21 years ago, on Valentine’s Day 1998, Red Nose CEO Keren Ludski, lost her precious son Ben to SIDS.
Read below for Keren’s story.
“It was Valentine’s Day 1998. We were preparing to leave for a family lunch at my mother’s house. Ben was still asleep in his cot, so I told my older sons, Josh, 6, and Jarryd, 4, to go hop in the car, while I woke Ben from his sleep.
“As my hand touched the door handle, I knew something was wrong. I picked him up from his cot. He wasn’t breathing. That’s the moment my life changed forever. I called an ambulance and started CPR. Ben was initially revived and rushed to the Children’s Hospital.
“But it was too late. The doctors ran a series of tests, but he had no brain activity. There was nothing more they could do.
“I remember the day the hospital first connected me to my Red Nose counsellor, starting my journey with this organisation that helps so many people. Over time, as I started to heal I decided I wanted to volunteer with Red Nose, and use my experience as a platform to help other families going through similar experiences.
“I joined with the Red Nose counsellors to talk with police and ambulance workers about how they handle SIDS deaths. For me, it was healing, knowing that the next family to experience this unimaginable tragedy would be treated with compassion, empathy, and understanding. And not with suspicion, mistrust and blame like many families are on the worst day of their life.
“I didn’t want anyone else to feel as alone as I did, so I became a peer support worker with Red Nose – a parent who talks with other parents and supports them through their journey.
“The hardest – but most truthful – thing to hear as a bereaved parent is that you will never get over it. For me and many other families I have spoken to over the years, it is learning to make space for it, so it becomes less edgy and less prickly and not as hard to breathe.
“But, being able to talk to someone who has gone through the same thing as you can bring so much comfort – finally you can talk to someone who understands what you are going through without pity or judgement.
“After Ben’s death, I was blessed with my fourth child, Gemma. I remember my sons asking me when I was pregnant, “will this baby die too?” That was one of the hardest questions I have ever been asked. Because I didn’t know the answer.
“Every ounce of my being wanted to say, “no of course not”, and yet I knew I couldn’t promise that.
“Today, I look at the wonderful relationship my children have with each other, and I know that’s because of Ben. They know how lucky they are to have each other. Ben has shaped who we are today – and that’s how we keep him alive.
“Ben’s death also turned my professional working life on its head. At the time, I owned Kez’s Kitchen, a biscuit company and passion project I started in my kitchen, which I believed I would do forever.
“But after Ben, it was just biscuits. So frivolous. I needed to do something that was more meaningful.
“So I became a grief counsellor, to help other people on their healing journey. But the work I do now at Red Nose is the best work that I can do in Ben’s memory. That’s why I’m here.
“My personal healing journey started with Red Nose. And now, 21 years later, I begin my new chapter as CEO of this vital organisation that helps thousands of people each year.
“And as I sit here in at my desk, I know Ben would be proud.
“Because of our supporters, Red Nose has come a long way. Our supporters have helped reduce SIDS by 85 per cent in Australia. I can’t emphasize enough just how huge this is.
“That’s 10,000 little lives saved, and 10,000 families that didn’t have to go through what my family went through.
“But there continues to be nine families that experience the death of a child every single day. And this is not OK. We need to do everything we can to reduce this number to zero – because just one more family having to lose a child is too many.”
End the pain – by continuing to fund life-changing research to uncover the reason why 3,200 children in Australia die suddenly and unexpectedly during pregnancy, infancy or childhood.
Prevent the cycle – by turning our research findings into public health education campaigns that help all Australian parents be informed and help save little lives.
Heal the heartbreak – by continuing to support every single person that has been impacted by the death of a child, through a range of free services that will ensure each person gets the support they need.
Because no one should have to go through the unimaginable horror of losing a child. But if they do, Red Nose will always be there to support them.