that Stephenson found is as much a social matter as it is one of access to proper care. For more, see the “Problem Areas” section of the story.

Some women’s magazines model poor baby care

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Children’s National Medical Center researchers Dr. Rachel Moon and Brandi Joyner looked at pictures of sleeping babies in 28 magazines popular with women of childbearing age and found that, of the 391 unique images analyzed (230 of which were in advertisements), 122 showed sleeping babies and 99 showed infant sleeping environments (but not the infants themselves).

More than a third of the sleeping babies were shown in improper sleeping positions (side and prone) that violate American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations and increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Furthermore, two-thirds of the photographs portraying sleeping environments showed loose bedding and other objects and locations that violate the safety recommendations and, the report says, increase the risk of SIDS fivefold. In general, advertisements were more likely to include guideline-violating images than their editorial counterparts.