National Heat Awareness Day
Today is National Heat Awareness Day.
Three weeks ago I shared a trick we’re implementing this summer as a safeguard against vehicular heat stroke. The trick is to put our left shoes in the backseat with Owen whenever he’s traveling with us. The idea is that we won’t get very far without our left shoe. This trick and the photo of Owen has gone viral on Facebook with over 85,000 shares to date. Never in a million years did I think it would spread like it has. When I shared it I thought it would maybe reach 1,000 people on Facebook, not 9.2 million people.
After I posted the photo and tip, a few mothers of children who died due to vehicular heatstroke reached out to me to thank me for sharing the tip in hopes of saving a child’s life. One of those moms was Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero. After visiting the site she created to honor her daughter, Ray Ray, and raise awareness for vehicular heatstroke, I noticed that Kristie and her husband, Brett, looked familiar. That’s because last summer, when I was 8 months pregnant with Owen, I saw them on the Today Show, and their story left me with tears streaming down my face. This was a parent’s absolute worst nightmare. My heart ached for them and the loss of their precious little girl.
When Kristie reached out to me, she offered to guest post and share her story with all of you. I hope you’ll take the time to read Kristie’s story.
Four Years into the Journey of My “New Normal”: A Mom’s Tale of Perseverance After Vehicular Heatstroke
My life underwent a major, unwelcomed transformation on Wednesday, May 25, 2011– the day that shall forever live in infamy for me. This is the day that I lost my beautiful Sophia Rayne “Ray Ray” Cavaliero through a danger to child passenger safety that I never heard of prior to my loss. Vehicular Heatstroke, oh how I loathe this under-recognized, misunderstood danger to children, especially those under two years of age. Four years into the journey of learning to live without my Ray Ray, I remain mad as hell that more attention is not devoted to this leading non-traffic cause of fatalities for children under 14 years of age. So angry, in fact, that I have waged my own war against Vehicular Heatstroke in Ray Ray’s memory. Though my body is tired, my soul is weary, and I sometimes I feel as though I am out of fuel and running on fumes, I soldier onward, carrying out my pledge to Ray Ray to end these senseless tragedies. I remind myself, almost daily, that though I lose a few battles, I MUST win this war against vehicular heatstroke. Failure is NOT an option for those precious babes of the world who are in danger and whose parents do not even recognize the risk.
THE EVENT: ONE WRONG TURN
My entire household overslept on the morning of May 25, 2011. I was awakened by Ray Ray’s sweet giggles and kisses on my face, followed by a glance at the clock that read 9:43 AM! We rushed to get ready for our day. Then I followed my husband and Ray Ray to his truck, where we both placed her securely in her car seat. I waved as they descended down the driveway, and then carried on with my workday. Fast forward about three hours. I picked up my husband at his office for a quick lunch date. We trekked down the road, gushing about our little princess and how beautiful she was in her new dress, a birthday gift from her teacher, for “Tropical Day” at the daycare. Then, as I pulled into the parking lot, my husband said to me, “Go back to the office”. I asked why. He repeated, “just go back to the office…. Immediately”. As I approach a red traffic light, he instructed me to run the light. This was so weird to me, so I asked: “WHAT is going on?” Then my world started spinning as I heard his words: “I can’t remember dropping Ray Ray off at daycare this morning.”
As I sped to the office, I instructed him to call the office and have them check the truck. At the same time, I called the daycare. Almost simultaneously as I heard confirmation from her teacher that she was not present, the office manager told my husband that they removed her from the truck. Two calls to 911 were placed within one minute of each other, one by me, the other from the office. My perpetual nightmare, my “new normal”, had begun. Then I found myself staring at my almost lifeless baby, gurgling with lips of purple, and fighting through my own shock and horror to save whatever remnant of her life that might be salvaged. I knew it was bad. I just had no clue as to how much worse it was going to get. Despite all of the efforts, my soulmate was pronounced dead at 2:49 pm. My world crumbled. I felt my mind leave my body, almost hovering over the room and looking down, all actions in slow motion and objects melting akin to a surrealist painting. It was like I was watching a really bad movie…but it wasn’t a movie; this was now MY world, MY life as a parent survivor of a vehicular heatstroke victim and statistic. Sadly, there would be many more cases that summer, and in the years since, many whose stories sounded EXACTLY like ours: a forgotten childcare drop-off by a responsible parent. Many of them also originating from one wrong turn on the morning of that fateful drive.
