{ I was watching my daughter strangle to death … }

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.

The hardest part for me is overcoming the guilt. Everyone tells me things like this can happen to anyone and that they happen so fast. Deep down I know that is true, but that doesn’t erase the images in my head. As parents we vow to always be their for our kids, so it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that if even for a second I wasn’t there when Baylor needed me.

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.

Love your kids, hug your kids, pay attention and please keep a seat belt cutter or scissors somewhere in your car. I don’t want this to ever happen to anyone again.

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!

KidsandCars .org
” By the way, pretty much every parent I tell immediately recalls the time when one of their kids was in a life or death situation.
There is a reason we have to teach them not to stick forks in light sockets or run out in the street or put bags over their heads.
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.”
- Courtesy of my husband, Brian Clark

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.


11/22/2012 UPDATE:


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!

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  • Oh Sally, such a scary moment. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. Kieran gave me a bad scare last year when he fell through a gap of a train. I will NEVER forget that day. I’m so glad she is ok. Please don’t let the guilt consume you, you are a wonderful mother.

  • OMG Sally, I am so glad to hear this had a good outcome and everyone is safe. I can’t imagine the terror you both went through. Love you girl…big hugs to you both!

  • Erin Cady -

    WOW….. I don’t even know what to say. Actually A big HOLY four letter expletive starting with s came out of my mouth as I was reading, but no words of logic, reason or understand can come out when reading about your situation. All I can say is thank god for your friend and her fast legs and thank goodness Baylor is ok. The situation could have had such a different outcome and that is much more unfathomable. Again, I’m just at wow. Big hugs sent your way. I know Baylor will be back to her happy, go-lucky self, and I know you will be, too. You WERE there. You saved her life, mama. You trusted your instinct and didn’t fail in any way. Don’t ever forget that. <3

  • Jill Myers -

    Oh my goodness! I was literally crying and completely choked up as I read this. I am SO incredibly sorry this happened! I can’t imagine the horror you must have felt in that moment! I am so glad you were able to get her out of there before any major damage ensued. Will be keeping you both in my prayers as you both continue to heal both physically and emotionally. Thank you for sharing this incredibly difficult experience. Can’t tell you how often my little guys play in the car when I am only half paying attention! Just a reminder of how diligent we need to be!

  • Oh Sally!!!!! How horrible that is!!!! Thank goodness you listened to that voice inside your head!!! I can’t imagine what you went through in those few moments!!!!!

  • MB -

    so sorry to hear that you both had to endure that. you are a good momma sally–don’t forget that. bay is one tough cookie. so happy she’s ok! hugs to you both.

  • valerie -

    Oh Sally. I sit here bawling for you both. It was hard to read each word – I just wanted to throw up. I am so thankful your friend was there to run and run and run. That poor honey bunny – and poor you. You realize in a BLINK what could happen.

    I am rambling. I think I’m in shock reading this. Wish so much I could jump in my car and come hug you.


  • Karen Giron -

    Oh Sally – I can’t even put into words the heartache I feel for both of you. What a truly frightening event and I’m so happy and relieved Baylor is ok. I am putting some scissors in my van right now! I would have never thought one second about it without your post, so thank you for that. <3

  • My two year old daughter climbed her dresser, pressed on the screen of her open window and fell 8 ft onto the ground. The neighbors found her first. My son told us she had fallen. We were sitting in the kitchen eating the last of our dinner. We live in a condo. My son had never done anything like that nor had I ever seen her climb up there. I felt so horrible and guilty. I was so frightened. She was just fine. Not even a bruise. I can relate. I’m scared of everything now! There are so many stupid ways our children can be injured. Things we don’t even think of!

  • Wow Sally, What a horrible experience! I’m so glad she is okay, and so sorry both of you had to go through this. I could not even begin to imagine how terrible it must have been for all of you. Thankfully you were aware and in tune with your daughter to know that something wasn’t right. Like Erin said, “You WERE there. You saved her life, mama. You trusted your instinct and didn’t fail in any way. Don’t ever forget that.” Don’t ever forget that, you did well. Many blessings!

  • I forgot to thank you for posting this Sally. Thank you!

  • Mark Weber -

    Thank you for taking the time to post this. Even dedicated parents have moments when they aren’t 100% watching their children. It’s a great reminder how fast things can go sideways. So glad you and Baylor are safe and recovering.

  • Oh sweet lady. Thanks for sharing your story. Big hugs to you both. xoxo

  • David Neale -

    So well written. Baylor is lucky to have a mom as dedicated and courageous as you. I am positive she will be strong for you as the healing takes place.

