Preventing Another Child From Dying In A Hot Car
Today at 5pm, I interviewed Michele Terry, who’s six month-old died in a hot car almost eight years ago to the day. Her husband was out of his routine one morning and simply forgot that baby Mika was in the back seat.
Here’s the whole story (via KidsandCars.org):
“Created for Eternity”
Mika Michele Terry – Our Precious Angel
December 14, 2004 – June 23, 2005
Our precious baby girl returned to heaven on Thursday, June 23, 2005. Her happy and loving spirit will be in our hearts forever. I can only hope that our tragic story will help others. I have to believe that Mika’s short life and early death served a purpose. I have to start my story from the beginning. I want to remember and honor our little girl to the best of my ability. So forgive me if I give to many details.
We weren’t really trying to have another baby. We already had two beautiful girls Madison age 6 and Macy age 2 at the time. However, we had always said we would try for a third if we had two children of the same sex. So we were excited about having another baby. I always felt my pregnancy with Mika was different. I seemed more worried than before that something was wrong yet every doctor’s visit I was assured by the sound of her heart beat. Therefore I convinced myself I was having a boy this time. I have never been one to “wait” until delivery day to find out the sex of my babies so I was excited when the day for the sonogram arrived. Again, I just knew it was a boy this time. However, as the doctor took measurements & check everything out medically it hit me, “its A Girl” I said to myself. Sure enough she was 100% girl. It took some time to get used to, I don’t know why because I already had two girls at home. Soon after I started pulling out the frilly pink clothes I had saved from when the girls were babies, buying things for the nursery & painting purple walls. I quickly realized that God knew what he was doing. I wouldn’t know what to do with a boy. I am truly all girl! My pregnancy continued as normal and I convinced my doctor to induce a week early. I had never been induced with my previous pregnancies but I was three days late with both Madison and Macy. Because my due date was December 21st, I knew if I waited to go into labor on my own I would end up in the hospital on Christmas Eve. I didn’t want to be away from my children on Christmas in addition I wouldn’t want Mika’s special day to get lost in the rush of the holidays.
So we induced on the morning of December 14th. They gave me a pill to swallow around 7:45 that morning which didn’t make me dilate any more than I already was when I came in there. So they started the Pit. around 12:15. Shortly after I was begging for my epidural but it was too late. I was already at a 9 and there was no turning back. Mika was born at 1:16 pm weighing 6lbs. 15oz. and was 18 inches long. She was the smallest of all my children however it didn’t feel like it. That delivery was the most memorable and special experience, I wouldn’t change it for anything. The girls were ecstatic wearing their “I’m the Big Sister” and “I’m in the Middle” shirts. They were so proud to be big sisters.
She was my best baby. I’m not just saying that because she is no longer here. It was true. She slept through the night at 6 weeks, she only cried when she needed something, she sucked her thumb & when she was tired all you needed to do was lay her down. No rocking required. However, now I wish I had rocked her more. She didn’t have much hair, just a little peach fuzz. I loved to rub my cheek across it when I was holding her. She had a crooked toe which I tried to fix by taping it to her pinky toe. She hated that tape. She loved to stick her tongue out and spit and I think she loved to hear her own voice. She entertained herself by babbling songs (I always said she was singing) as I hurried around tending to her sisters. She thoroughly enjoyed bath time. What baby doesn’t, right? I had just started putting her in the tub with her older sisters and they got a big kick at Mika’s attempts to swim and splash. It was the same in her grandmother’s swimming pool. She still hadn’t learned to sit up or roll over from her back to her stomach and was no where close to crawling. Of course I wasn’t pushing her because I wanted her to stay a baby as long as possible. We were still waiting on those two bottom teeth to come in as well. It’s like she knew she wasn’t going to be here for long and she was going to enjoy every minute of it. I know I did. I will never forget the day we lost her.
