March is SUDC month

May 29, 2020 started out like any other day. I took my son to his last day of preschool before heading to work, blissfully unaware that my life was about to change forever. That afternoon as I was finishing up my day in the office I received a panicked phone call from my husband. Our 14-month-old daughter Lucy had taken her afternoon nap like usual, but when my husband went to wake her up she wasn’t breathing. She was whisked to the ER but it was too late. My perfect, healthy, thriving daughter was gone. We left the hospital without our child, completely blindsided. She had been fine just a few hours earlier, as I saw in the video that my husband had sent me before her nap where she was laughing and saying “Mama!” There had been nothing wrong with her, how could this have happened?? Three painful months later we received Lucy’s autopsy report, hoping for answers. Instead it read, “cause of death undetermined.” After all of that, after doing a full medical investigation and an autopsy, after months of waiting, they still had no idea what had happened that day. She was gone, and that was that.

Fortunately, one person—who we didn’t even know prior to Lucy’s death—heard about our family and reached out. She introduced us to the term Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, SUDC. SUDC is a category of death affecting 400 children per year aged 1 to 18-years-old that remains unexplained after a full medical investigation and autopsy. It most commonly occurs while children are sleeping, but can also happen while they are awake. It is the fifth leading category of death in children aged 1 to 4-years-old in the United States, and yet people don’t know about it. I had been a nurse for over nine years when Lucy died, and I had never heard of this. What’s more, no one who we encountered throughout our loss—the medical community, the coroner and medical examiner, the police officers—knew that there was a name for this tragedy. Had it not been for the one person who reached out, we wouldn’t have known that there were other families like ours, that there is a whole community of broken families who have suffered the same loss.

March is SUDC Awareness Month, and Montana is one of the many states that has recognized it as such in recent years. It is an important month to families like ours because people need to know about this. Research is needed to try to identify what is happening to these seemingly healthy children. Support is needed for families whose lives were changed in an instant. These things can’t happen if SUDC families are the only ones who know about it and who share about it. We need others to participate in spreading awareness so that families like ours can have the opportunity to benefit from support services and to be able to connect with other families who get it. We need others to spread awareness so that more research can be funded so that hopefully one day these senseless deaths can be predicted and avoided. We need others to spread awareness so that we’re not alone.

How can you participate in SUDC Awareness Month? You can visit the SUDC Foundation’s website and www.sudc.org for more information on SUDC or to make a donation. You can share posts on social media. You can wear the SUDC colors of yellow and blue. You can be there for the families who have lived through the unthinkable and allow them room for their grief, regardless of how long ago their loss happened. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe that it also takes a village to remember a child too.

Submitted by Paula Collins


Finn Shaver

Joshua and Emilee Shaver welcomed baby boy Finn Shaver on February 11, 2022 at 10:02 a.m. Finn weighed six pounds and was 19.5 inches at time of birth. Finn was delivered at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center in Libby, Mont.

Department of Environmental Quality Announces Open Burning Season

Submitted by Moira Davin, Montana Department of Environmental Quality

The Montana open burning season begans March 1. While burning is allowed year-round, there are different restrictions and requirements throughout the seasons. The Department of Environmental Quality reminds Montanans to comply with air quality rules and use good judgment to prevent wildfires.

To burn March 1 through Aug, 31, please follow the below steps:

  1. Obtain a permit from your local fire control authority.
  2. Check with your local air quality program for restrictions in Missoula, Cascade, Yellowstone, Lincoln and Flathead counties.
  3. On the day of your burn, activate your county permit.
  4. Be aware of local conditions and burn smart.
  5. Check back on Sept. 1 for fall burning restrictions.

To obtain a permit, go to: https://app.egovmt.com/burnpermit/ If your county is not listed on the website, call your local fire control authority to obtain one.

While DEQ air quality approval is not required during open burn season, contact local fire control authorities prior to burning to get permission and information on local fire safety-related requirements. DEQ also recommends contacting county health departments to determine whether any county level air quality requirements exist and to follow local regulations.

Only clean, untreated wood and plant material can be burned. Do not burn: food wastes, plastics, wood that has been coated, painted, stained, or treated, dead animals or animal droppings, rubber materials, chemicals, asphalt shingles, tar paper, hazardous wastes or structures containing these materials. A full list of prohibited materials can be found on DEQ’s open burning website: https://deq.mt.gov/air/Programs/burning

Open burning season will end on Aug. 31. For more information on air quality related open burning rules, prohibited materials, frequently asked questions and state permit requirements, please visit DEQ’s open burning webpage at:  https://deq.mt.gov/air/Programs/burning or call 406-444-3490.

About DEQ: At the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, our mission is to champion a healthy environment for a thriving Montana. DEQ is charged with maintaining and improving Montana’s air, land and water. For more information about DEQ programs, please visit: https://deq.mt.gov/