News / Vancouver

Remembering Sarah, and raising awareness of SUDC

The mother of a 14-month-old girl who died of unknown causes has organized a charity run to raise money for research and to bring her community together

Megan Carbonetto holds a photo of her daughter Sarah, who died at 14 months from unknown causes.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

Megan Carbonetto holds a photo of her daughter Sarah, who died at 14 months from unknown causes.

A little girl whose sudden death six months ago still remains a mystery to her family will be remembered this Saturday with a charity run in Surrey’s Bridgeview neighbourhood.

“The more that I read about SIDS and SUDC, the more interested I became,” said Megan Carbonetto. “How come nothing has changed in the last 20 years — because really nothing has changed in the last 20 years. There haven’t been very many advancements.”

On the morning of March 3, Carbonetto discovered her 14-month-old daughter, Sarah Rivera, unresponsive in bed. The stress of that day’s tragic events brought on the early labour and delivery of the baby Carbonetto was carrying, and daughter Zipporah was born later that day.

The coroner later told Carbonetto an autopsy had failed to discover the cause of death. While Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is more well-known, children over the age of one also sometimes die of unknown causes (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood).

Between one and 10 in every 100,000 children in the province die of unknown causes each year, according to Dr. Shubhayan Sanatani, head of cardiology at B.C. Children’s Hospital and an expert in the phenomenon.

Carbonetto would like to see a single point of contact in place to guide parents whose children die suddenly of unknown causes through the grieving process, helping to arrange the funeral and assisting them to navigate the various government agencies.

Megan Carbonetto with daughter Zipporah at home in Surrey.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

Megan Carbonetto with daughter Zipporah at home in Surrey.

For instance, she wishes she’d had more help planning the funeral.

“You’re in such a state of shock, you’re not thinking,” she said.

“I didn’t have someone there to say maybe a poem, or maybe someone would like to say this or the kids would like to say something.”

Carbonetto has two older daughters, aged 6 and 8, and the family has received the strongest support from the school they attend, as well as Bridgeview Community Centre, which will host the run on Saturday. She hopes the event, which will raise funds for SIDS and SUDC research at B.C. Children’s Hospital, will give the community a chance to remember Sarah. (Visit www.babysarahssudcfoundation.com for more information.)

 “My daughter was very much a part of the lives of many of the kids in the neighbourhood,” Carbonetto said. “So we thought of a way to get the community involved.”

With files from Thandi Fletcher