A Hot Car Warning Everyone Needs To Hear!
A baby dies after unintentionally being left in a hot car. How often have we heard that tragic story? And how often have you found yourself thinking there was no way you could ever make such a terrible mistake? Jodie Edwards thought the same thing. . . until it happened to her. And this grieving mama is bravely sharing her story in the hopes that it keeps others from making the same mistake.
Credit: MaCleans / Kidsandcars.org
A Careful Mom
Jodie was as careful as any mom could be. She read every parenting book, took every baby safety precaution and made sure to never, EVER leave her children alone in the vehicle, even if just for a minute. She even recalls a time she forgot her cell phone on the kitchen counter.
"Even though it was pouring down rain I got my kids out of their car seats to take them in from the driveway while I grabbed it," she says.
She thought the same thing most people think when they hear about another hot car tragedy. She never in a million years thought it would happen to her.
"When I was still pregnant with Jenna, I walked through my living room as the news covered a story about a mom who unknowingly left her child in her car while she worked and her child died from heatstroke. This mother was portrayed as a horrible person and many expressed very judgmental attitudes towards her. I felt sadness about her situation, but not once did I think this was an issue I should pay attention to," she explains. "I didn’t even stop to really listen to the story or to think how this might happen. After all, my children were my top priority. I loved them more than anything. I would give my life for them in a heartbeat. Love made me immune from such a horrible tragedy…or so I believed."
Yet, her daughter, Jenna, suffered the same fate not long before her first birthday. And that judgement -- the idea that this type of tragedy only befalls negligent parents -- is exactly the reason Jodie is sharing her heartbreaking story.
How It Happened
As a professor and counselor at a private university, Jodie had enjoyed summer spending most of the week at home with her 3-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter during the summer break. But at the end of August, she went back to work full-time, her son started pre-school and little Jenna went back to the sitter.
This next schedule went off without a hitch on Monday and Tuesday. But on Wednesday, August 20, things took a tragic turn.
Jodie remembers talking and singing to Jenna in the car, on the way to the sitter's house.
"Five minutes into the drive Jenna started to sing in this little voice she uses when she's sleepy," she recalls. "I had a child-safety mirror, and when I looked in it I could see that she was going to fall asleep."
So, Jodie started thinking about how she would try to get Jenna into the sitter's without waking her.
"In a very detailed way, I visualized getting there, walking around to the backseat door, unbuckling her straps, getting her out very gingerly, and covering her ears so the babysitter's door wouldn't wake her. I pictured myself saying to the babysitter, 'Jenna's sleeping. Can I lay her in the crib?'"
Ordinarily, Jodie would drive about a block past work to drop Jenna at the sitter's. But as she got lost in her own thoughts for the next 15 minutes, she pulled into the parking lot at work instead. She parked, grabbed her bags from the front seat and headed into work.
A Terrible Discovery
At 4pm, she returned to the car that had been sitting for 7 hours in the 92 degree heat. Jodie put the car in reverse, and as she started to back up, she caught a glimpse of Jenna in the rearview mirror.
"I couldn't figure out how she'd gotten there," she says. "I thought, 'Who put Jenna in here?' and I even looked to see whether someone had put my boy in there too."
And then she made the devastating realization that the memory she had of dropping Jenna at the sitter's house wasn't real -- it was merely the daydream she'd had during her drive in to work.
Even though Jodie knew it was already too late, she slammed on the brakes and ran to the back, frantically dialing 911. When Jenna wouldn't wake up, she collapsed next to the minivan in utter agony.
"I had to lie on the ground," she recalls. "I couldn't even sit up."
Before completely succumbing to the wave of unbelievable grief, Jodie first made the most difficult phone call she's ever had to make -- the call telling her husband what had happened.
"Even though the media spotlight and public hatred were fierce, nothing I experienced that night or since is more painful than the actual loss of my child," she explains. "I miss my baby with an intensity that only a grieving parent can understand. I have been able to go on even when I felt I couldn’t bear the pain any longer because of God’s grace, because of the amazing support of my family and friends, and because I know that Jenna is safely in Heaven."
It’s Easier Than You Think
So many people hear this type of story and think themselves never capable of making such a mistake. But David Diamond, Ph.D., a neuroscientist in the psychology department at the University of South Florida, stresses that cases like Jodie's "are not negligent parents who have forgotten their kids." Rather, it's actually a common function of the brain.
It's called basal ganglia, and it's the "background system" that controls our habits and allows us to do things without even thinking about them. For example, by driving the same route every day, eventually basal ganglia takes over and you may not even remember the drive. Our routine essentially becomes autopilot.
While many question how someone could forget something as serious as taking a child out of the vehicle, Dr. Diamond says it's quite possible because of the way our brain operates.
"As a parent I sympathize with that view," he says. "But as a scientist I can tell you that the basal ganglia can suppress all kinds of memories, even of things that are the most important to us."
And it's the very reason Jodie decided to share her story. She, too, thought there was no way she could ever forget her child was in the car.
Credit: RTV 6 ABC News
She prays her tragedy will help dispel the misconception that such an awful mistake can only happen to bad parents.
"Kidsandcars.org has great safety tips for people who transport young children. Please don’t make the mistake I made. Realize that this can happen to you," Jodie pleads.
"The only way to prevent unknowingly leaving a child in a car is to check the back seat EVERY time you exit your vehicle. Look before you lock. Better yet, put something you need regardless of routine changes (like a purse, cell phone, wallet, or briefcase) in the backseat so you are forced to check the backseat for sleeping children. And, have an ironclad agreement with your babysitter that she will call until she reaches you if your child is not dropped off by the agreed upon time. I go a step further and put a brightly colored bracelet on my child’s car seat. When I put my baby in the car seat, I put the bracelet on. I do not take the bracelet off until my baby is safely dropped off at the babysitter’s. I have talked to dozens of families who have lost children to vehicular heatstroke. This happens to good, loving families. The only thing we all have in common is that none of us realized our love wasn’t enough to protect our children from our imperfect brains.
Please keep Jodie's family, along with all of those who've suffered such a tragedy, in your prayers. And please, please share this hot car warning with anyone and everyone responsible for driving a child!
Here's an important reminder of just how dangerous it is to leave a child in a hot car:
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26
These poor parents are warning everyone of the danger that killed their baby at daycare!