Sudden Infant Death Syndrome remains a mystery

09/17/2009 07:16 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Angela Garrett remembers the cold day in January 1993 as one that began like a normal day.

She had just per her 2-month-old son, Blaine, down for a nap in his crib. She checked on him frequently, but despite that, one hour later Blaine died in his sleep. The cause was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, Awareness Month. SIDS occurs at a rate of about 0.5 per 1,000 births. However, in American Indian and African American populations, the rate is around one per 1,000 births.

SIDS is considered the death of a child less than 1 year old that remains “unexplained” after a thorough investigation including an autopsy, review of clinical history and investigation of the scene of death, said Dr. Tom Kincade, chief of Pediatrics at the Cherokee Nation Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee.

“I think it is important for our communities to know abut SIDS due to the increased rates in Native Americans and also to be aware of the factors that can help prevent SIDS,” Kincade said.

SIDS remains a leading cause of death in healthy infants less than 1 year old, and approximately 2,100 infants in the United States die of SIDS per year, he said.

Parents can reduce the risk of SIDS by placing babies on their backs to sleep.

“Studies show that over 90 percent of infants that died from SIDS were not sleeping on their backs,” he said. “Most were sleeping on their stomachs.”

Garrett said she put Blaine on his back for his nap, but when she found him, he was on his stomach and his face was in the crib mattress.

“Somehow, at 2 months old he rolled over,” she said. “He was already gone when I found him. I didn’t even call 911(immediately.) I called my mom because he was already gone.”

She said afterward she was in a state of shock, and since then she’s blocked out most of the memory of losing Blaine to SIDS.

“I don’t even remember them taking him out,” she said. “I thought he was still in the room after the ambulance got there and everything. It was a couple of hours later and I thought he was still there.”

Even now, 14 years later, Garrett said she’s stilly trying to understand SIDS.

“From the moment I found him, I don’t remember too much of anything else,” she said. “He wasn’t sick. He didn’t have a cold. There wasn’t anything wrong with him.”

Studies have also shown that letting babies use pacifiers while sleeping can reduce the SIDS risk, Kincade said. He added that infants should sleep on a firm sleeping surface, should not be overdressed while they sleep and stuffed animals, excess bedding and blankets should be avoided.

“When babies leave the hospital nursery they should be able to maintain a normal body temperature which means if parents feel comfortable in shorts and a tee shirt, their babies will too,” he said.

Educational materials about SIDS have been placed in the clinic and exam rooms at the Three Rivers Health Center, and other tribal clinics have been encouraged to do the same, Kincade said.


