By Wendy McLellan, The Province
A Surrey family is planning a funeral for their toddler who died the same day her sister was born.
“It’s like a movie, where all these crazy things happen. This is crazy,” said Megan Carbonetto.
On March 3, Carbonetto drove her husband Angel Rivera to the SkyTrain station so he could commute to work, then headed home to the house she shares with her extended family to make coffee.
At 7 a.m., she went to wake up her two older children for school and she found 14-month-old Sarah Rivera nestled between her two sisters, seven-year-old Sian and Abigail, 5.
“I thought she was sleeping, but she just wouldn’t wake up,” said Carbonetto, 27.
Her screams brought her sister-in-law running and she performed CPR. Carbonetto called 911, but Sarah could not be revived.
Carbonetto said her toddler was healthy and she has been told Sarah died from unknown causes, a death known as SUDC — Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood.
“I couldn’t stop screaming. I just thought she wasn’t waking up — I thought the paramedics would come and wake her,” she said.
“I didn’t think she had died.”
But the family’s nightmare wasn’t over.
As Carbonetto spoke with police about her child’s death, she went into early labour; she was 33 weeks pregnant.
“I was in such shock, I didn’t realize I was in labour until I got up to show the police where I found her,” she said. “My body had gone into shock.”
Carbonetto was taken to hospital by ambulance and at 9 p.m. Zipporah Rivera was born by C-section.
The baby is doing well, but will remain in the neonatal intensive care unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital for a couple of weeks until she’s strong enough to go home.
“It’s just a nightmare,” Carbonetto said. “I am so ready to wake up from this nightmare.”
Staggered by grief and worry about their newborn and the two older girls, Carbonetto and Rivera are planning a funeral for Saturday afternoon.
“I just get up in the morning and do whatever is in my control. I am planning my daughter’s funeral,” she said.
She said Sarah was a sweet toddler who was never sick.
“Everybody falls in love with this baby — she is so cute,” said an emotional Carbonetto. “She was talking and walking. This is a mother’s biggest fear.”
Megan’s brother, William Carbonetto, has set up an online fundraising campaign to help the family with funeral and counselling expenses. More than $9,700 has been donated so far.
“We’ve had such an outpouring of support from friends and family. It’s been wonderful,” said William Carbonetto, adding the family is in shock.
“You don’t even see Hollywood movie scripts written like this. I don’t know how to describe this — I have been struggling to find words all week.”