'Workaholic' father pens letter urging parents to 'hug your kids' and put family first after his 8-year-old son died suddenly
A self-professed "workaholic" father whose eight-year-old son suddenly died in his sleep because of a complication of a mild form of epilepsy has urged everyone to "hug your kids" and not "work too late" in a heart-wrenching essay.
In 2011, September, J.R. Storment founded Cloudability, a Portland-based cloud management start-up, and had twin boys. In the years that followed, as he grew his company, he never took a break that went beyond one week, dedicating himself to his work. Around three weeks ago, as he was sitting in a conference room with 12 people in his Portland office talking about PTO policies, he got a seemingly inconspicuous call from his physician wife, Jessica Brandes. Little did he realize then that the call would cause him to reevaluate his entire life.
She told him at his son, Wiley, had died in his sleep. Storment rushed home but found himself blocked from seeing his son by around a dozen police officers as the eight-year-old's room had been cordoned off as a potential crime scene. After a two-and-a-half-hour agonizing wait, he was finally allowed inside. Wiley was lying in his bed, seemingly asleep, but had passed on to the afterlife. He could nothing but helplessly watch as officials put him on a gurney and took him away.
While losing a child can be undeniably traumatizing, Storment wrote that he could barely process Wiley's death because he had been a happy and healthy child who had been running and playing around just the previous night.
Storment said he had played with Wiley on their giant trampoline, taken his son out for his favorite meal, and then snuggled with him before putting him to bed that fateful night. But late the next morning, his wife got suspicious when he didn't wake up. When she went to check on him, he was cold. The Medical Examiner estimated later that he had been dead for eight to 10 hours, indicating that he had passed early in the night.
Wiley had been diagnosed with Benign Rolandic Epilepsy last year, a typically mild form of epilepsy last year, but doctors had assured him that the condition resolves itself in the teenage years and that there was nothing to worry about. His death would ultimately be a result of a complication of his epilepsy. The cause of death was ruled as SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy), a condition that is reportedly so rare that "there is a philosophical debate in the neurology community about whether to proactively tell parents about it."
There was nothing anyone could do to prevent the death either. SUDEP is generally seen to be unpredictable, unpreventable, and irreversible once it starts, with the brain of the victim just shutting down. "Many have asked what they can do to help," Storment wrote."Hug your kids. Don’t work too late. A lot of the things you are likely spending your time on you’ll regret once you no longer have the time."
He said he had considered never going back to work, but that he eventually realized that that would do him no good. "Work needs to have a balance that I have rarely lived," he said. "It’s a balance that lets us offer our gifts to the world but not at the cost of self and family."
"Small things matter," he added.
"If we’ve learned anything at all, it’s that life is fragile and time really can be so cruelly short. We wish a lot of things were different, but mostly we wish we’d had more time." Brandes wrote in her own LinkedIn post. " If you are a parent and have any capacity to spend more time with your kids, do. When it ends, there’s just photos and left over things and time is no longer available to you. It is priceless and should not be squandered. Take your vacation days and sabbaticals and go be with them. You will not regret the emails you forgot to send."