Derek and Ali Dodd only got to spend 11 short weeks with their baby boy before tragedy struck, taking their infant son away from them. As much as she didn’t want to, Ali had to return to work after finishing up her maternity leave, making it necessary to find someone to care for baby Shepard.
The Dodds ended up hiring an in-home daycare provider who’d come highly recommended. They were confident Shepard would be well-cared for, making it easier for them to leave the house. But all that changed one day when Ali received a frantic call. Something was wrong with Shepard.
When Ali saw her son, all blue and unresponsive, her worst fears as a mother came true. Her baby was dead. Shepard’s official cause of death was positional asphyxiation, caused by the caretaker swaddling him, placing him in a car seat, and leaving him alone. His head had fallen down onto his chest, causing him to suffocate. At his age, it wasn’t possible for him to lift his head.
“This wasn’t an accident,” Derek said. “She knew that a car seat wasn’t safe for sleep and that two hours is much too long to leave an infant behind a closed door.” What’s worse is that he and his wife later found out The Department of Human Services had issued a citation to the woman for using unsafe sleep methods. Still, hard as it is to believe, the woman hasn’t been charged with any crime.
In honor of Shepard's 6 month birthday I wanted to post this video as it's my very favorite of him and me. It was hard day. Derek is gone and it's my first day at being a single parent since Shepard died. I miss his smell, his smile, our conversations, snuggling, and the way we belonged together. I knew Shepard was just for me and now there is just this gaping hole in my chest that time will not heal. Another baby will not fill. Legislation or some legal action will not fill. I'm stuck here walking this earth with this open wound. This life wasn't meant to be fair or easy, and there is no mercy here, or none I can find.We have to stop the ignorance, we have to protect our babies. We need to stand up together as Mothers, Fathers, Sons, Daughters, Sisters and Brothers and DEMAND that our state not be any less safe than the state with the best laws. We have to DEMAND proper deterrents that will make caregivers think twice before violating safe sleep practices. We have to DEMAND that all parents are allowed free and accessable information on a website so we can find safe daycares for our kids. We have to DEMAND that once a child dies as a result of a caregivers negligence they loose that vocation for life! We have to DEMAND that all daycares carry liability insurance that will pay for medical bills in case of injury or death with NO exceptions!Please stand with me, please pray for me. We have to make Shepard our story. We HAVE to do this for Shepard and for all children in Oklahoma!
Posted by Shepard's Watch on Thursday, July 16, 2015
Now, three years later, the Dodds are focusing on their non-profit, Shepard’s Watch, through which they raise safe sleep awareness in the hopes of sparing other families from the devastation that tore through their lives.
“Shepard’s death doesn’t have to be in vain,” Derek explained. “Unsafe sleep surfaces are a REAL danger. We’re looking to focus the attention on safe sleep standards so they can protect Oklahoma’s children from negligent decisions.”
Shepard's StoryShepard was an unnaturally happy and healthy boy. He would smile until something needed to be corrected, he would cry, you would fix it, then he would smile again. He was a special baby to my wife and I after years of infertility and had a life ahead with limitless possibilities. Which is why on April 6, 2015 our world changed forever. We chose this in-home daycare provider because she came recommended from a friend and she would only watch teachers kids. Meaning she would be closed during the summers and school breaks, which was great for us, as I’m a teacher.On April 6, I left for work early and was able to kiss Shepard and Ali goodbye. I will never forget him looking over for me and smiling. Shepard had been going to the in-home daycare for five days when Ali took him on that Monday. He had his first runny nose that weekend and had woken up that morning with congestion, but he was in good spirits, so we were not overly worried. Ali had messaged the daycare provider about using a rock’n’play for sleeping so that Shepard could be inclined instead of having to lie on his back. Originally she agreed, but when Ali arrived and she saw what it was, she said she could not let him sleep in it. In fact, she confided that she had been cited by DHS 11 days earlier for allowing another infant to fall asleep in a swing, and that they had told her how dangerous both carseats and swings were for babies to sleep in. On that Monday, as Ali was unpacking her diaper bag realized that she had forgotten the bottles so she had to run back home. She was very concerned about Shepard getting sick if she were to lay him down flat for his naps. So while she was home she grabbed her Ergo 360 carrier that our childcare giver had used before so she wouldn’t have to put him down at all if she didn’t want to. Ali also requested a doctor’s note for our childcare giver so she would also have the option to use the rock’n’play. When Ali returned, the childcare giver reported that she had come up with a plan. She would sit the rock’n’play in front of the couch so Shepard could nap in it; so if DHS stopped by to “check on her” she could just pick him up and answer the door with him. This ensured she wouldn’t get in trouble. So Ali, feeling confident the attention Shepard would be getting would be more than sufficient, left to go to her morning meetings and notified our childcare giver that our doctor was faxing her the note for the rock’n’play at 9:45am.At 12:51pm the daycare provider called Ali and told her she needed to come quickly. Ali was in Shawnee, on her way to Earlsboro. The childcare giver reported that Shepard was not breathing. She had called 911 and a police officer and EMT’s had responded. Ali asked her to give the phone to an EMT and after speaking with him, she knew that the prognosis wasn’t good. Ali then called me. In the middle of teaching a class I had to answer the phone to Ali saying I had to go, Shepard wasn’t breathing. I ran to the truck and drove way too fast to the daycare providers home. When I arrived, they were wheeling out my son on a stretcher. They were still working on him, but told me that they had yet to get his heart going or him breathing on his own. As I rode in the van in front of the ambulance, I had to prepare myself for life without my son. When we arrived at the hospital, as they wheeled him past me into the E.R. I gave him a kiss on the forehead. He was cold. I met Ali in the E.R. As they were working on our son, the attending physician came over and told us that they would try another push of epinephrine and two more rounds of CPR and then they would have to call it. Surrounded by doctors and nurses with looks of pity, police officers, detectives, and DHS officials waiting to interview us, we had to say goodbye to our son, intubated on a stretcher.Unbeknownst to us, our childcare provider had been in a educated by DHS for the swing violation (given on 3/26/15) where she was specifically counseled about safe sleep practices. On 3/27/15 DHS returned the next day due to the serious violation she was reminded the dangers of putting a child in a swing. It’s documented in her public file that our childcare giver, on 3/27/15, specifically inquired about infants napping in their carseats. DHS told her no and that sleeping in the carseat was a dangerous practice and would increase the chances of SIDS. She was told this just 10 DAYS before she chose to put our child unbuckled in a carseat on the floor, swaddled, where he wiggled down until he lost his airway and suffocated to death. He was unable to alert anyone to the terrible trouble he was in because the door was closed and there was no monitor to catch his struggle. In addition, our childcare provider was distracted by her friend who had stopped by around lunchtime so she could drop off her two year old while she went and had lunch with some other moms. TWO HOURS had passed before she finally checked on Shepard and found him completely blue.The childcare provider has never been charged with any crime. Shepard's case is still open and we are hopeful as a family that justice will find her in this world or the next. This was not an accident. She knew that a car seat was not safe for sleep and that two hours is too long to leave an infant behind a closed door. Shepard’s death does not have to be in vain. Unsafe sleep surfaces are a REAL danger. We are looking to focus the attention to safe sleep standards so they can protect Oklahoman’s children from negligent decisions.
Posted by Shepard's Watch on Thursday, July 16, 2015
Our hearts go out to these parents as they continue to face life without their beloved son. Rest in peace, baby Shepard.