Sunday, March 24, 1996
Getting bad news from good people

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mornings are not my best time. I hate to get up. When I smoked, at least I could look forward to that first cigarette. Now, it's just instant coffee.

Oh, and Cammy Dierking.

Alongside the excellent and gentle John Lomax, she anchors WKRC-TV's morning news with acceptable cheer. No giggling. No chirping. I find myself returning her very good smile, even though I'm in my underwear with no cigarette and coffee brewed in the microwave, staring at the screen, listening to the awful things people did to each other during the night.

In 1990, the dependable smile faltered. Her mother, Susan, died just two weeks before Cammy gave birth to her first child.

''My mom went through the whole pregnancy with me.'' Actually, we all did.

I can remember Cammy, looking a little puffy in the late months, talking about the wait. Then, I think they announced it on the air. Kylee Susan. A beautiful little girl, 8 pounds, 9 ounces. Perfect.

Three months later, she was dead. SIDS.

Look, I don't blame you if you stop reading. I don't want to read about this either, much less write about it. It's too scary and too sad. But I promised.

A straightforward pitch

A persuasive woman from the SIDS Alliance asked if I'd tell you about a golf outing, named for another child, Laura Pease, who died of SIDS. At Wyoming Golf Club on May 13, it will cost $100, which will include golf, cart, lunch, refreshments and prizes. Call 821-4410 for reservations. If you golf, go. OK?

Well, that's not really all they had in mind, the woman said. They'd like for people to know more about SIDS. It's Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - the leading cause of death among infants between the ages of 1 week and 1 year. Doctors still don't know what causes it. It's not contagious. It's not hereditary. And there's no way to prevent it.

Also, it only happens to other people.

''Isn't that silly,'' Cammy said, ''That's what I thought. You never think it's going to happen to you or anybody you know.'' I asked Cammy to talk about SIDS because I thought it would be easier to hear, coming from her. Wrong again.

''I just ached for that weight, you know, in the crook of your arm. And her smell. That baby powder smell.''

A Sycamore High grad who went just up the road to college at Miami, Cammy could not stand to be here any more, ''grieving publicly.'' She and her husband, John, went to Reno for two years. Their daughter, Whitney, was born there.

''I got my feet back on the ground and was ready to come back.'' Two more daughters were born here. Cammy does what every mother does, but maybe more often and more fiercely. She goes into her girls' rooms at night and holds her breath to see if she can hear theirs.

She sniffs. I snuffle. We laugh at ourselves and, both without a tissue, dab at our eyes with matching wads of toilet paper. ''I thought that I would never be normal again, never be happy. But my kids have given that back to me.''

After years of hearing people say they don't want to read bad news, I think I finally understand. You don't want us to stop telling you about fires and plane crashes. You're not suggesting - at least I don't think you are - that we hide things from you. You'd just like to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

You'd probably appreciate it if we looked harder for good news. I'm sorry, but sometimes the news is bleak. Bad. Here is something: If you ever feel so low that you wonder if you'll ever smile again, watch Cammy Dierking.

There's hope.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340.