After the preventable death of their baby boy, a North Dakota couple is speaking out about infant sleep safety and how their Christ-centered faith has kept their souls anchored to God in the midst of sorrow.
Ryne and Rachel Jungling welcomed their first children, twins Anders and Linnea, after seven years of infertility.
The twins were nearly a year old when Anders died while at daycare from a preventable accident called positional asphyxiation.
Now, the Jungling’s are on a mission to spread awareness about the dangerous sleep position that suffocated their son, while also sharing the hope they have in Christ.
In January, Rachel was at work when she received a phone call from a police officer who told her something had happened to Anders while he was at daycare.
The officer met Rachel at work and drove her to the hospital while she called her husband, Ryne. Inside the hospital, medical professionals and law enforcement swarmed the area, confirming Rachel’s hunch that something was gravely wrong.
The boy had been taking a nap while strapped into his car seat at daycare, and suffocated in his sleep because his airway had been constricted.
Anders had stopped breathing, and it took EMT’s 40 minutes of CPR to get the baby’s heart beating again. After three days on life support, Anders passed away.
“When a car seat is in a base in a vehicle it is tilted back, the baby’s head remains tilted back and their airway remains open. When a child is in a car seat on the floor, their head can tilt forward, cutting off airflow to their lungs,” Rachel told KTTV. “This is what happened to Anders. My strong and thriving little boy suffocated.”
“Young babies and children have disproportionately large heads, weak neck muscles and vulnerable airways,” neonatal nurse and car seat technician Carma Hanson, coordinator for Safe Kids Grand Forks, explained. “When placed at an angle that is too upright, the head can fall forward, blocking the airway, and the baby can die of what is termed positional asphyxia (essentially suffocating because the airway is blocked from the position that it is in).”
The twins’ daycare provider loved Anders and Linnea and did not know that letting Anders nap in his car seat on the floor was so dangerous.
Most people, Rachel and Ryne have discovered, also are unaware of positional asphyxiation.
“Anders was such a gift to us and we are so grateful for his little life,” Rachel told The Western Journal. “We have been granted our children to take care of for however long God has planned.”
“We hope others follow safe sleep practices with their babies: Alone. Back. Crib,” Rachel said, referring to the “ABCs” of safe sleep. “While Anders died in the care of a loving provider in an unsafe sleep situation, we completely forgive her.”
Rachel went on to explain how they were able to extend forgiveness so genuinely.
“We have been forgiven much by Jesus and we want to extend that grace to her too,” Rachel told The Western Journal.
“God is the one who has the right to be angry about all of the wrong things we’ve done, but how amazing it is that He forgives us if we love and follow Him. It seems silly to hold something against humans when we have been extended so much grace by Jesus.”
Ryne said that he and his wife had prayed their children would be instrumental in sharing the Gospel message with the world.
“Really, God has been working in our lives and we feel He has been preparing us for this for years,” he told The Western Journal. “As we struggled with infertility for seven years, we continually were told by doctors that ‘everything was perfect,’ and ‘there is no reason you shouldn’t be pregnant by Christmas.'”
“But it didn’t happen when the doctors thought it would,” Ryne continued. “We realized that God was the Author of Life, that it was only through His power that life happens.”
“When Linnea and Anders were born, they were complete miracles, gifts from God. We loved having twins. Linnea loved Anders and Anders loved Linnea so much.”
“Rachel and I would pray that our children would be used to share the Gospel, no matter the cost,” Ryne told The Western Journal. “I remember a time in the late fall that I prayed to God that Anders would be used, no matter what happened to him, to hear the Gospel.”
The couple agrees that through the roller coaster of events, the peace of God in their hearts has been undeniable.
“Moving forward, we feel like our mission is to share our story to share the Gospel with others and then share sleep safety with others. We are calling it Mission Anders,” Ryne said.
The couple has been working with Carma Hansen and Safe Kids Grand Forks to help spread their message.
“Since we have shared this story via social media, the news and online, I have received hundreds of comments, calls, text messages and conversations from parents and caregivers that are grateful for this messaging as ‘they had no idea that this is a potential danger,'” Hanson said.
Shortly after Anders’ death, the couple found out they were pregnant, without fertility treatment of any kind. They welcomed a baby boy, Elias Paul, in October 2019.
While the new baby will never replace the son they lost, Rachel and Ryne rejoice in Elias Paul’s little life.
“We hope this baby will grow and learn to love Jesus, and that God will use his life for big things,” Rachel said.
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