My husband had been laid off from his job a few weeks before. It was Thursday, June 23rd. Our oldest daughter Madison left for church camp the Monday before so we only had Macy & Mika. I had to be at work early that morning so my husband was taking the girls in to day care. He had been hired out at a local church to do some construction work for a little extra money. Mika woke up right about the time I was supposed to leave the house. So I quickly changed her diaper, talked to her briefly, warmed her bottle and gave it to her while she was still in her bed. I told my husband the baby was awake taking her bottle and I was out the door. Oh how I wish I just would have picked her up. I had no idea this would be the last time I would see her alive. I spoke to my husband twice that morning once at 9:15 and again at 10:30. He called me at work the first time to tell me he had gotten a long a waited phone call from company about a job. We talked briefly then he told me he was on his way to the church. I called him later to tell him about our plans for that evening. My sister was in town with her two children and we were going to get a baby sister and go to a local café. My morning at work went on as usual until right after I returned from my lunch break. I hadn’t been back at my desk for more than 10 minutes when my phone rang. It was my sister. All she said was I needed to come home. I could tell in her voice something was wrong. I immediately thought it was my husband, I never imagined it would be my baby. I just kept asking “why? What’s wrong?” Finally she said “I’m so sorry…Mikey left Mika in the truck!” I am not entirely sure what I said and in what order but I remember asking if she was alive. In a broken voice she said “no”. At one point I didn’t even have the phone to my ear. All I could say was “Oh My God No”. I must have made a scene because before I knew it there were several people around my desk. I asked my sister where my husband was and if he was okay. I spoke with him briefly and he was sobbing saying “I’m so sorry!” I told him I would be there in a minute. My boss and another co-worker drove me to the church. That was the longest ride ever. As we pulled up to the church there were tons of people there but my eyes were focused on the ambulance. I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough, it hadn’t even completely stopped and I was reaching for the door. My fear was they were going to take her away before I got to hold her. As it turns out they were “working on her”, which confused me. I was already told she was dead. Evidently the first responders thought they had a faint pulse. My aunt immediately grabbed me and held me. We found my husband and followed the ambulance to the hospital. They allowed my husband and me to go into the emergency room with her. However, we were instructed to sit in the corner. The hospital Chaplin came to give us comfort. All I could think about was holding my baby girl. I kept saying it over and over again. “I just want to hold her.” They finally let me stand beside the bed and hold her hand. As I looked into her eyes, I knew she wasn’t there. I finally asked the Doctor “how long are you going to do this?” I understood all the medical terms they were throwing around. I knew how long she had been in the truck. I knew that if by some miracle they were able to save her she wouldn’t have a good quality of life. I felt guilty for thinking this way but I couldn’t stand to see them push, poke & prod on her any more. Asking “how long are you going to do this” was the closest thing to “stop” I could get out of my mouth. As I said, I looked into her eyes and Mika wasn’t there. They stopped compressions and CPR. Time of death was called at 3:01pm. My husband and I held each other and sobbed. Slowly our family members began to arrive. We were allowed to stay in the room and say our goodbyes. I will never forget how she felt lying in my arms. She was so heavy and seemed so long. My wish is for no parent to ever have to do this. Then we had to some how break the news to our other daughters. This too was very painful especially so for my husband.
Here are the events of his morning. After Mika finished her bottle he went in her room to get her. He changed her clothes because the bottle had leaked and she was sopping wet with formula. He rounded Macy up and placed Mika in her car seat. She must have fallen to sleep soon after they started into town because when she was awake you knew it! Remember me telling you how she would sing her babble songs. Macy and Mika go to the same day care center however they are at two different locations. Just as he was walking out of Macy’s day care he received the phone call about a job. As he pulls out and turns the corner where he normally only goes four blocks to Mika’s daycare, he realizes the road is blocked. So he backed up and went down a different road all the while talking on the phone. He continued driving and went by the post office to check our mail. There he ran into the friend he had been working with out at the church. They discussed their plan for the day and headed to the church. He never realized he had forgotten to drop Mika off. I spoke to him as he was driving to the church. It never once crossed my mind to ask about the girls. Later they left the church in the other guy’s truck to go get some more supplies. It wasn’t until they were on their way back from picking up the supplies he remembered. Just out of the blue he remembered. He immediately began screaming, hitting the dash board and crying. Since he was still fifteen minutes or more away, they immediately tried to get a hold of people who could get to her faster. He called my sister and two other friends of his he knew where near by. They all arrived at the same time. None of them could even get her out of the car seat. They pulled back the visor and unbuckled her but just couldn’t get her out. Mikey arrived shortly after and immediately picked her up and took her into the sanctuary. He said he tried to blow into her mouth several times but then realized she was gone. He just sat in the church holding her, rocking her and crying until the first responders got there. After I got to the church, he and I rode in the back seat of my aunt’s car. He was crying uncontrollably. He just kept saying “I killed my baby.” All I could do was hold him. I can’t count the number of times he told me he was sorry. The vision of him holding her in the hospital still haunts me. He was sobbing and holding her so tight. There was nothing I could say to comfort him.
