Oliver Lomas, just four months old, was growing up near the Venice Canals
By Gary Walker
Venice’s “Bernie Baby,” who became an Internet sensation after his mother dressed him up as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for campaign rallies, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome on Feb. 25.
Oliver Lomas was just four months old, said mother Susan Lomas, who lives near the Venice Canals.
“He was such a happy baby,” Lomas said. “He was so outgoing. He loved being held by people.”
That included his political doppelganger. When photos and videos of Sanders holding baby Oliver — dressed in a white wig, big black glasses and a flannel-pattern tie — appeared online after a campaign rally in Nevada, the Bernie Baby became an election-season meme overnight.
Tragedy struck when Lomas discovered Oliver unresponsive in his crib at feeding time.
“He had just had a physical recently. It happened so suddenly,” she said.
SIDS, the leading causes of death among infants in America, continues to bedevil doctors and researchers.
Because doctors have not been able to determine what causes SIDS, people are often unsure how to react, said Mandi Biesinger, a clinical social worker in West Los Angeles.
“It causes a lot of anxiety for everyone. People are often looking for answers but, unfortunately, often there aren’t answers to why a loved one — especially an infant— dies,” she said.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health offers bereavement support resources for families who have lost a baby to a sudden, unexplained death. Those include a peer-parent support group that meets the second Wednesday of each month at the courthouse at 600 S. Commonwealth Ave., near MacArthur Park.
The group is run by Christina Thiele, who lost her infant son to SIDS, and Myia Slaughter, who says her baby son died from “malpractice” at a local hospital.
“We do art projects during some meetings. The setting is really relaxed; parents don’t have to share if they don’t wish to,” Slaughter said. “It’s a safe place where we all share each other’s pain. … When you lose a child you lose a lifetime of hopes, dreams, and wishes.”
“Support groups are a great resource for people,” Biesinger said. “Often when people are grieving it’s hard to share their feelings with others, but being around people who have had similar experiences can be helpful.
Lomas said she is still receiving condolences from people who were inspired by photos or videos of Oliver.
“I’m happy that I had the chance to share him with the world,” Lomas said.