Friday, 13 March 2015

When Thoughtlessness is Dangerous

I did something very stupid yesterday. The more I think about it, the worse it seems and the more I wish I had thought through my actions a little more fully.

It all began with a love of keys. My 14 month old son Jeremy's love of keys. I had been out at Mother's Group and Jeremy wanted the car keys. As we walked to the car to go home, I gave them to Jeremy. He was happy. I unlocked the car and buckled him into his seat. It was hot in the car, so I left his door open and put the nappy bag and my handbag on the front seat. I shut the front door and looked in at him. I told him something about mummy starting the car quickly to cool it down. He was still holding the keys. I shut his door and got halfway around to the drivers side when I heard the sound of the car locking. In that instant I knew I had done something so unspeakably silly. The car was locked. He held the keys. There was nothing I could do.

I ran back to the house and my friend called RACQ's emergency line and hosed cold water over the car to keep it cool. Jeremy sat in there with sweat pouring down his little face, screaming and playing with the keys by turn. I kept hoping he would press the unlock button, but he didn't. My friend called the ambulance. I was distraught. Helplessness is a terrible thing.

It felt like hours before RACQ arrived and the man got to work trying to break into the car. But it wouldn't open. Apparently my car has deadlocking. Jeremy had been in there for at least 20 minutes and it must have been at least 50 degrees in the car, maybe more. Another RACQ man arrived to try and help get in. They were trying to work out how to get the deadlocking off, when we noticed that Jeremy had discarded the keys and they were lying on the back seat.

They put their break in stick through the back window and tried a few times to press the button on the key. I can see it in my mind still. I was so desperate to have Jeremy out in the cool air. Finally the sound of the car unlocking came and I grabbed my screaming baby and we stripped him down. They poured cold water over him and he cried and cried. I was so glad to have him safe.

The ambulance arrived and checked him over. He was fine. He calmed down and cooled down. He drank some water and ate some food and even slept the whole way home in a car that was carefully pre-cooled. He is completely fine.

But I am not fine. I am traumatised. I can barely look at the keys. I can't believe my own thoughtlessness. It was not even the first time that I had given him the keys while putting him in the car. It had never even crossed my mind that he might lock the car. All I had ever worried about was him pressing the garage door button and closing the garage. Or losing the keys. I should have been worried about him locking himself in the car.

It's going to take a long time to forget yesterday, and perhaps that is for the best, as it might make me a more thoughtful parent. One day I will forgive myself, but for now I thank God for protecting Jeremy from harm and hope that my story will prevent others from such a similar traumatic experience.