Quest to stop SIDS takes local man to Mount Kilimanjaro

Photo courtesy of John Kahan

MOUNT KILIMANJARO, AFRICA -- A Mercer Island father reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro Wednesday in hopes of raising awareness and funding for SIDS research. John Kahan and his wife Heather lost their son Aaron to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, 13 years ago.

In an interview May, Kahan explained, "We had to do something about this. We had to make sure it didn't happen to us again. We had to make sure it didn't happen to our friends and family and anyone else again."

Kahan set a goal of climbing 100 miles, spreading the words about SIDS along the way. His ultimate goal was to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

Standing at the peak, Kahan held a banner that read "Stop SIDS." His voice raspy from the high altitude and climb, he said, "Today I stand here at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, some (19,341) feet above sea level, the highest mountain in Africa. Today marks a milestone in our journey to stop SIDS. However, this is just the beginning. Much has to be done to find out why, so we can stop SIDS."

Kahan also held a picture of his son Aaron. Aaron was born seemingly healthy, but hours after his birth he fell asleep in the hospital and stopped breathing. Doctors were unable to revive him. An autopsy couldn't determine a reason, so the cause of death was listed as SIDS, "which as we've learned, means nobody knows what happened," said Heather Kahan. "He just stopped breathing. It's the none of the above option."

Kahan has been raising money through his mountain climbs and today said, "I'm super pleased to announce we've raised over $50,000 to support new research." The money will go to a research project led jointly by Dr. Daniel Rubens at Seattle Children's and the Lullaby Foundation in the United Kingdom. Researchers believe an infant hearing test might help determine babies who are at risk of SIDS.

"The fact is, it is one of the leading causes of death of infants," Kahan said. "Tens of thousands of infants have died since Aaron, and it haunts all parents."

Kahan is on sabbatical from his job as General Manager, Customer Data & Analytics for Microsoft. He praised the company for supporting his cause and his co-workers for giving their time and money. He also tearfully thanked his wife Heather, who he says had led the family through the tragedy of losing their son. The couple has four daughters, one of which was born after Aaron's death. They also recently celebrated the birth of their first grandson.

Kahan ended the video with a final plea. "Please give. Give for Aaron. Give for all parents. Give to stop SIDS. God bless. Thank you," he said.

Here's where you can donate for SIDS research.

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