10/09/2015 02:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – On Oct. 14, the Cherokee Nation will have an open house event at 10 a.m. to celebrate the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center’s 28,000-square-foot building expansion. Tours of the $10 million expansion, which nearly doubles the size of the existing center that was built in 1995, will be given after Principal Chief Bill John Baker and other tribal leaders speak. The center saw more than 120,000 patient visits and issued more than 220,000 prescriptions in 2014. According to a CN press release, the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center expansion is the third project completed under a $100 million health care capital improvement plan using casino profits. The CN opened a health center in Ochelata and expanded the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw earlier this year. A new health center is scheduled to open soon in Jay.
10/01/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the Cherokee Nation Pediatric Behavioral Health System said they are determined to help youth and families with social and emotional development, as well as address any behavioral health concerns, with an endeavor called the HERO Project. Dallas Pettigrew, HERO Project administrative operations manager, said HERO stands for Helping Everyone Reach Out. “The thing about the HERO Project is we want it to be more than a clinic. A clinic is something that’s reactive, and it’s there to pick up the pieces when things are broken. The HERO Project is about much more than that,” he said. “We do a lot of preventative work in the community. We don’t really like to call it preventative work. We like to call it family strengthening. We work with parents and caregivers and teachers and daycare providers and everywhere the children go we want to be present so that we can make their environment the best possible place for them.” He said project officials “do as much work trying to keep things from being broken” as they do “putting them back together.” “With that said, we have a clinic that deals with children with behavioral issues,” he said. “It’s staffed right now with five full-time therapists who are using trauma-enforced care to take care of our kids and families.” Pettigrew said officials want to express to parents and caregivers that they are the experts when it comes to their children, but also remind them that officials are there to help. He said officials want to help children in any environment with which the child is involved. “Every environment that children interact in needs to be a safe place for kids to be,” he said. “The best place for children to get the kind of social and emotional development they need to be successful is the home.” Pettigrew said two services offered are the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) and the PAX Good Behavior Game. He said Triple P is a family strengthening program, or a parent education course. “It’s not designed to tell parents they’re doing anything wrong,” he said. “What it does is give parents a series of options to address particular behavior from their children.” Pettigrew said the PAX Good Behavior Game is conducted with first grade students in the CN jurisdiction. “We try to get into every elementary school that will let us and we take PAX to them,” he said. “The way that it works is you play all of first grade and it changes a little bit throughout that one year, but at the end of first grade PAX can reduce ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) behaviors by 65 percent. What that leaves is the kids that honestly have ADHD and need those medications.” According to, the game teaches students to “flip on” their internal focus switch required for any learning. It teaches them how to work toward valued goals and to cooperate with each other to reach those goals. Students learn how to self-regulate during learning and fun and to delay gratification for a bigger goal. Pettigrew said in some cases trauma shows the same symptoms as someone who has ADHD. He said while children take part in PAX, this should help weed out those children with trauma problems. “The thing about trauma is it looks like ADHD,” he said. “By trauma I mean they witnessed domestic violence in their home or maybe they’ve been physically or sexually abused or maybe they’ve been neglected or maybe one of their parents is missing from their household or they’re living with someone with substance abuse or mental illness.” He said after experiencing one or multiple traumas often times a child will show ADHD-like symptoms. “When a child has had a couple of those then they start to get kind of fight, flight or fear. They start getting kind of edgy. They’re jittery. They don’t pay attention well in school. They might have short tempers. They might be loud and obnoxious to their peers in class. They might get frustrated easy,” he said. He said officials are finding that children are wrongly diagnosed with ADHD when instead they have been exposed to trauma. He said these misdiagnoses happen at “alarming rates.” Pettigrew said it is important that the CN is implementing the HERO Project. “We know that in Cherokee Nation we suffer a high rate of diabetes and heart disease, cancer, hypertension and stroke. All those things are preventable chronic health conditions that are triggered, at least to some extent, by adverse childhood experiences,” he said. “I believe that if we interfere with those multiple childhood traumas early on and treat them appropriately we can help people prevent obtaining these harmful habits that lead to these diseases.” He said the HERO Project would not only save the tribe’s health system billions of dollars, but it will also help extend CN citizens’ health. “It will teach our children how to be healthy and successful,” he said. “We’ll have better outcomes in education. We’ll have better outcomes in employment. We’ll have fewer needs for social services. Things will just be better all around.” For more information, call 918-772-4004.
09/30/2015 10:00 AM
VINITA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Vinita Health Clinic will host events in October to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The clinic’s Radiology Department will host a softball tournament beginning at 9 a.m. on Oct. 3 at the Bill Morgan Sports Complex. On Oct. 7, there will be a catered lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that will include chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, salad and a roll all for $10. Everyone is encouraged to wear pink on Oct. 14 to support breast cancer awareness and the individual wearing the most pink will win. There will be a bingo night in the gallery of the clinic from 6 p.m. to 7:30. The event is open to the public. “We also have a pumpkin contest. Coolest pumpkin will get a prize. Also bring your change to vote for your favorite pumpkin. The pumpkin with the most money wins,” Denielle Robison, patient services coordinator, said. “We also will be selling breast cancer awareness T-shirts throughout the month of October.”
09/30/2015 08:42 AM
JAY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Dee Humphrey, a registered dental hygienist in tribe’s Sam Hider Community Clinic, has been published twice this year in Pennwell RDH magazine, a magazine that features all things dental. Because of her two published articles, she was given the opportunity to go to Las Vegas in July. “For winning the Oral Cancer Foundation contest of ‘Being a Part of the Change’ for writing an article to raise awareness and conducting the Tobacco Prevention Program: Never Using tobacco, I got the amazing opportunity to speak about the program at Under One Roof: The National Dental Hygienist Conference with over 1,500 hygienists in attendance,” she said. Humphrey was published in August on her program she developed about tobacco prevention. The program encouraged school-aged children to be “cancer killers.” “That empowers children to be agents of change in never using tobacco products of any kind,” she said. “It was satisfying to know that the children really responded to why it is important to never use tobacco products of any kind and to hear that they are taking what they learned and telling their parents to stop using tobacco products.” Her first article was published in April and dealt with a program she created on raising oral health prevention and awareness within the public school setting for special needs children. “The most satisfying moment was to see positive results within the special needs program and decrease dental diseases among our Native American children,” she said regarding a study she completed this year. Both articles were created and published with the intention of raising “awareness about prevention in the dental profession and to impact a nation.” She recently received a call from a participant’s parent from an area public school that reflected on the family’s long history with smoking. “A nurse from a local public school recently called me to mention that her own child got to participate in the program. He told his grandpa who smoked tobacco for over 35 plus years about what he learned and asked him to quit,” Humphrey said. “And, he did all because of what her son learned from the program. I also received handwritten letters from the children, which shows me how it will tremendously impact them for years to come.” To view Humphrey’s articles, go to <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
