AKRON, Ohio – After losing their 10-week-old baby girl Molly to a dangerous sleep situation six years ago, Meagen and Jeff Gries understand that there is no explanation needed for those who know their pain , but for those who do not know this pain, there is no possible explanation.
“When I think back to the time I spent with her, there just wasn’t enough of it,” said Jeff Gries, choking back tears. “There wasn’t enough time, but there wasn’t enough time for anyone.”
The couple sympathize with the Akron families who have experienced the same heartache over the past two years.
Akron Police said 13 cases of babies aged 10 days to 11 months have accidentally choked since 2020.
Most deaths resulted from co-sleeping when a parent or other caregiver slept on the same bed and rolled over on the infant. However, other tragedies have occurred when babies suffocated on items like blankets in cribs.
“It’s just devastating because I know what these families are going through,” said Meagen Gries.
In 2015, Gries had just finished her maternity leave and dropped off Molly at her babysitter before heading to her job as a teacher.
“It was my first day back at work and I got a phone call saying our babysitter found her unresponsive,” she said.
Molly was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital where she died. The Summit County medical examiner ultimately ruled that she died of positional asphyxiation after choking on blankets that were in the crib.
“She was swaddled and propped to the side and rolled onto her stomach and was unable to lift her head,” Gries said.
Akron Detective Jerry Gachett said he and other officers in his unit have investigated too many of these heartbreaking deaths over the years.
“I never get used to answering a call where a child has died from co-sleep or positional asphyxia,” Gachett said.
Gachett pointed out that most tragedies are preventable, but more people are adopting unsafe sleep habits than the department would like. The detective told News 5 he had never laid criminal charges in any of the cases that resulted in the death of a baby.
“I think the fact that this accident happened to their child, I don’t think they would ever forget it, so sometimes it’s their prison,” Gachett said.
Akron 911 dispatcher Elizabeth Johnson experienced grief on the other end of the phone when she received calls from panicked parents or caregivers after unsafe sleep became tragic.
“You even go so far as to think that I am a mother. How would I feel if I lost my child? Johnson said.
Meagen and Jeff Gries, who have two other children, created the Molly Ann Gries Foundation to remember their baby and remind others about safe sleep practices.
“It’s tragic and it’s deeply impactful, so we don’t want this to happen to anyone,” said Jeff Gries.
The couple partner with Akron Children’s Hospital and insist on the ABCs of getting babies to sleep safely.
The A stands for Aalone. The B means on their Backs. The C means in a vacuum VSrib.
Hospital officials offer more advice, including using a firm sleeping surface and fitted sheet, not having blankets, cushions or toys, and returning the baby to the crib afterwards. breastfeeding.
Akron Children’s also partners with several agencies in Summit, Medina, Portage and Wayne counties to provide cribs for families.
Eligible families can receive a portable crib as part of the Cribs for Kids program.
Requirements include families who do not have a safe sleeping space. They must also be eligible for benefits such as SNAP or Medicaid, and they must be at least 32 weeks pregnant or have a child under one year old.
Meagen Gries believes that by sharing Molly’s story as much as possible, she is helping prevent other parents from feeling the pain of losing a baby.
“Knowing that these deaths could have been prevented is probably the hardest part,” she said. “It’s not necessarily their fate. Babies aren’t supposed to die.”