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2-month-old Raji among hundreds of Indiana babies to die before age 1

Mother of baby unclaimed at coroner’s office speaks

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A private ceremony honored the short life of 2-month-old Baby Raji earlier this month.

After Raji was born at an Indianapolis hospital, he spent some time in the neonatal intensive care unit and then went home. Then one day, he was rushed to the emergency room and didn’t survive.

After his death, Raji was left unclaimed at the coroner’s for two months.

Linda Znachko is the founder of He Knows Your Name ministry. She founded the nonprofit to provide love, support, and resources for grieving families who have lost babies during pregnancy or in infancy.

When Znachko learned the mother would sign the release papers, she stepped in to give Raji a proper burial and to use the painful story to let other families know there is support and resources after the loss of a baby.

“I believe this baby deserves to be given a celebration and that’s what we did. We read scripture. Psalm 139 is a beautiful piece of scripture because it talks about all of us being fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God,” said Znachko.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and Indiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country.

According to the Indiana Department of Health, in 2021, 536 babies in Indiana died before their first birthday — and more than 2,700 infants have died in the last five years for various reasons.

“It’s really important because 1 in 4 women have loss. And they need to feel like they’re not alone. And they need to have people around them understand how they’re feeling. And if we don’t talk about it then they shrivel up in isolation,” said Znachko.

He Knows Your Name is working to partner with hospitals to provide Cuddle Cots, blankets, and burial gowns. A Cuddle Cot is a cooling method that allows a family time to spend with their baby as they begin the grieving process. Znachko points out that without the cots, lost babies are oftentimes whisked away before proper goodbyes and snuggles are shared. She says support should begin in the hospital and follow families out.

“A lot of people think that all I do is support babies at the grave, but I support so many families who are living out loss,” said Znachko.

The blankets are made and shipped to He Knows Your Name by volunteers. Znachko says a blanket buried with Raji was from somewhere else around the world.

“I put that blanket in the grave, and to me, that represents that baby is being held, even in the dirt, by community,” said Znachko.

Znachko and others in the prenatal and postnatal care community remind families that there are several resources to help during the grieving process.

‘He Knows Your Name’ held Raji’s funeral at Mt. Vernon Chapel at Washington Park East Cemetery in Indianapolis on Oct. 11. It was followed by a graveside burial ceremony.

Joining Znachko at the funeral was Susan Clark, perinatal and bereavement nurse navigator for Ascension St. Vincent Health.

Next month, Ascension St. Vincent will host Perinatal and Infant Loss Training, necessary for anyone who works directly with women and families experiencing loss.

Click here to learn more about He Knows Your Name and its mission.