09/16/2015 08:40 AM
MIAMI, Okla. (AP) – The free exhibit “Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness” is open to the public in the Charles Wilson Banks Gallery in Kah-Ne-You-Ah Hall at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. “Native Voices” discusses the notions of health and medicine among contemporary American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian people. The U.S. National Library of Medicine of Maryland is producing the traveling exhibition. NLM is a part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NLM is commonly known for its background in working with Native American communities to provide health information resources that are easily available to the public. Native Voices features interviews and works from Native people living on reservations, in tribal villages and in cities. A few of the exhibit’s topics include community-extending a healing hand then and now, individual-traditional healers and healing, and nature-a source of strength and healing. The exhibition is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until Oct. 23 and from 9:30 a.m. to noon on two Saturdays: Sept. 26 and Oct. 24. The exhibit is special to the college because it has appeared at much larger universities throughout the country. “We feel really fortunate because it’s sponsored by the National Library of Medicine,” said Rachel Lloyd, American Indian Center for Excellence project director. “We had the head curator come and install it for us. It was actually at the Cherokee Nation before us.” Lloyd said she thinks NEO was chosen to display the exhibit because of its large American Indian student population, which is currently 23 percent. “NEO typically ranks higher in the Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the name of the publication that ranks schools on the number of graduates they have in each of the racial group categories,” Lloyd said. “For Native American students, NEO ranks second nationwide in nursing graduates.” Caleb Cox, a Cherokee Nation citizen and NEO sophomore, is majoring in general studies at the college and will soon transfer to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, to pursue biomedical sciences. Cox said the exhibit has given him knowledge that he can use later in the real world. “I know a lot more about my own Cherokee culture, but it was really interesting to see that there is an overarching theme of how significant health is to Native American tribes in the U.S.,” Cox said. “Going into pre-med, it was interesting to me that I can learn about medicine while learning about my culture and heritage, at the same time.” There are headphones and tablets placed throughout the exhibit for viewers to learn about health and illness from various tribes in digital format. “The exhibit has virtual interaction, and there are interviews with people among different tribes across America,” Cox said. “It discusses how health is important to them and how they treat it, specifically in their own tribes.” The digital interviews capture stories from various individuals and the methods they use towards healthy living. One of the stories Cox described was about a tribe who cut down a tree in order to make a healing totem pole. “A tribe cut down the tree and blessed it,” Cox said. “The Healing Totem Pole traveled across the nation and ended up at the National Library of Medicine. It went through this long journey where it stopped at all of the different Native American tribes across America and they each blessed it.” Cox said even though each interview is different, the tribes all seek common ground when it comes to the health of Native American people. “They have different perspectives because they’re from different tribes,” Cox said. “How they handle health and wellness is the overall theme. One of the things they all emphasize is keeping the Native American culture alive and their view on health remedies.” “Native Voices” shares stories about recovery, renaissance and self-determination. It also exemplifies how the U.S. Native tribes utilize both traditional and Western methods to enhance overall wellness and health. Visitors to the exhibit may park along the west side of Kah-Ne Hall or in the lot west of Copen Hall to avoid parking tickets. All NEO faculty, staff and students should park in parking areas designated for their school-issued permits.
09/09/2015 01:28 PM
WASHINGTON – The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s American Indian and Alaska Native Task Force announced Sept. 1 the first-ever National American Indian and Alaska Native Suicide Prevention “Hope for Life Day.” The “Hope for Life Day” will be held annually on Sept. 10 in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day. The “Hope for Life Day” is part of the Action Alliance’s AI/AN Task Force’s efforts to change the conversation about suicide and promote hope, life, cultural resiliency, and community transformation. “Suicide prevention depends on bringing together native communities as ‘Hope for Life Day’ will do. IHS works with partners to create a safety net of services to protect individuals against suicide risk and maximize the effectiveness of programs,” said Indian Health Service Principal Deputy Director Robert G. McSwain, public sector co-lead of the AI/AN Task Force. “Every suicide affects the whole tribal community and that is why IHS provides staff and counseling resources in response to incidents of suicide. We are honored to participate in ‘Hope for Life Day’ to build awareness for communities to address the critical health need for suicide prevention strategies.” Native communities bear the largest burden of suicide among all racial/ethnic groups in the United States, with Native youth being disproportionately affected, according to Action Alliance. In Native communities, as in other communities, suicide affects not just the people who lose their lives, but also those who are left to survive: parents, siblings, friends, families, and communities. Stigma regarding mental health and suicide is also a pressing issue affecting Native communities. National efforts to increase public awareness about how suicide affects Indian Country are therefore greatly needed. To assist health professionals and grassroots organizers working in AI/AN communities, the AI/AN Task Force produced the “Hope for Life Day” toolkit. The toolkit contains community engagement strategies, tips for meeting with tribal leaders, promotional materials, and suggestions for cultural activities. “Hope for Life Day” provides the opportunity to equip tribal communities with suicide prevention tools, focus on the needs of Native youth, and spotlight current efforts for Native suicide prevention,” said Dr. Doryn Chervin, Action Alliance executive secretary and vice president and senior scientist, Education Development Center. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is the public-private partnership working to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and make suicide prevention a national priority. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, through the Education Development Center, Inc., operates the Secretariat for the Action Alliance, which was launched in 2010 by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates with the goal of saving 20,000 lives in five years.