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Tragedy Inspires Mother to Educate Others About Safe Sleep

June 15, 2016 10:16 a.m.

  • Newborn Kambri Hildebrand, with parents Brett and Mara Hildebrand, models a sleep sack. They are pictured with Haley Campbell, RN, (center) and Angie Goebel with son Grant.

Angie and Ben Goebel still struggle with the loss of their three-month-old daughter Maggie five years ago.

The couple never imagined tragedy would strike when the child’s baby sitter laid her down for a nap one morning. “We received a frantic call saying she wasn’t breathing and they had called 911,” Mrs. Goebel said. By the time the family reached the hospital emergency department, their baby girl was gone. “Maggie had rolled over into some soft bedding while napping in a “Pack’N Play” and suffocated,” Goebel explained. “It was a horrible accident.”

In the years that have followed this unthinkable tragedy, the Newton mother has made it one of her life missions to educate others on safe infant sleep practices. “I just want to educate everybody so there’s not another family that has to go through what we’ve gone through,” she said.

The Goebel family recently donated more than 100 HALO® Sleep Sacks to be given to parents enrolled in Oh! Baby childbirth classes at Sarah Bush Lincoln. Since 2005, The American Academy of Pediatrics and First Candle/SIDS Alliance suggest the use of a wearable blanket, like the HALO® Sleep Sack, instead of a loose blanket to help keep a baby warm. Loose blankets in the crib can pose a significant risk as they can cover a baby’s face and interfere with breathing.

Mrs. Goebel will also be on hand to talk with expectant parents about safe infant sleep practices at the 2016 Bumps, Burps and Giggles Baby Fair on Sunday, June 26, at Sarah Bush Lincoln. The event is being held from 11 am to 2 pm in the Lumpkin Family Center for Health Education. It is free and open to the public.

While the Goebels had two other children, ages 7 and 4 at the time of Maggie’s death, they had never used sleep sacks before.  “Many parents are unaware that having a blanket in the crib poses a significant risk,” SBL Perinatal Educator & Lactation Consultant Pam Hood, RN, said. “Infant sleep sacks are closed, zipped, blanket-like sleepers, which allow the baby to have a warmer and safer sleep environment. We are extremely grateful to Angie and her family for providing these sleep sacks to new parents.”

The couple was extremely precautious when their son, Grant, was born in 2013 and used sleep sacks until he was a year and a half old. In addition to the Sarah Bush Lincoln donation, the Goebels have donated hundreds of sleep sacks to hospitals, health departments and individual families in Effingham, Jasper and Richland counties in the past four years. “My goal is to make sure that everyone is well educated,” Goebel said. In addition, the family has donated funds for Safe Sitter classes at the Jasper County Health Department, conducted safe sleep seminars for SIDS training for daycare providers, parents, grandparents, etc. and provided Angel Care monitors to local families, along with contributions to other agencies.

The Goebels raise funds to support their safe sleep initiative by hosting the Footprints in Memory of Maggie 5K Run/Walk and Toddler Trot at Sam Parr State Park in Newton each year. The 5th annual event will take place on Saturday, August 27. The race begins at 8 a.m., with registration starting at 7 a.m. For more information about the race or for a registration form, email Angie Goebel at bnagoebel@gmail.com.

The mission they wanted to accomplish was clear from the beginning: to raise awareness and support of SIDS by educating families, providing resources for new parents and promoting dialogue about SIDS and safe sleep practices. “It has helped us heal and allowed us to help spread the word about safe infant sleep practices,” Mrs. Goebel said. The couple has been overwhelmed by the support, raising from $4,000 to $5,000 each year.

“We are open to suggestions on how to reach more people with education and resources,” she said.

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