I wrote most of this a few years ago; I’ve gone through and added a bit of an ending. It’s not my best piece of writing by any means, but it’s a story I want to get out. Some of it is not pleasant, but it’s something all parents need to know about.
I was driving on a 2 lane road with 4 kids; 3 my own and 1 I was taking back to her mom at the library. Ages 10 months to 5 years.
It was a sunny day, mid June, school almost done. I had Laurie Berkner on the CD player and we were singing and loving life.
I saw her stop. Off a side road, by an old school house. Then her tires slowly started going forward, like she was just creeping up for a better look. For some crazy reason, I took my foot off the gas and put my hand on the horn. I thought I was overreacting.
I was wrong.
She pulled out.
And I slammed on the brakes and looked for an out and swerved and kept my hand on the horn and thought Oh my God I have kids in the car.
And then I woke up.
I could hear my son – 10 months – screaming and felt some relief. And I heard my other daughter – 3 – babbling. And I heard the child I was bringing back – 4 – say she had a boo boo.
I started unbuckling, frantically, and looked for my glasses. How I got my legs out of the crushed part I don’t know, but I did and I got on my knees on my seat and looked behind me to check on the girl with the boo boo. She was fine, just pointing to an scrape.
Then there was my daughter.
My 5 year old.
She had fought me to go in the booster seat, instead of the 4 year old. I said no, the 4 year old weighed more, she had to go in the car seat. She put up a fuss but buckled herself in.
And now her body hung limp from those straps, 1/2 of her blond hair now red. With her blood.
I screamed. E! E WAKE UP! SAY SOMETHING! PLEASE!
My door wouldn’t open. So I crawled over the middle and got out the passenger door. And screamed more.
Who killed my daughter? WHO KILLED MY BABY?!
I went to her. In hindsight I should have checked for a pulse. I didn’t think of that. I just thought of the kids in her kindergarten. Only a week left, maybe we didn’t have to tell them…
There were so many people there already. Before I knew it someone was handing me gauze pads, which she soaked through in an instant. But I stood there outside the broken glass, holding it as gently yet firmly as I could against her. And I talked. Said she was ok, but could she please move? Say something?
After awhile someone took over and I noticed that the other 3 had been taken out. An older woman in a black and white shirt was swinging my son by his carseat. So I went over and pretended to smile and thank them for being so good and who knows what else. I did that every so often the whole time.
I remember having to make calls. A quiet young girl shaking, in tears, having her dad tell her to get me a phone book. I made him tell my friend, I couldn’t do it.
I had to call my husband. I’m OK I told him. K and R are OK too.
I don’t know was all I could tell him.
I remember the police coming. And having to ask for my license and registration. And how nice and calm they were.
I remember trying to be nice and calm. And then every so often losing it. One time a lady was asking me questions and I stopped her and said Please wait. I turned, screamed, then turned back and said OK, go ahead.
I remember the girl. I asked her, in tears, why she did it. She thought it was a four way stop she said. I looked at her as if she was nuts. Then I told her something.I told her that I always told my husband I would hurt whoever hit my car with my kids in it. But I don’t think I will. Then I started to to walk away but stopped and added But if she IS dead, I will rethink that….
So long. It seemed like it took so long. Originally they were to Mercy Flight her, but then figured they would be faster by ambulance. The wait took forever… Toward the end they started asking about me. When I had the chance to think about it I realized that I felt pretty damn bad, physically. I mentioned I was a bit woozy and nauseous, and they were just starting to take my blood pressure when I noticed they had somehow gotten her out of the van and were putting her in the ambulance. I immediately wanted to go but they said no, they had to check me out.
I started to jump up and down and said See? I’m fine. Now let me go. I am going.
I left 3 other children to go with her. I knew my friend and husband were minutes away. And in fact, we passed my husband in the ambulance. I knew by then she was alive, but that was it.
She talked. Oh I never thought I would be so grateful to hear her talk. So soft, so sleepy sounding… but talking. The driver reassured me it was a good sign.
We got to the hospital. They started to examine her. Someone gave her a homemade doll to hold. Soon they were cutting her clothes off. All I could think was how we had just make that tie dye shirt last week.
She threw up, all over the doll. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, she kept saying.
The ambulance driver took me to wash my hands. I asked why. They don’t really like you walking around with hands like that he said with a smile. I looked, and they were covered with her blood. I didn’t want to wash them. What if she died? What if this was the last bit of her? He led me to a sink, but I purposefully left some on.
They took her for X-rays or CAT scans or whatever they do. They ask if I wanted to be admitted too, but I said no. No way was I letting them take me away from her. They offered me some ice for my bruising legs and asked what happened to me. I knew if I told them I had been knocked out they would insist on me getting examined, so I said I was fine.
After what seemed like ages my husband got there. Soon we had E. She was so tired, she just lay there. They stitched up her head; my heart ripped as she awoke enough to cry. They wanted to check her eyes but it was so bright in the room, and she didn’t want to open them. That’s when I saw some spunk from her. I never thought I would be glad to hear her put up a fuss!
My mom came, the inlaws came… My sister in law was 19. LOOK AT THIS I told her. The girl who hit us was not much older then you. REMEMBER this when you are out driving.
They showed us the Xrays. Her skull was fractured on the right side, right in the temple area. The biggest concern was the affect on the brain and the optic nerve and other eye bits. Miraculously, there didn’t seem to be a problem.
We figured out later then when I was hit, it sent us in a spin, and she was basically slammed into a telephone pole.
I asked the doctor what would have happened had she been in a booster seat.
What, if she would have even made it? he responded.
That night I went back and forth between nursing my son that my husband “snuck in” and curled up on the bed with her.
Amazingly, we walked out about 24 hours after the whole ordeal. I couldn’t believe it.
We got in my husband’s van. We went to Babies R Us to get some new carseats. There I was, with my daughter who still had some blood and glass in her hair, in clothes picked out by dad from home, and bare feet sitting in the front of a cart. It was so surreal.
Now, you would never guess she (or any of the other kids) had been in an accident. Oh sure, there’s still a small scar on her cheek and up high in her scalp, but nothing you would notice.
I wish I was so lucky.
There are no physical scars really. But a couple of months after I was actually diagnosed with PTSD. I thought it was extreme but as I read more about I realized it was true. Even now, 3 years later, my life is affected by it. I’ve only driven another person’s child in my car 4 times, and I’m a wreck every time. I miss out on trips because I can’t stand the thought of driving or being in car for long periods of time.
But one good thing has come from this. While I was always aware of the importance of car seats, this made me passionate about it. While I can’t spout of all the facts and still have to google (or “friendgle”) a lot of things, I’m not shy about telling people to look into what the safest option is for their child. Very few people I know had their 5 1/2 year olds riding in a 5 point harness… but I’m so glad I did. In fact, she was able to stay in one until she turned 8 years old. I also got more into rear facing, which I never had paid attention to before. And as I said, that is 1 thing I do NOT mince words about when talking to other parents. I truly believe my child’s life was saved by my car seat that day.
Please, please don’t ever have a similar story but with a tragic ending. Find out what is SAFEST for you child; not just what they “legally” can be in. Do NOT cave to peer pressure (your peers or your child’s). Check out www.car-seat.org for the most up-to-date and comprehensive information. It’s a forum, but you don’t need to sign up to search or ask questions.