KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Nothing in this world will fill your heart like the love of a child. But Elisha Palmer learned that nothing in this world will break your heart like the pain of losing one. She described her baby Knox as happy and seemingly healthy. So, when she dropped him off at daycare when he was just three-months-old, Elisha said she wasn't ready for what happened next.
"I kissed him goodbye, he smiled, everything was perfect. He was dropped off at the daycare and several hours later I get the call there’s an emergency. I met the EMT workers, we pulled in at the same time, and they were carrying him out. He was wrapped in a blanket, I could see his legs hanging out and I knew it was really, really bad at that point," Elisha remembered.
On that day in December, the day that started with such a sense of normalcy, Knox died a mysterious and unexpected death. The diagnosis was SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Fighting tears, Elisha barely managed to share the stark realization that soon followed the unimaginable loss, "Everyday I sit here and think, 'There’s going to be a mom and a dad who, they’re going to put their baby down for a nap, and that baby is not going to wake up. They’re going to start their day as perfectly normal parents with the perfect life and that is all going to change. That happens every single day."
On a different day, it happened to Courtney and Anthony Sing when their daughter Cassie was just two-months-old.
Anthony remembered a nagging feeling one night in November, "Something woke me up at about 2 o’clock and said you need to check on her."
That's when Anthony realized Cassie wasn't breathing. Courtney called 911 and an operator answered, "I said, 'I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.' She walked me through doing CPR."
EMT's rushed Cassie to the hospital where doctors eventually told the Sing's that their baby didn't survive. "We had plenty of people with us, but at that moment, I just wanted her back. I didn’t care who was there," said Courtney.
SIDS took another life, and left another family confused.
So what is SIDS? That is mostly a mystery, but we do know a baby is most at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome during the first four months of life. That's why consistently practicing safe sleep is so important.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in their own beds, on their back, on a tight fitted sheet in an empty crib. No blankets, no bumpers, no pillows and no toys. Still though, that may not be enough. For all we don't know about SIDS, experts are getting close. Some say it's likely the moment a disease that hasn't been identified yet becomes deadly.
It's unsettling, so what's a mother to do? Elisha Palmer started Knox Blocks, named after her son Knox, aimed at helping families avoid heartbreak. The organization donates Owlet monitors. The wearable device tracks a baby's heart rate and oxygen level and sends an alert to parents when something seems wrong. Elisha said the device could have saved her baby Knox, "There are a lot of physicians where they truly feel, yeah, it really truly could have. Just a minute of CPR could have made a difference."
Even though some experts said there's not a single reported case of a wearable monitor saving a baby from SIDS, Elisha said there's comfort in knowing when something goes wrong. A comfort Courtney and Anthony Sing had new reason to want.
Courtney pulled up the Facebook message she sent to Knox Blocks.
"I would really love to have an Owlet monitor, here is a brief story why. We finally had a daughter. She was more beautiful than we could have expected. We took Cassie to church for the first time on November 23. We h ad no idea that would be the last time we would spend with her while she was alive. At 2:00 a.m. she was gone. That was, and always will be, the worst day of my life. We would feel much better if we could have an Owlet monitor."
Elisha said, "When I read her story, it was our story. I knew the pain she experienced and the last time she kissed Cassie goodbye, that was our story. I read it and I saw us in that."
At Courtney and Anthony Sing's home, you hear the reason why they wanted an Owlet before you see it. A soft voice, babbling along with a toy castle projecting Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast.' Anna Beth Joy is their newest child, a little girl they call their rainbow baby. The new life is one both mom and dad are desperate to protect. When she's sleeping, she's wearing that monitor donated by Knox Blocks. When she's awake, the whole family finds it's joy. "The joy, it's like, returned to all of us," said Courtney.
Maverick is Elisha's rainbow baby, and brings her that same joy. So does her work with Knox Blocks. In less than a year, its gifted more than 1,400 wearable monitors to parents across the country.
"We truly believe that Knox had a purpose that he still does have a purpose. We believe that this is it. We lost him at 3 and a half months and he’s accomplished more than most people do their whole life. Truly."
And while nothing will break your heart like the loss of a child, Elisha said there's something about trying to save other children that can heal it.
"With every Owlet that we give we give a little peace of mind and a little piece of Knox."
To learn more about SIDS, including how to reduce risk, what new research tells us about it, and where to find help in Tennessee, visit our comprehensive special report: 'Wake Up: Babies At Risk".