  • Susan -

    Thank you for sharing. Did you contact the maker of the minivan and the NHS to make sure it isn’t something that can happen again to someone else?

  • I am in tears! So terrifying for certain! I am so glad that your little girl is ok. (((HUGS))) to you both!

  • Susan … I have contacted the manufacturer and will continue on down the line until everyone knows that this is a SEAT BELT design defect. We can replace a human heart, so we should be able to design a safe seat belt. I am appearing on our local news stations to get the word out. While it would be great to change the design in the future, the fact is that this issue is relevant NOW for existing belts. The take home message is to be vigilant and carry scissors or seat belt cutters in your car at ALL times. I am working to make sure that no person ever has to see a child or another human being in this situation … it is preventable!

  • OMG Sally, so incredibly scary! So glad that she came out alive!!

  • Sara Willy -

    Oh my goodness. I cannnot even believe this. I am so glad she is ok. Thank you so much for sharing this information and this terrifying story.We love you guys.

  • Katie -

    I, unfortunately, know the terror you went thru and reading your story brought it back. My son, who was 3 at the time, got his head wrapped around a hanging blind cord in the living room. I had told him 2x that day to stay off the window ledge where he liked to play. I will never forget seeing him and that it felt like FOREVER to get to him to help. The guilt afterwards was awful too; ‘if only I had done…’ It’s truely difficult, as a mom, to go through something like that but yes, the angels are watching over our babies. My son is 5 now and we both hesitate when anything goes around his neck. Even something simple. It just makes us stop for a second.

    So glad your beautiful girl is ok. Lesson learned all around huh? whew…

  • Oh, Katie … I’m so sorry. There are no words to describe the horror in that moment, right? My friend Aimee keeps saying that nobody will ever know how bad it was that day. It has been really hard to expose myself to the criticism of others … I did my best that day as I do every day. Sometimes accidents happen despite all of warnings and precautions. And I hear you about things going around her neck … I’m already experiencing that.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Aimee and I are hoping to get the word out just as the word went out about blind cords. Sending you love … Sally

  • Katie McAteer -

    OMG I am so glad she is ok! I am so sorry you went thru that! I will put a scissors in my car, I just worry about them getting hurt w the scissors but I will figure that out.You poor thing.

  • Katie McAteer -
  • Jodi Brooks made a great point to me last night. When she bought her scissors she just left them in the packaging since she will probably never need to use them, but would like to have them available. I thought this was a GREAT idea. Not foolproof, but better than nothing.

  • Erin Harris -

    Oh Sally!! How terrifying! I’m a client of yours. You took our family’s pictures last year. I want you to know how sorry I am that that happened and how happy I am that your sweet girl is physically okay. Sending thoughts of emotional healing for you both. I also want you to know that a similar seatbelt malfunction happened with my nephew. It just kept getting tighter and they had to cut him out. Another thing, your message is being heard… A friend of mine from Kansas City posted the link to your blog and that’s how I knew. Hugs to you.

    Erin Harris

  • As frightening and emotional as it was to read about this post, I cannot imagine what you went through that day, or the guilt you’ve been feeling since then. Thank you though, for sharing this story with the world. I know there will be those who critize you, but by you sharing your story, you will help save the lives of other children in similar situations. God Bless.

  • oh my – i can’t stop crying reading this. I’m so glad she’s ok, and I know that feeling of panic when your child is hurt/injured, etc. I am so so glad for this ending. I am buying scissors today.

  • Janie Jones -

    Oh my goodness, this sent chills down my spine. A similar situation happened with one of my boys. Playing with seatbelt, he put it around his neck and it became like a noose and it did the same thing, the more we worked the tighter it got. One of the scariest times in my life and we did not have scissors….. Luckily, I was finally able to get him to contort himself and we were able to get it off, but it was tricky. So glad you were there and it just continues to teach us how truly precious life is……

  • Oh my goodness! So sorry this happened and yes this could happen to anyone. I do have a seatbelt cutter in my car but I didn’t buy it for that reason. But glad I have it in case that does happen. So glad everything turned out okay. Thanks for sharing this! :(

  • So thankful that everything is okay. Blessings in your recovery.

  • That is so scary. I had tears. So sorry that happened to you and your girl.

  • Kristy Klarich -

    Oh my God! This is a horrific story! Thank you for re-living this horror to warn other parents! I will be sharing your blog post on my facebook page to warn everyone I know.
    I’m so thankful Baylor is doing much better & healing up nicely! Also thankful she is upset over her IV! That’s a small thing to worry about for her…

    Thoughts & prayers are with you guys! Thank you again for your emotional post!


  • Absolutely terrifying. I am so glad that she is now okay and you can tell this story to warn others.