About Mikey – “Super Dad”
I couldn’t have asked for a better daddy for my girls. I have worked nights off and on during the 9 years of marriage and he took care of our children wonderfully. When I worked nights he bathed the girls, feed them dinner, helped Madison with her homework and put them to bed. He went to all Madison’s cheerleading practices being the only male within miles. He also coached her basketball and softball teams. He bragged on all of his girls. He was proud of them. They all have him wrapped around their little finger. I remember getting frustrated with Mikey because he always tried to rock Mika to sleep. I would tell him to stop it and just go lay her down. He would smile and say “this is my last baby and I can rock her if I want to.” He had to do it all when I was working nights. I was (and still am) very proud of him. It’s difficult taking care of three children & I don’t know of any other man that contributes the way Mikey does. This past April I was offered a better position at work with regular day time hours; it was a relief. Having two parents at home in the evenings to tend to the children was a blessing. I know it may seem like I am trying to defend him and maybe I am. But I need to those who don’t know him personally to know he cherished and loved his children. As I said, I could not have asked for a better daddy for my girls.
The day this happened Mikey was asked to give a statement to the policy. My mind was still in such shock that the thought of him being charged never crossed my mind. I knew this was a horrible accident and there was absolutely no criminal intent. However the sheriffs department didn’t know that and had to do their job. So Mikey gave them his statement. Then we were all called in and CPS advised us we had to sign over temporary custody of our other children to a family member. This broke our hearts. To think we just lost our baby and now we were being told we weren’t allowed to sleep in the same house as our other children. It was heartbreaking. So we signed over temporary custody to my mother & were told we could be with them until bedtime. We were assured it was only temporary and within a week or so after CPS concluded their investigation we would have our children back. Luckily our CPS caseworker made every effort to get whatever information she needed quickly because by 1pm the following day she phoned us to tell us we had no restrictions with our children and they could be in our sole custody. Thank God!! Now the sheriff’s department and district attorney’s office didn’t move so fast. We were told from the beginning that because there was a death involved our case would have to be presented to a Grand Jury to determine whether charges would be filed against Mikey for Criminally Negligent Homicide. This possible charge was very disturbing to us. Hadn’t we been through enough, couldn’t they see it was an accident? They kept Mikey’s truck as evidence and were waiting for the final results of autopsy and toxicology reports before it could be released. The Grand Jury hearing was set for October 5th, 2005. Our fate was in the hands of sixteen people who knew nothing about us as parents. We had hundreds of people praying for us including our family and friends, our church family and people around the state and country we didn’t even know. We are lucky to have so many people caring and thinking of us because it was a stressful day. Over 8 people were subpoenaed. A few that were on the scene including the guy Mikey was working with, the CPS investigator and two day care workers. They were going to allow Mikey to testify on his own behalf as well as two others. We decided it would be good for the jury to hear from me and allow me to express my feelings about the accident as well as my feeling towards Mikey. I could honestly tell them I had no blame towards my husband and knew with all my heart there were no intentions on his part. It was just a horrible accident. In addition, our pastor was going to testify. After Mikey finished his testimony, he did not feel good about the outcome. He was in tears and worried sick. Then it was my turn. I couldn’t even tell you exactly what I said but I cried the entire time I was in front of the jury. After I finished the District Attorney said they felt no need to hear our pastor’s testimony. I wasn’t sure how to take this. He also informed me that the jury would probably not conclude until late in the evening and to call his office in the morning for the decision. We were all devastated. How would we ever sleep? I called the D.A.’s office around 4:45 on the 5th only to get is voice mail. He must have heard the desperation in my voice asking him to please call us no matter the time when the Grand Jury concluded. Praise God! He called around 6:30 that evening to tell us the Grand Jury had “No Billed” the case and there would be no charges filed against Mikey. Three and a half months later we were given our truck back and are now in the process of getting it sold. There is power in prayer.
I could go on and on about every little detail and situation that could have prevented this tragedy from happening. However, my faith & belief in God tells me Mika’s life & death was written in God’s plan long ago. She was “Created For Eternity!” Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t question him; believe me I have asked “why” over and over again. I know in my heart this happened for a reason. I’m not exactly sure what I am supposed to do yet and I may never completely know. But I do know this. I have to share my story and do my part to raise awareness. I need people to know that this can happen to anyone: Fathers, Mothers, Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Aunts, Uncles, childcare workers, anyone. Our minds are so cluttered with daily tasks and we live in such a fast paced world its crazy. I know people may say “how does someone forget their child?” I can’t answer that question. All I can do is say “IT CAN HAPPEN!” And it happens to loving, caring and responsible parents. My husband and the father of my precious girls will never be the same. For that matter, our entire family will never be the same. We are all missing a piece of our hearts and soul that can’t be replaced until the day we see her again in heaven.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story. Pass it on. Tell everyone you know. If one child is saved because a parent or care giver remembers her story, then Mika served her purpose.
Fly High Little Angel of Mine!
In order to keep something like what happened to the Terrys from happening again, KidsandCars.org along with Safe Kids have published some really good safety checklists to follow so the chances of forgetting a child in a car will be less likely.