Red Nose CEO, Keren Ludski, tells us why she is holding an event this Red Nose Day, Friday 9 August, and why it’s so vitally important we continue to invest in research to unlock the reasons why.
* Warning – some people may find this story distressing *
I know many families in the Red Nose community have been touched by the loss of a child.
I lost my son Ben to SIDS in 1998.
That’s why I’m hosting a Red Nose Day fundraiser this year in Ben’s honour – because I don’t want any more families to have to go through what we went through. The pain of losing a child.
The pain and grief of losing a child is indescribable. It’s lonely and empty – and it stays with you always.
The day my world changed forever was Valentine’s Day 1998. We were preparing to leave for a family lunch at my mother’s house. Ben was still asleep in his cot, so I told my older sons, Josh, 6, and Jarred, 4, to go hop in the car, while I woke Ben from his sleep.
Then I suddenly thought “oh my god, he hasn’t cried”. At 12 weeks, he was just getting used to sleeping in his cot, rather than the crib.
As my hand touched the door handle, I knew something was wrong.
I picked him up from his cot. He wasn’t breathing. That’s the moment my life changed forever.
I called an ambulance and started CPR. Ben was initially revived and rushed to the Children’s Hospital. But it was too late. The doctors ran a series of test, but he had no brain activity. There was nothing more they could do.
My journey with Red Nose
I remember the day the hospital first connected me to my Red Nose counsellor, starting my journey with this organisation that helps so many people.
As I tried to process my grief, I slowly learned that it would never go away – that the grief is something that no mother can ever really get over. Over time, as I started to heal I decided I wanted to volunteer with Red Nose, and use my experience as a platform to help other families going through similar experiences.
I joined with the Red Nose counsellors to talk with police and ambulance workers about how they handle SIDS deaths.
For me, it was healing, knowing that the next family to experience this unimaginable tragedy would be treated with compassion, empathy, and understanding. And not with suspicion, mistrust and blame like many families are on the worst day of their life.
I didn’t want anyone else to feel as alone as I did, so I became a peer support worker with Red Nose – a parent who talks with other parents and supports them through their journey.
The hardest thing to hear as a bereaved parent
The hardest – but most truthful – thing to hear as a bereaved parent is that you will never get over it.
For me and many other families I have spoken to over the years, it is learning to make space for it, so it becomes less edgy and less prickly and not as hard to breathe.
But, being able to talk to someone who has gone through the same thing as you can bring so much comfort – finally you can talk to someone who understands what you are going through without pity or judgement.
After Ben’s death, I was blessed with my fourth child, Jemma.
I remember my sons asking me when I was pregnant, “will this baby die too?”
That was one of the hardest questions I have ever been asked. Because I didn’t know the answer. Every ounce of my being I wanted to say, “no of course not”, and yet I knew I couldn’t promise that.
Your gift will be the key to unlocking the answers we need to end these deaths once-and-for-all.
Today, as a family we always talk about Ben. It’s not a taboo topic and come birthdays and anniversaries, all three of my kids are insightful and aware of what’s going on and how they are feeling.
I look at the wonderful relationship my children have with each other, and I know that’s because of Ben. They know how lucky they are to have each other. Ben has shaped who we are today – and that’s how we keep him alive.
My story is not unique
While my story is tragic, unfortunately, it’s not unique. Nine babies continue to die suddenly and unexpectedly every day in Australia. That’s nine little lives cut short. And nine families forever changed.
For the more than 3,000 families each year who are still forced to endure their worst nightmare, I want to make a real difference and stop little lives being cut short once-and-for-all.
This Red Nose Day, Australian families need you.
By holding a Red Nose Day event, buying a nose, or donating, we can invest more money into lifesaving research to unlock the reasons why babies continue to die, and keep our vital support services going so families can continue to access free 24/7 counselling and support for as long as they need it.
Hosting your own fundraiser is an easy and fun way to bring people together. Helping others always feels good! If you haven’t already, jump online now and register to get involved.
Together we can and will reach zero. Because how many lives lost is too many?host an event donate now buy official Red Nose Day merchandise