Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. That’s what Aleisha McKeeby of Lake Mary, Fla., learned this past June, when she was involved in a head-on collision with her two young daughters in the car. She shared her story with us – and offered her take on why proper car seats are so critical.
Yesterday I was forced to slow down and remember that mistakes happen. I experienced first-hand a mother’s “super-human” strength when her children are in danger. I learned that it’s okay to change your mind about decisions you’ve made in the past. And lastly, I developed a new appreciation for first responders (paramedics, firefighters, policemen, and witnesses who stopped to help at the scene of a crash).
The girls and I were in a head-on collision on the way home from school. As I slammed on the brakes before hitting the car in front of me, all I thought was that my babies had no idea what was about to happen. I braced myself for the impact and closed my eyes. What happened next was a blur.
We slammed into the driver side of another vehicle. I heard an awful crushing sound as our entire front fender ripped off and the front end of the SUV buckled. I felt like I was unbuckling my seat belt and opening the door before the car even slid to a stop to get to my kids in the back. My door was damaged and difficult to push open, but I managed to get out and run to the backseat. The girls were both screaming. I was internally panicking but knew I had to stay calm.
I sat in the middle of the back seat between the two car seats. Starting with my 2.5-year-old, we went into our yoga breathing right away. Meanwhile, I also was comforting my 8-month-old with the touch of my hand, patting her to let her know I was there. I instructed Brooke to “breathe in, and sigh it out.” I did this with her five times and she stopped screaming. The baby noticed and also stopped. I checked them out as a woman approached, asked if we were okay and said she called 911. She spoke to my husband while I continued to check the kids for injuries.
The paramedics and firefighters checked us out and the police helped sort out the details. My husband came and we loaded each kid into his truck so he could get them home. It was pouring down rain at this point and lightning like crazy. My brother-in-law came to stay with me while we waited on the wrecker and to drive me home afterward. As we waited, I finally realized I was hurting badly. I was disoriented. The side of my face was hurting like I smashed it into something. My arm was throbbing. It’s amazing how pain literally did not exist as I was trying to get to my babies. The human body is crazy.
Brooke was forward-facing in her Diono Radian RXT and Madison rear-facing in her KeyFit 30 Infant bucket. I am grateful to God who protected us in this crash, and for these car seats that did their jobs by protecting my kids. After a ton of research and consulting our girls’ pediatrician we decided to turn Brooke rear-facing again. The Diono car seat allows for extended rear-facing until 45 pounds and 44 inches tall. Note: Your auto insurance will reimburse you for replacement car seats, because experts recommend you do not use them after an accident.
Research shows that children should remain rear-facing for as long as they can. Brooke loves her “new view” and asked “Why are we going backward?” when she first checked out her new setup. This made us all laugh after a very long day of figuring it all out.
P.S. Brooke had an x-ray of her chest and abdomen and all is well. Madison didn’t have a scratch on her!
Need help installing car seats? You can make an appointment for a free car seat check at one of our participating locations. Find a store near you at AAA.com/CarSeats.