Normally I use this space to share artwork of happy families. Today I’m using it to send a message. I’ve been writing this blog post in my head since last Friday. Composing and re-composing … re-living the horror of an experience no parent and no child should ever have to go through. I am putting down my thoughts in hopes that it will prevent something like this from happening to anyone ever again.
Fridays are Mommy and Baylor time … the one special day of the week when my rapidly growing 5-year-old isn’t in preschool. Last Friday began with a beautiful breakfast at my other kids’ elementary school to commemorate the veterans in our community. After the breakfast ended I rushed Baylor out the door of the school to avoid being caught in the commotion of a planned fire drill. I shuffled Baylor into the minivan while I chatted with my friend, Aimee, who had pulled out of the slot next to mine and rolled her window down to talk for a bit. I left the sliding door open as I always do, but closed it when another car parked next mine began to pull out. Despite three noisy leaf blowers blaring in the background, our conversation shifted to politics and we continued talking for about 10 minutes.
Baylor is not my quiet kid, so I was pleased to think that she was peacefully reading in the car and not opening and closing the door incessantly. As I stood about five feet from my car I felt confident that she was in a safe place. I was so wrong.
You know that little voice in the back of your head? Mine started quietly reminding me that Baylor would normally be climbing over the seats or running around the parking lot or climbing a tree or finding some other way to distract me from my conversation. I ignored that voice one time, but the second time I decided to step away from our conversation to peek at Baylor. What I saw changed my life forever. She was standing in the third row of seats facing the back window. I knew something was wrong because she wasn’t moving. My first thought at that horrible moment was that she was dead. I told Aimee something was very wrong and quickly opened the back hatch. Baylor had apparently been playing with the seatbelts and got two of them tangled up and wrapped around her neck. I could tell she had been screaming and crying and her face was bright red. She lifted her head when the hatch opened and her big brown eyes looked right at me. The one positive was that her feet were still touching the seat, which may have been enough to keep it from completely cutting off her breathing. I’ll never know how long she was like that … but it was too long.
The next part is a bit of a blur. Aimee and I tried to unwrap the seat belts from around her neck, but as we tried to loosen them they got tighter. Over and over again Aimee kept encouraging Baylor and I to stay calm as we worked to free her. I frantically scrambled to find a key or anything sharp to unhook the middle seat belt from its latch so we could unwind it from around her neck (I had dropped my keys during the initial frantic moments when I climbed in the hatch to try and get her out). When we realized we were not going to be able to unwrap the seat belts and as they continued to get tighter, Aimee ran to the school to grab a pair of scissors. Bless her heart, because she kept running toward the school even as I was screaming her name.
I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully put into words how horrible the next few moments were. I was watching my daughter being strangled to death. I was frantically trying to find my keys or any sharp object to release the middle seat belt from its anchor. Baylor was turning purple and it was clear the situation was deteriorating quickly. I finally grabbed the keys from Aimee’s ignition and reached over the back seat to unhook the middle seat belt. I felt a brief moment of relief as I expected that to release the pressure around her neck, but nothing happened. The seat belts were so tight at that point I couldn’t unthread the middle seat belt from around her neck … it just wouldn’t budge.
Just then Aimee handed me the scissors. At that point I was having visions of sawing through the belt while watching as Baylor slipped away. Fortunately the scissors were sharp enough and cut right through. The seat belt STILL didn’t release at that point, but we were able to untangle and loosen the belts and pull Baylor from the car. She was limp and bright red, but she was also breathing and looking at me.
A long day at Children’s Hospital revealed that Baylor suffered no internal damage to her neck. She is still mad about the IV she endured for her CT scan and essentially equates all her aches and pains to “The Shot.” Her eyes have lost a bit of their sparkle and she is a bit subdued … which is saying a lot for Baylor. We have a long road ahead of us to ensure there is no long-term emotional damage for either of us. There have been many hugs and snuggles. It is difficult to drop her off at preschool, although I know how good it is for her.
I keep reminding myself that this situation was scary, but fortunately not tragic. For that I do feel blessed. Our angels were looking out for us.
Thank you to CBS 4 in Denver for picking up this story. The word is getting out. I get shivers each time I read that someone has put scissors in their car … keep sharing!
It doesn’t matter how kids get into those situations, because they will. Over and over and over.
It’s how we deal with those situations that truly matters.”
We are working hard to put the twinkle back in her eyes …
EDITED: I want to let you all know that I am reading EVERY SINGLE comment. While I may not get to reply to each and every one, I appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received. More importantly, I am elated at the number of people of have put seat belt cutters and scissors in their vehicles.
We have SO much to be thankful for today. The bruising around Baylor’s neck and the petechiae that dotted her beautiful face have all but faded away. We have spent many many moments cuddling and snuggling. We have both gone to counseling and Baylor has had two cranial sacral/reiki treatments as well as a chiropractic adjustment. She seems to be adjusting beautifully. She isn’t in love with talking about it, but she wants me to … such a wise soul.
We appreciate the prayers and love we have received from around the world. It is so important for me to bring awareness to this issue and I am grateful for every person who has forwarded this along to their friends and family.
I am sending lots of love to my dear friend, Aimee, today. Her strength and love helped carry us through a very difficult time (and she helped save Baylor’s sweet life). I am so grateful to call her a friend.
I am forever thankful for my best friend. I have no words to express the depth of my love for him. He is compassionate and loving and kind and loves me for who I am. Love you, Brian.
And to my family … holding it together through thick and thin.
Sending out a big Thanksgiving hug to you all!