Updated: May 26, 2022 10:47 PM
Created: May 26, 2022 06:00 PM
McKinley Miskovich was as busy as a 16-month-old can be.
Fridays were reserved for dates with Dad. Mom took her on trips to Target.
"She loved going to the park. She loved swinging," Mom Jess Miskovich said.
She was talkative too. Jess said she'd greet strangers in the grocery store aisles with a, "Hi! How are ya?"
On a July night in 2017, McKinley was running a slight fever of 100.3. Ibuprofen and Motrin brought it down, and she was behaving normally, so Jess put her to bed.
"It was about 4:48 a.m. for some reason I woke up," Jess said, "and I just felt in my gut that something was wrong."
She was right. When she reached McKinley's crib, her daughter was unresponsive. An ambulance took her to the Deer River ER. It happened that McKinley's pediatrician was working an ER shift that night.
"The doctor that delivered her and saw her throughout her 16 months of life also had to come tell me that there was nothing that they could do," Jess said.
Even though the medical team couldn't help McKinley, they also couldn't find anything wrong with her.
"When we got her autopsy back, she was classified as SUDC," dad Ryan Miskovich said, "which is Sudden Unexplainable Death of a Child."
Jess and Ryan had heard of SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but they thought they were in the clear when McKinley turned 1.
They sent her heart to a specialist in St. Louis, Mo., and had DNA tests run on themselves, but there was still no explanation.
"You feel so hopeless and like -- how am I going to do this? How am I going to live the rest of my life without my child?" Jess said.
There isn't a handbook for grieving your baby girl. But there was help. A friend introduced them to Faith's Lodge, a place for families coping with the loss of a child. Jess and Ryan signed up for a retreat there in November 2017, about four months after McKinley's death.
"For some reason, you literally walk through those doors and you just feel like you can breathe, like you belong," Jess said.
The child loss retreat in Danbury, Wis., introduced them to other parents who really understood their grief.
"We left with a whole new look," Ryan said. "It's not like we moved on and got over this because you never do that as a parent. You never move on from losing a child. But you got that sense of I'm not alone anymore."
Their purpose now is to honor McKinley's life. In June, friends and family will join them on their Miles for McKinley 5k team to benefit Faith's Lodge. The Miskoviches want to ensure that other families can be surrounded with the same support they felt.
"We're part of a group that nobody wants to be a part of. But we are. And we have to learn to live the rest of our lives that way," Ryan said.
"I just always like to think that she's looking down on me," Jess said. "And I want to do things that are going to make her proud."
That is what makes the Miskoviches Northland Strong.
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