MY NEW NORMAL
Learning to live again after losing Ray Ray was quite an endeavor, as everyone– friends, family, neighbors, and even my employer, wanted to know when I would mentally return to “normal”. My therapist and I had to sadly enlighten them that I would NEVER be the same. Most folks failed to understand that I died as she did. The person I was, my innocence, my “perfect” world, as of May 24, 2011, was shattered into millions of pieces– some of which could never be recovered. I was only a shell of my original soul, forever wounded and scarred. Folks would need to respect the pieces that remained, and accept the scars and gaping wounds, to remain a part of my new world– my new normal. Some could not do this. Thus, they gracefully and gradually stepped away from my chaotic, forlorn world. Others journeyed into this world with me and supported me through the most difficult time of my life. And oh, how I appreciate them.
What was my new normal? Some parts were quite dreadful. I became paralyzed with the fear of also losing my husband to suicide or to the legal system during the criminal investigation that comes as a consequence of these tragedies. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also took root in my body, with multiple panic attacks daily. I struggled to breathe. For several months my sole mission was to just remember to breath– just some of the collateral damages triggered by a vehicular heatstroke tragedy. Damages that often go unseen by the public. Damages that I continue to manage today. There was, however, a “ray ray” of light in my new normal, one that brought me back to the world of the living. I was so infuriated to learn that many sources of heatstroke were identical to mine: a result of forgotten childcare drop-off. The raging momma bear inside of me knew I MUST take action rather than self-destruct from my grief, pain, and anger. Hence, Ray Ray’s Pledge was born. An opportunity to bring justice to my baby and other heatstroke victims like her, making sure that their beautiful lives were more than a sad statistic.
CALLING ALL MOMMA BEARS
As I reflect upon the past four years of my life on this National Heat Awareness Day, I appreciate how far we have come in the arena of vehicular heatstroke prevention, yet I continue to train for the upcoming battles that lie on the horizon. I implore you, fellow feisty momma bears of the world, to join my army of vehicular heatstroke prevention warriors. I call on YOU to do YOUR part in preventing vehicular heatstroke tragedies TODAY. The life you save could be YOUR child.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Kristie. I know Ray Ray is very proud of you for getting her name out there and fighting to bring awareness to vehicular heatstroke.
Friends, I encourage you, your partner, your child’s caretaker, whoever to have some sort of system in place this summer. I like the left shoe idea because it’s a sure fire thing– I’ll know I’m forgetting something if I start to walk away from my car without a shoe. The shoe idea is also great for dads because they don’t carry purses. If you don’t want to put your shoe in the backseat, put your phone or purse– just something that will make you stop and think. Another tip would be to call or text your partner after daycare drop off, and to do this every day. You could also set a daily alarm in your phone to go off around your typical daycare drop off time. These little things take seconds, and can ultimately save your child’s life. It definitely can’t hurt to have precautions in place. And putting these precautions into place doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent. It means that you’re a great parent who’s willing to take the extra steps to ensure the safety of your children.
Let’s do everything we can to keep our little ones safe.
That was beautifully told. I’m so very sorry for your loss Kristie. I cannot imagine what you go through every day to get along in this world, but Ray Ray’s Pledge is a great thing to bring attention to the subject. I’m a pediatric E.R. Nurse; I have heard about the high number of cases, and we try and educate parents as much as we can, especially in the summer months. However having a two month old at home, my first baby, I can sometimes see how things like this happen. I’m constantly checking the rear view mirror to make sure the car seat is there, fearing I left him at home when I was in a rush to pick up my step sons, or take them to the many practices and games. As I approach going back to work, day care drop offs get closer, as does the one hundred degree summers we get. I have a healthy fear of this awful tragedy. I loved the left show idea, and I also plan on using the arrival text messages/call. thank you guys for talking about this and raising awareness.
Kristie-my heart hurts for you but I really admire the work you’re doing. My son is 18 months so I was super worried about this last year and this year. I have an alarm set up on my phone, where you can set it for a location-every time I arrive at work, I get an alert from my phone asking me if I dropped him off-so that’s an idea too.
Hi Emily, that is a really great idea and I am wondering if it’s an APP you use for that? If so, could you tell me what it is called?
Sorry it took so long to reply-I was out of town for the long weekend. I set it up using the reminders app on iphone (it comes preloaded on the iphone). Here are the directions straight from apple, scroll to the bottom for location-based reminders https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202335
I’m also curious, do you use an app for this alarm? It’s a great idea!
