baby

Mylee Manning smiled at her dad and went safely to sleep. She never woke up.

“Mylee was mischievous, full of energy, full of life. Her big brother’s best friend,” says Perth mother Melanie.

“Walking, talking, running really, running everywhere. Climbing on everything. She loved pulling apart my folding laundry.”

15-month-old Mylee Manning was a bright, beautiful strawberry blonde toddler, the centre of her family’s world.

Listening to her mother, Melanie, describe how that world came crumbling down on 29th June 2012 is difficult. Her voice breaks with grief, four years on.

Mylee at 15-months-old. Image supplied.

“It was a normal day, a normal night,” said Melanie.

“Mylee had not had any major health concerns, nothing severe or to give us any indication anything was wrong.”

She was put to bed, “gave a big smile to her dad" and went to sleep.

Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a normal night. A night like any other. A night like all of us have had with our children.

But the next morning when Melanie went to get her, she says as soon as she touched the door she “knew something was wrong”.

A “strange feeling” came over her.

She opened the door. Everything was still.

“You know that saying, deathly quiet, it was like that," said Melanie.

“I knew instantly she was gone.”

They immediately did CPR, trying to revive her, paramedics were there in minutes, but she was gone and there was no hope of her coming back.

Melanie and Sean Manning - parents to Chase, who is now seven, Mylee who would have been five, Paisley, two, and one-year-old Eden  - never considered that a toddler could die of SIDS.

They never imagined Mylee was ever in any danger, she was well past the SIDS stage.

They never thought it would happen to them.

“A thousand things went through my head,” she said.

“All of them were terrible.

“Maybe I used too much eucalyptus oil on my floors and maybe it was that, maybe there was poison in her dinner,  did someone break in, did something happen at day-care, did someone hurt her. I blamed myself. How did I not know, how did I not hear her? I projected blame on Sean."

But she says the main person she blamed was herself.

“You just think how did I not know, as a mum, how can I not know something was wrong with my little girl?”

Mylee died of SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood). Image supplied

Melanie says that the paramedics handed her a brochure on SIDS but initially she refused to believe it, as Mylee wasn’t an infant.

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In Australia 3,200 children die each year as a result of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC), stillbirth, as well as sudden accidental deaths such as drownings, poisonings and road accidents.

That’s nine deaths a day.  Nine sets of parents just like the Mannings left broken.

“It was my job, my soul purpose how could I not protect her?“ Melanie said.

“The guilt will always be there. It will never leave me.”

It was found in a coronial inquest that a viral illness may have had played a role in Mylee’s sudden death and further investigation has shown that Mylee may have an immune condition, but as Melanie says “they will never really know.”

Mylee's parents have vowed to stop deaths like hers from ever occurring again. Image supplied.

"One of the last times I saw Mylee was in the state mortuary, somewhere no parent should have to ever hold their child,” Melanie explains.

She says it was the moment she left the mortuary that she found her resolve,  first thing she did was ring the SIDS Foundation.

"I said to them ‘this is not ok tell me what I can do, this can’t happen to another family’.”

She swore then to do whatever it took to never let it happen again.

“Mylee was 15 months old, and we like many other parents thought we were over the SIDS stage. We’d never even heard of SUDC before.”

She says things have to change.

Melanie is speaking out as SIDS and Kids announce their re-branding as "Red Nose" and announce a pledge to reduce the nine sudden and unexpected deaths a day of children from 20 weeks in pregnancy to four years of age, to zero preventable deaths.

Melanie says she is “incredibly delighted” to see the re-branding of SIDS and Kids into Red Nose.

Four years after Mylee’s death, the life of Melanie and her husband Sean has become defined through the difficult prism of loss. Mylee's three siblings are thriving but Melanie and Sean still struggle.

“You don’t have a choice, you have to live with it. It's horrible and awful and gut wrenchingly devastating but you have to live with it. You have to find a new kind of normal.”

Things like going back to work became almost unbearable for her.

“I thought that after losing Mylee, 'how can I spend a second away from the children I have?'

"I’m more panicky, night is really terrible, I get anxious and worried. Every time I put my babies down to sleep now I think I am not going to see them again.

“It takes the innocence away from having a child. Now I think how long will I have this child for?”

What is SUDI and SUDC? From Red Nose.
• SUDI is a term used to describe the sudden and unexpected death of a baby. SUDI may be the result of a serious illness or a problem that baby may have been born with, but most SUDI deaths occur as a result of either SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or a fatal sleep accident. The only way to find out why a baby has died suddenly and unexpectedly is to perform an autopsy, review the clinical history and to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of death, including the death scene. When no cause can be found for the death it is called SIDS.
• SUDC – the sudden and unexplained death of a child occurs predominantly in toddlers aged 1 – 5 years, though it can extend beyond this age bracket and affect children up to 12 – 18 years. Without further research SUDC is unpredictable and unpreventable.

Red Nose, formerly SIDS and KIDS are there to help. You can contact them here. 

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