Camila Felicity Reina Villa was a beautiful, healthy baby girl born April 22.
“Everything was fine,” said her grandmother, Netily Reyes, a mainstay in the Kerrville community. “She was eating right, burping, going to the restroom.”
Yet sometime between noon and 2 p.m. on June 1, her family’s worst nightmare was realized: Camila, 1 month old, safely at home in San Antonio with her 19-year-old mother, Felicity Hadley, and her father, Edgar Villa, suddenly stopped breathing in her sleep.
“Her father tried to revive her with CPR,” said Reyes. “They found no signs of abuse or neglect; she had simply passed away in her sleep. They said it was SIDS.”
SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, is a diagnosis used to describe the sudden and unexplained death of a child less than 1 year old.
According to the National Institute of Health, it is the leading cause of death nationwide for infants between 1 month and 1 year old.
But the loss is unthinkable to Reyes and her family: Just two days prior, she had seen her granddaughter Camila, and she seemed perfectly normal.
“She was up the whole time looking around,” Reyes said.
Camila was a wonderful baby; she slept all the time, but when she was up, she was alert, her grandmother added.
“She must have had good dreams — she was always smiling in her sleep,” said Reyes. “She had dark brown eyes and a lot of hair, straight. We thought it might be curly when she got older.”
But only two days after she last saw Camila, Reyes received a heartbreaking phone call from her daughter in San Antonio.
“She said, ‘Mom, please come — something’s happened, Camila died,’” Reyes recalled. “I jumped out of the pool and drove to their apartment.”
Each year, about 3,500 American babies die of SIDS.
Texas’s rate of infant death is above the national average, and according to 2016 data from San Antonio’s Metro Health District, Bexar County has the highest rates of SIDS deaths of any metropolitan area in the state.
Yet surrounded by senseless tragedy, no one knows why.
“The worst part is just losing her and not knowing why or how,” said Reyes. “I find myself asking, ‘Why?’ I just had her with me Thursday, and all of a sudden she’s not here anymore? What happened? Why was she given to all of us just to be taken away? It’s hard.”
Reyes’s voice grew distant as she said she tried to do research to find out more about SIDS but came up empty-handed.
“I tried to find what causes it, but there’s no cause — they cannot find answers,” she said. “There’s nothing to stop it.”
LEARNING TO COPE
Reyes said it’s hardest when she goes to sleep and is reminded all over again of her granddaughter’s death when she wakes up in the morning.
“When we wake up, reality hits us again,” she said.
Because of cemetery vandalization occurrences in San Antonio, Reyes said Camila’s parents want to lay the baby to rest in a gated community with evening security.
They hope to hold Camila’s burial services at Sunset Memorial Park in San Antonio, but they were given a quote of $13,800, said Reyes — an untenable amount for the young and grieving family.
To offset the costs, Reyes said the family will be hosting a memorial fundraiser for baby Camila from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 15 at VFW Post 1480 at 220 Thompson Drive.
They hope to sell barbecue plates, chicken leg quarters, rice and beans, tortillas, drinks and water in an effort to raise funds for Camila’s funeral service.
Any food or barbecue donations or contributions for the event would be gratefully accepted, Reyes said.
Kerrville residents interested in donating to Camila’s fund can donate by going to any local Wells Fargo Bank location and informing the teller they want to donate to “Camila’s Memorial Fund,” a special fund set up for Camila’s funeral services.
Reyes said if she had any advice for other bereaved parents, grandparents and family members, it was to stay close to your family and not isolate yourself.
“You need your family to cope with this,” she said.
She said it’s also helped her to join a Facebook page for other bereaved parents and grandparents, and speak to others experiencing the same pain.
“There are other parents and grandparents out there going through the same thing,” Reyes said. “Talking to other people — it helps you learn how to cope with things.”