Ellen-just so you see too, see my reply above, here are the directions for this with an iphone https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202335. Not sure about other phones but I bet that android phones could probably do this too.
Thanks for all that you do Kristie. Your strength, drive and determination do make a differences and are saving precious young lives.
Thanks for sharing, Kristie. I’m sorry for your loss. My husband stays at home with our son, and I was so proud when the other day I realized that he leaves his keys on the backseat (you don’t have to put them in the ignition of our car) so he doesn’t forget!! Keep spreading the word, Chelsea.
You’re absolutely right. There needs to be more awareness about this topic! I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristie.
I shared this with everyone I know when you first shared it on instagram. But I just shared it again, because it is so important! Thank you for this post.
I was led to this site by a friend. Firstly, I want to say I am so sorry for your loss. Although you would be in pain, I admire what your doing to help others become aware that it can happen to anyone.
While it is not under the same circumstances, there are also the cases where parents intentionally leave the kids in the car while they step out for a few minutes to quickly grab things from the shops and are longer than expected. While there is not only heat stroke to consider, what happens in the rare case, an opportunistic chance arrives for someone to steal the car with a child in it. Or if the child is old enough, they can unbuckle their seat belts (mine could do this at 17months), and accidentally knock the car Into gear or remove the engaged hand brake. I have had many arguments with parents who I have confronted about this.
I am a police officer, no longer on the frontline, but in the call centre and it is heart-breaking the calls we get about children /dogs locked in vehicles. It is really stressful to get these calls, as we know every moment counts. We know it is imperative to get help to the child ASAP.
Keep up the good work and making more people aware. Jo
Hello from Brisbane, Australia. I follow you on instagram as well as reading your blog. I was very touched by your guest post about National Heat Awareness….I forwarded it to my girlfriends. I’m also going to talk to my daycare and see if they will start ‘making the phonecall’ if a child doesn’t show. This evening Rayray’s parents were interviewed on our 60 minutes program.
Thank you again for highlighting this.
Your story saddens my heart, but you devotion to Ray Ray gives a “Ray of Inspiration”. I’ve parented twice, once in my younger years and again in my older years. When I was 25, my routine was to place my purse in the diaper bag and place them in the floor board beneath the car seat. This routine worked very well even on the day I took that wrong turn… that wrong turns still eats on me 20 years later as the flowers starts to bloom and temperatures begin to rise. As soon as I let go of that car door “I felt out of routine” my keys were not in hand and my life treasure was in the back seat. I know I am one of the fortunate ones as I only had to leave him unattended and out of sight for a few seconds while I ran into a Office Building to call 911. The office building where I was meeting with a divorce attorney, needless to say I “no showed” that appointment. I couldn’t go back in that office and introduce myself, when I had just locked my baby in the car? Routine works…what ever it takes to take that second look or step. I was blessed in my 40’s with another child and I practiced the same routine with the diaper bag in the floor board beneath the car seat. Now he is 5 and my fear is losing track of time and being late to pick him up from school so I now set alarms on my phone to remind me to pick him up from school just as I set the morning alarm. No matter how silly it may seem, find away to take that extra precaution, I have a 22 year old son that because of habit…
I love the shoe idea. Fantastic thought. I pray it saves precious lives. I thank Good this has never happened to me or anyone I know. But I cry each time I see a sorry like this on the news. It could have been me, I had hectic mornings when I was working. Good blessed me and kept my kids safe. May God Bless you and help you through these tough times. Sharing your story WILL save others.
My idea is to keep a kid-sized stuffed animal in the car seat. When you insert the baby, the animal becomes your co-pilot. I like this idea because you have to remove the stuffed animal to insert the baby, so you can’t forget to do it, and tossing the animal back into the seat is easier than not doing it.
Hi There – both of my boy are all grown up and in their late twenties. This type of incident has never happened to me personally. Even to this day, I text my boys all of the time to see what they are up to, and if one isn’t home straight after work (usually early a.m. hours), I text to see if he is okay or broken down somewhere. I can’t imagine the grief and sorrow that these mothers and families face over this tragic incident. I think the shoe idea is wonderful. I was also thinking that there are key finders now, that when the key and the finder device are separated within so many feet, the alarm goes off. Maybe that can be attached to the car seat. It may be repetitive to hear, but it’s always a good way to stop, check, and look, when transporting your little loved ones. Hopefully in the future, car manufacturers will have sensors that can signal when the car is off, and a sensor to note if the child has been left in the seat (possibly weight sensor), so that this never has to ever happen to a family again. My prayers are with these moms, all of them.