    I think many stores sell vehicle safety kits that should include something that cuts seat belts. I’ve not looked into how great they work, but it might be something to check out. I’m going to look into more now, too.

  • Michelle -

    I no longer think my husband is crazy for buying me a seat belt cutter which sits in my glovebox! These can also be used in a car accident. Perhaps I’ll be buying these for all my mom friends for Christmas this year! Grateful your story had a happy ending!! Our daughter recently suffered a severe concussion from climbing up a shopping cart return and flipping over backward (she’s 4.5) its altered our lives the last two months and continues to be a reminder to us of how precious life is. blessings to you and your family.

  • Stephanie -

    My husband is a fireman and bought me a seatbelt cutter a few years back and now I feel just a little bit safer knowing it is in my car. Hugs and prayers to you and your family for enduring such an emotional ordeal.

  • Jeny C. -

    I too have had something similar happen. My three year old was terror stricken when the electrical cord to a bounce house was accidentally kicked out of the socket and the very large bounce house started to deflate on all of the kids. Every kid was able to exit but my daughter was so scared that she could not move. By the time I ran to the bounce house it had almost already half way deflated and I could barely see the opening, they deflate faster then you would imagine. I could not see where my daughter was as the roof was already on top of her but I was able to slip in grab her hand, and slide her out in a matter of seconds. I did not realize how heavy the material of the bounce house was until I had to squeeze myself into one to locate my child. I shutter to think what could have happened had I not been outside when that happened. Or had I not made it there until the bounce house had no more air in it. There were tons of parents around and I did not give a second thought to being “just near” the bounce house as opposed to right next to it while my child was enjoying herself…Boy did I learn a lesson that day! We no longer rent them for our parties and if we go to one that has them I will not leave my children unattended in one ever no matter what age they are!

  • Mandy -

    Oh my goodness, I cannot imagine how scary this must have been! I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat while reading. I am so thankful your daughter was okay, and I hope she recovers fro m this quickly!

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I am so glad the outcome is that Baylor is safe. I will definitely share this.

  • How absolutely terrifying. I am so so sorry you had to go through this. I will be spreading the word.

  • TERRIFYING!!! I felt sick for you just reading your post.. I am SO glad your baby girl is ok! Thank God!

  • Jazmon -

    I just ran and put scissors in my glove compartment. Thank you for sharing your experience, despite how difficult it must have been to do so. I’m so glad your little one is safe.

  • OMG! So happy to know that you had a good outcome from such a horrible experience. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am putting scissors in my car and telling everyone I know about your story. God bless you.

  • Alia Marie -

    I stumbled across your blog on a friends facebook page. I have to admit, I am not a mother, yet, though I intend to be very very soon, but I admire you! I hope that someday when I am a mother that I can be as strong as you! The courage it took to fight to the end is amazing! The love between you and Baylor is so evident that I get chills just thinking about it! I will definitely share your story with my friends who have kids. (And a pair of scissors will be in my pickup tonight.)

  • Sharon Nasby -

    Hi, as I was reading your story it brought back the time I lost my son to a terrible mowing accident. I’m so thankful your daughter is ok. I understand how you feel about the guilt. I lived that guilt for many yrs blaming myself since I was driving the riding mower. I had to get into counceling and i finally realized taht sometimes as much as we love our kids tragic accidents can happen. We aren’t perfect. My son was 21 months. I know i was a great mom who always took care of her kids and never left them with anyone. I know things happen that are out of our control even though I don’t understand them. I now know it was a freak accident just as yours was. Thank God she is with you now. I hope you can forgive yourself. I remember a counselor telling me that forgiving yourself is the best gift you can give yourself, it sets you free to move on. Thanks for sharing your story and i know it will make more parents more aware. We would have never thought that could have happened. You can get the word out just like I do when I see kids on mowers how dangerous they are even if the parent is driving. I pray that God will give you peace.

  • Nicole -

    God bless Baylor, and God bless you. You will both get your *sparkle* back.

    (And God bless Aimee, too.)

  • Mickey -

    So glad that she is okay! You and your family are very blessed. Enjoy every moment!

  • Robin -

    You have many reasons to give thanks this year! Thank you for sharing!

  • amber -

    I am so so so happy your little girl is ok, physically. hopefully mentaly as well. what a scary scary thing. omg thank god your mama instincts told you to check on her. this brought tears to my eyes. I am buying a smallpair of scissors to keep in my car! Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. Godbless you and your little angel

  • Tiffany -

    Thank you for your honesty and sharing this story. I would never have considered this happening and now I am both more aware and prepared. Bless you.

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