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The Days Are Long {On Dealing with My Daughter’s Death from Hyperthermia}

As a stay-at-home mom of two toddlers, “the days are long, but the years are short” is a saying I’ve kept in my heart to remind me to enjoy all moments, even in demanding times. The days have often flown by, and a simple chore or task takes 10 times as long with two little ones. A simple trip to the grocery store with my three-year-old, over-the-top friendly son or my 17-month-old, always Sammie Smilingsmiling, daughter was never a quick in-and-out due to the multitude of people that would stop to admire and talk to them. I often joked with my mother that I was going to put my daughter, Sammie, in sunglasses and a baseball cap — like a little celebrity — the next time I was in a hurry and needed to get through the supermarket quickly. “Cherish every moment” or “it goes by so fast” were frequent comments made by strangers. I felt so sad when I heard these statements as I thought about life without my babies being so small. Being a mom is the best thing I’ve ever done, and I have always tried my best to appreciate even the days that were long and drawn out.

It’s hard for me to remember life before my sweet Sammie was here. I had 529 days with her. Thankfully those days were long, and I’m so grateful for that. Days when her adorable smile and pure innocence made this world a better place. Days so long that searching through photos before her funeral, I realized I had taken 10,000 pictures since June! One day we were meeting new people during long trips to the grocery store and the next she was gone from this life forever.

The Longest Day

February 28, 2016 was a normal Sunday for my family. My husband and son worked outside in the yard, and Sammie and I spent most of the day inside. I held her, we played with her toys, and we took selfies. I caught up on housework while she napped. Nothing special or out of the ordinary. Looking back at the thousands of pictures I captured of Sammie during her very short life, we certainly had other days that were more exciting. I never imagined it would be my last day to hold her.

At 8:00 p.m. that night, I got her ready for bed. She very proudly said “night, night” to her Daddy and big brother. I can still picture her face as I laid her in her beautiful crib. She tried to cry since she wasn’t ready to go to sleep, a “fake” cry as her pretty, little, smile shined through the few tears she had streaming from her gorgeous, blue eyes.

The next morning my husband went upstairs to get Sammie while I started to make coffee. As soon as he yelled my name, I knew something was terribly wrong. The screeching panic is his voice made me freeze.  He ran down the stairs carrying our little angel’s lifeless body, who just hours before had been so feistySammie Angel and the center of our world. Attempts to resuscitate her failed, and she was pronounced dead 50 minutes later at the emergency room. That day was the longest, most gut-wrenching day of my life, one another parent should never be forced to endure.

As soon as my husband reached the top of our stairs that morning, the intense heat was smoldering. Our thermostat read 99 degrees (as high as it would go) and was blowing hot air even though it was set on 72 degrees. Sammie died from conditions related to hyperthermia.

The Tragedy Explained

Our heater somehow “malfunctioned” in the middle of the night. Because Sammie’s room was on the second floor and the environment is controlled by a different HVAC unit than our master bedroom downstairs, we never awoke to the fatal conditions. Doctors have told us that younger children (sometimes up to age 5) cannot regulate their body temperature as well as older children and adults. They believe she never woke up and died in her sleep. Thankfully our three-year-old son was safe in our room.

Throughout our shock and disbelief, we searched for cases similar to ours as we were in pure shock that this could even happen. We discovered another family from Georgia who lost their two-year-old twin boys while they were sleeping upstairs, and something caused their unit to heat the nursery to a sweltering temperature while the parents slept downstairs. I immediately wondered how something like this could be prevented. A quick Google search revealed baby monitors with built-in temperature alarms. I would have never known this was necessary. Sammie slept in our room in a bassinet until she was six months old. It would have never entered my mind to monitor the climate of her room after the threat of SIDS was gone.

We have created a Facebook awareness page to warn parents with multiple HVAC systems of this potential danger that never entered our minds. The amount of people who have emailed me with similar stories in which their systems failed, yet they found their children in time, is frightful. Our mission is to share our story as much as possible so that other families may protect their children from this silent threat.

For more information or for questions, please visit our Facebook page.

{The Fort Worth Moms Blog honors the lives of children lost too soon. Whether the loss was due to miscarriage, tragedy, or illness, you can submit their names to the “Forever Loved, Never Forgotten” page.}

Keri Bio Image

Keri grew up in Fort Worth and is a graduate of Texas Christian University.  She is a stay-at-home mom of Jackson (3), “Angel” Sammie, and step-daughter, Savannah (14).  She and her husband Larry specialize in commercial insurance at a local Fort Worth company, Volmert & Associates

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10 Responses to The Days Are Long {On Dealing with My Daughter’s Death from Hyperthermia}

  1. Maggie June 6, 2016 at 12:07 pm #

    My heart breaks for you. As parents we try to think of every possible danger and protect our children from it. Then something comes along that was never seen as a danger and changes everything. Thank you for sharing your heartbreak and warning. I think the most powerful part of this for me is when you number the days. I woke up this morning and my first thought was “529 days. That’s just not enough.” I have a girl about the same age and can’t even begin to imagine my world without her.

  2. Jaclyn Securcher June 6, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

    God bless your beautiful family. I cannot imagine the pain and heartache you all continue to go through. I’m glad there are many happy memories to cherish amongst the tears. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope your daughter’s life can shine on in other little ones that this post might save. God bless you.

  3. Kylie June 8, 2016 at 8:38 am #

    This is every mother’s worst nightmare and my heart aches for you. Thank you for having the strength to share this and help prevent this from happening again. As a mother who will soon be entering the home market, thus is something I will now consider in our search.

  4. Karen Delaporte June 8, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    My heart aches for your loss. Thank-you for sharing and providing this wake-up call to this weird danger. We have two HVAC systems & often keep visiting grandchildren here (ages1-10). (Two are visiting now, but, thankfully, are sleeping in same part of house as our college-age daughter.) Thank-you for your willingness to create good out of this terrible personal tradgedy. May God bless you for it. He grieves with you & looks forward to your joyous reunion with Sammie someday.

  5. Hazel Sanders June 8, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    I don’t even know what to say. I’m so very sorry this happened to you and your family. God bless and keep you. He has a reason, maybe it was for you to bring awareness to others? My simple mind can not grasp why, but I do know God is always in charge. He always loves. He always protects. I’m so proud of your strength to make others aware. Thank you. May God bring you the peace, only he can. {{{hugs}}}

  6. Molly June 8, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

    I’m taking the heater out of my daughters room today. Thank you for sharing this with others. I can’t imagine the pain and loss you must feel and fear for it every day with my little babe. Much love to you and your family.

  7. Katy Chessher June 10, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    So very sorry for your loss. What was the brand of thermostat? Was it a white Rogers?

  8. Missy June 10, 2016 at 10:22 pm #

    I’m so sorry! What a terrible tragedy. I have two HVAC systems too & am going to buy a temperature alarm for the nursery tomorrow. I would never have imagined this type of event either. Thank you for spreading awareness of this danger. God Bless your family & little Sammie.

  9. Meshelle July 15, 2016 at 12:50 am #

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for making us aware of this. My prayers go out to you and your husband.

  10. Melissa Perry June 22, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    I remember your story from the news. I would have never thought of this happening. I’m so sorry that this happened to your little angel. My heart is with you as you remember her daily. Prayers for you, your husband, son and family! Thank you for sharing your story to help other families hopefully not have this same accident happen to them.

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