On December 20, 2016, Elisha Palmer’s 3-month-old son, Knox, died suddenly in his sleep.
“There are so many things that are just a blur,” Palmer tells PEOPLE. “I remember being in the emergency room. I remember the doctors coming in and they were sobbing. They let us go back and hold him and tell him goodbye.”
Doctors determined Knox died from SIDS – Sudden infant death syndrome — the sudden death of an infant less than 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation is conducted, including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene and a review of the clinical history. About 1,600 infants died of SIDS in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants 1 to 12 months old.
“He was completely healthy. He just went down for a nap and didn’t wake up. There was nothing that would have been a red flag. We did everything we were supposed to do,” she says.
Palmer, a writer, lives in La Porte City, Iowa, with her husband and their two older kids. Knox was their first child together.
“There’s not a word in the dictionary that exists to describe the pain when you’ve lost your child. I kept saying I don’t know what to do with my arms. My arms are empty. He was always in them,” she says.
The 36-year-old says she had heard about new technology — an advanced baby monitor that tracks a baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels — and even considered getting it, but didn’t.
“I had two older kids who were healthy. I didn’t think this would happen to us,” she says.
Now she has made it her mission to honor her son’s memory by spreading the word about how he died and what she believes could possibly have prevented his death. She started the Knox Blocks foundation and a Facebook page in his name to raise money and awareness and to give away the high tech monitors she wishes she’d had.
“I carry that guilt of why didn’t we get one,” she says. “I feel like if he had one there is such a good chance he would be here with us and so our ultimate goal is that no baby goes without this device.”
She and her family have already raised more than $33,000 and had started giving away the monitors when the company that makes them, Owlet, heard about Knox Blocks.
“A friend of the Palmer family reached out to share their story. Our hearts broke hearing about Knox,” Owlet’s CEO and co-founder, Kurt Workman, tells PEOPLE. “No parent should experience that grief and heartache. We were, and still are, so touched and inspired to see all that the Palmers were doing to honor his memory.”
Owlet agreed to match what Knox Blocks raises dollar-for-dollar and together they’ve given away 100 monitors.
“It’s incredible, and we know it’s just the start,” Workman says.
The foundation has an application process where each family explains why they want one of the baby monitors. Palmer says reading the applications is both emotional and rewarding.
“One of our moms that we donated to — her first son was in her arms when he took his last breath,” Palmer says. “She has another baby who was also born premature and we’ve given her some relief. It’s the greatest feeling. I feel like this is Knox’s legacy. He’s touching so many lives.”