SAVANNAH STILL SMILES
My name is Angelica Smith. I am a thirty-two-year-old mother of six children from the ages of two thru thirteen. My vehicle is a 1993 Plymouth Grand Voyager. August 25, 2003 was like any other day, UNTIL the incident that changed the lives of everyone in my family.
My children and I went and picked their dad up at about 7:00 p.m. On the way home we stopped at my parent’s house to pick up laundry that I was doing earlier that day. I parked on the street in front of my parent’s house. A few of the neighbors were outside talking, and there was a basketball game going on about 30 ft. away. I turned the van off, then turned the key back to keep the radio on. I told my family I was just grabbing the laundry and to wait for me. I walked in the house, went to the dryer and was pulling the clothes out putting them in a basket. Suddenly something very mysterious came over me; something I still can’t explain very well. I stopped in the middle of what I was doing with an article of clothing in my hand and instantly and very quickly went straight to the front door, opened it up and looked straight at my van. I saw my youngest daughter with the van window rolled up on her neck, and she wasn’t moving. Just like in the movies, where the hall gets real long and the girl can’t run fast enough, that’s how I felt. I had tunnel vision, because all I remember seeing was my little girl. I don’t remember making any sounds or hearing any sounds. But the neighbors said I was screaming loud enough for the heavens to hear.
I was face to face with my baby, the window rolled up on her neck and her hands. Her eyes were wide open staring straight at me, but she wasn’t there. My face was inches from hers, and I couldn’t think. I was trying to pull the window down with my hands. I just wanted her out of there. Her whole face was a dark blue, and her lips were a dark purple. Her mouth was open with foam in the corner. She was dead and I wanted to die! Only seconds had gone by since I found her, but it felt as though time had stood still. The next thing I knew her dad was behind her pushing the button to roll down the window. I reached in and pulled her lifeless body out, clutching her in my arms, running to my parent’s front door. I would like to change the focus for a second to let you know a few important things about my dad. In March of that year (five months before the incident) he had to have a liver transplant. My father’s illness and the transplant took a hard toll on my father’s physical body, but never his spirit. His recovery never did to well. About two weeks before the incident his body started suffering rejection. My father was very ill. The days before the incident he could hardly get out of bed, he was in so much pain.
What happened next I believe with my heart and soul was a miracle. Someone, who was on his deathbed, was given strength from God. He heard my screams and met me at the front door. He took his granddaughter into his arms and told me to call 911. He ran to his bed, laid her down and began CPR. I was on a cordless phone torn between wanting to watch, praying for any signs of life and not being able to watch my sick father on his knees trying his hardest to give life back to her….to us. For the first time, I was able to see what was going on around me. My children, brothers, sister, and neighbors were all standing and running around. Everything was chaos. Everyone was screaming and crying. My children saw their little sister’s lifeless body.
It felt like forever before the medics got there, but in reality it was about 5 minutes. I heard the ambulance approaching when my dad yells “”she’s alive!”” I’ll never forget the joy in my heart and soul at that given moment. It felt a hundred times better than the day God first gave her to me.
I have only the best wishes and regards for all the people who work for the emergency services who touched our lives that dreadful day. Everything they were able to do for my daughter was a blessing and I thank God every day. I also have only wonderful things to say about Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and their staff, what a wonderful group of people. I’ll always be thankful and will never forget how well they treated my daughter and I during our stay at the hospital and all the months of aftercare.
Looking back now, the first three months I was very traumatized by this. It changed everything. I was so afraid one or more of my children was going to die. All day, every day, I fought with my own thoughts. I did not want to go anywhere or do anything but keep all six of my children at home and in my sight at all times. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t make it go away. The incident kept replaying in my head, and in my dreams. August 25, 2003 was the worst day of my life, until November 20, 2003 when my father passed away. He is and always will be close to my heart. Not only was he a wonderful dad to me, he gave me back my baby with Gods will. He told me before he died, that if he only lived through the transplant and all those very ill days to save her life, it was worth it to him. GOD BLESS MY DAD!
I don’t know if my daughter remembers or not. She doesn’t like anything on her neck, and neither do I. I can still see the diagonal line on her neck, as if it’s now a permanent crease. She had some minor nerve damage to her eye, that over the past two years has almost completely recovered. I learned a lot of different things from all of this. One being that because her head was at an angle, it didn’t crush her esophagus. Electric windows roll up with a great deal of pressure for just a window. Another thing that I learned was a child’s brain can only go up to three minutes without oxygen before causing permanent damage or even death. The condition that I had found her in; not breathing, no heartbeat, and blue in the face; it had to be one and a half to two minutes before I found her. But was able to get her to my dad and he got oxygen to her brain within that small window of time…….Oh, how blessed we were on that day.
The summer of 2004 I received a phone call from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital regarding interviews that a few local news stations wanted to have with me about my daughter’s incident. I greatly obliged in doing so. I thought it was important to let people know this happens. Another thing that I learned was this type of “”rocker-arm”” window switch that is located flat on the armrest of both my front doors, is a very poor design. Children have been and will continue to be injured and even killed at the hands of this type of design. I can’t tell you how disturbed and hurt I am about these facts.
I wrote letters to Chrysler and spoke with a couple of people who tried to make me feel as thou this was only my fault. No apologies, no explanations. They did however have two recalls that they would like me to take care of at their expense, one was the windshield wiper pivot that could come off and cause an accident, and the other was the steering column could come off and cause an accident. What about the windows? And recently it was pointed out to me by Dennison Keller, who is a Cincinnati channel 12 news reporter and the one who told me about KidsAndCars.org (thank you) that my van also can be shifted into any gear without it running or breaks being applied. I also have huge blind spots. We all drive deathtraps. These manufacturers need to be more concerned with lives and not dollars. I read story after story and people just want changes to save lives. We can’t get back what these accidents take from us, but if it can prevent another from occurring, that is the only comfort that helps to heal.