Sammie Volmert, who passed away in February, lives on through her parents’ awareness efforts.
At some point in the nighttime hours of February 28th, tragedy struck the home of Keri and Larry Volmert. The heating system on the second story of the couple’s home malfunctioned, raising the temperature in the room of 17-month-old daughter Sammie. When Larry rose the next morning and went to check on his daughter, a wave of heat greeted him at the top of the stairs.
“The entire upstairs had heated to over 100 degrees,” says Keri. “Sammie died of hyperthermia. We called 911, attempted CPR, but there was never a pulse and they weren’t able to revive her at all. We think she had been gone for some time in the night.”
What makes this tragedy particularly painful is that the Volmerts, like all loving parents, had taken all normal precautions for the care of their children. Nothing unusual sounded over the baby monitor, and the first floor’s separate HVAC system — a common feature of two-story homes — functioned as normal. As the temperature soared in Sammie’s room, her parents had no way of knowing. If nothing else, the death of the bright and bubbly toddler will inspire change in this regard. In remembrance of their child, and as a way to prevent this tragedy from striking others, the Volmerts have begun a mission to raise awareness about the dangers of faulty heating systems.
“People don’t realize that this can happen,” says Keri. “As far as we know, Sammie was the third child who died under similar circumstances. Since we shared our story, we’ve been bombarded with stories from parents who found their children in the nick of time. People have described finding the child turned blue, and having to throw them in the bathtub; or entering the child’s room to find it 90 degrees, with the heat blasting.”
On April 26th, Keri created a Facebook page — www.facebook.com/sammiejoycevolmert/ — for remembrance of Sammie. Keri’s initial post on the page, a heartbreakingly tender and evocative portrayal of the circumstances of Sammie’s death, has been shared over 20,000 times. The page itself has over 10,000 followers, and for the first time, many mothers and fathers have become aware of the hidden dangers in their home heating systems.
“Our daughter was a year-and-a-half old,” says Keri. “Kids are more susceptible to hyperthermia and heat until they are three to five years old, since they can’t regulate their body temperatures like adults. They also won’t always wake up when it gets too hot.”
As chance would have it, the Volmert’s three-year-old son slept in his parents’ bedroom the night of the malfunction. If he had been in his own room, he most likely would have perished as well, despite his older age.
“It’s important for people to monitor the temperature of their children’s rooms, and not just when they’re babies,” says Keri. “People use things early on, when they’re worried about SIDs, but most parents aren’t using the monitoring tools they need later on.”
To supplement their awareness efforts, the Volmerts have begun the process to create a charity that will provide inexpensive temperature monitors for families with separate HVAC systems. While many baby monitors provide a digital read-out of the room’s temperature, they do nothing to indicate when the temperature fluctuates to dangerous levels. As a way to safeguard your children, Keri recommends monitors that will actually sound alerts in the event of an HVAC malfunction.
“As far as I know, there are two baby monitors that give off an actual alarm when temperatures go too high,” says Keri. “There really aren’t very many, and we’re trying to develop one that is solely for temperature. It will be something parents can use beyond a baby monitor, that can plug into the wall and emit a loud siren.”
Until a standalone device becomes available, Keri recommends the Lorex Sweet Peep. This video baby monitor, available for sale on www.amazon.com, offers night vision and room temperature alerts.
If you’d like to support the Volmerts’ drive to raise awareness, make sure to ‘like’ and follow their Facebook page. As the temperature alarm charity gets off the ground, updates and opportunities for support will get added. In the meantime, visit The Little Ladybug on Etsy (www.etsy.com/shop/thelittleladybugacc) to shop a line of children’s hair accessories created to benefit the Volmerts’ efforts.