Focus at Four: Grandfather cycles cross-country for cure for toddler's unexplained death

Published: Jul. 12, 2017 at 4:52 PM CDT
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A Bryan-College Station grandfather is riding a bicycle across America to raise awareness for the rare condition that killed his young grandson.

"Every pedal along the way, I am thinking about Moss," said Bobby Jenkins, joining First News at Four via Skype from Goshen, New York.

Moss Pieratt is Jenkins' grandson who died at just 14 months old. In 2014, Moss's parents put him down for a nap, and the otherwise lively child never woke up.

Jenkins has ridden a bicycle nearly 3,500 miles over several weeks across the northern United States. His journey began in Seattle, Washington, and will end on July 13 in New York City.

Jenkins' mission? To fund research for sudden unexplained death in childhood, or SUDC. That's eventually how Moss's death was ruled.

"We're trying to raise money for research to find out what happened to Moss," said Jenkins. "More importantly, is there something we can find from the research that will hopefully prevent this from happening to other families some day?"

Dr. Neal Spears is a pediatrician from CHI St. Joseph Health. He says SUDC is extremely rare. An estimated 200 children ages 1-4 die from SUDC each year but can affect children until age 18.

"However, the risk drops significantly after age 2," said Spears.

While the deaths are, technically, unexplained, Spears offers some possible explication.

"We think it may be an electrical issue with the heart or the brain," said Spears. "The problem is, none of that is detectable on an autopsy."

Spears says, SUDC can't be prevented. However, he says that if one child has died of SUDC, it's smart for the parents to test their other children for possible arythmias or issues that could cause SUDC.

"But without those indicators, how do we decide who to screen?" said Spears.

Meanwhile, Jenkins is searching for his own answers on two wheels.

"We're funding a research fellowship at NYU Langone," said Jenkins. "That's what all the proceeds from this trip are going to go to--to continue to fund that fellowship to hopefully someday have some answers."

If you'd like to learn more about SUDC or donate to Jenkins' cause, see the Related Links.