Do you have a kid that fights the car seat kicking and screaming? Take a deep breath and remember - buckling up could very possibly save a life. It did for Laura Essay. She vividly remembers the day her life changed forever.
“On Sunday morning, April 24th, 1994, I was driving from Omaha to Lincoln and I was on the interstate, hadn’t even gotten out of Omaha, when a car was approaching me at 120 miles per hour, hit the concrete construction wall and flipped through the windshield of my car and took the roof off the car, collapsed the dash, totaled the seats, and the car was demolished,” Laura remembers.
She was 6 months pregnant, and her 4-year-old son Patrick was in the car with her at the time.
“I remember bits and pieces of it,” Patrick says now, 22 years later. “I remember being in the car, and then I remember being on the interstate outside of the car, and then a little bit in the helicopter, and that's about it.”
Laura went into premature labor, but thankfully, doctors were able to stop it. Miraculously, little Partick escaped with only a scratch.
“I will never forget the physician sat there and he went, ‘I got nothing. I mean if somebody doesn't believe in God, they need to meet you.’ and he said that to me!” Laura remembers. “And so there is no reason... because they saw where the drive shaft went through my seat, and if you look at pictures of the car for him to be unharmed, is uncanny.”
Laura credits the car seat for saving her son’s life.
“I almost lost him, and if I had not had him in the car seat, how can I have ever lived with myself?”
According to safekids.org, road injuries are the leading cause of unintentional deaths to children in the United States. Of those children ages 8 and under who died in vehicle crashes in 2014, 26 percent were not restrained by an age-appropriate device such as an infant seat, booster seat or seat belt. One reason? The cost.
“If you don't have enough money to feed your kids, you sure as heck can't buy a car seat - they are crazy expensive,” Laura said. “Car seats are kind of the forgotten need. When it comes to kids, we immediately think food and then clothing and shelter and they're covered. But the forgotten need is that when you put them in a car to get them someplace, they have to have the car seat because they may not make it.”
But, 22 years after the crash, Laura is fighting to change this. She recently held a fundraiser in her hometown to raise money for new car seats for those who can’t afford a proper one. And the director of the non-profit who will receive them is grateful.
“She said they get weekly requests and see needs for car seats and they just aren't there,” Laura said. “She said this is going to change so many lives that they finally get this forgotten need this so huge.”
And each year on the anniversary of the crash, Patrick calls his parents to thank them for putting him in a car seat.
“I've seen the impact every year that they remember it every single year and I don't really or I remember it but I don't feel that same impact but I can see it on their faces,” Patrick said. “So that's why I send them a text or call them just to just to talk and remind them that we're all still here and together and happy and healthy and all that stuff”
“Nationwide, there's no reason that we should have little children out on the highways unprotected,” Laura said. “I mean it's like sending them into a battle - we shouldn't do that. We feed them and we clothe them and we shelter them - let's put them in a car seat!”
The Essay family says during their work with car seats, they’ve spoken with police officers who routinely see expired or damaged car seats being used because parents can’t afford to buy a proper one. If you are one of those parents, PLEASE reach out to your local health department. The risk isn’t worth your child’s life.