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Mother warns parents after 9-month-old dies in 'hot car' on 66-degree-day

by Tom Roussey
ABC7 Friday, February 17th 2017  

For Raelyn Balfour of Charlottesville, the idea of forgetting her baby in the backseat of a hot car was unthinkable. "I had heard of stories of this happening to other parents, and I'm like, 'That's an irresponsible parent, there's no way that you can do that,'" she said. "Until it happened to me." Balfour says other people considered her a great parent. And she was known for her attention to detail. While serving with the Army in Iraq, she was able to manage big-budget projects while accounting for every penny. But on March 30, 2007, she made a mistake she's had to live with ever since. "I still ask myself every day -- how could I leave him, how could I forget him?" Balfour said.

Bryce Balfour was the first child Raelyn and husband Jarrett had together. The boy was nine months old when he died. Raelyn says she was certain she had dropped him off at daycare that morning before heading to work at Charlottesville's Army JAG office. She says she even remembers doing it. "I remember that memory to this day," she told ABC7. "And it's a false memory. It's what they call misremembering." Balfour says a number of factors led to her fateful mistake. Among them: -- stress from PTSD, depression, and anxiety -- Bryce had been sick and she'd gotten little sleep while caring for him -- the car seat was not in its normal spot -- the diaper bag was in the back not the front as usual -- she doesn't remember Bryce making noise in the back like usual -- she received a phone call about travel issues involving a fallen soldier's family -- she'd dropped her husband off at work, which was unusual "In my mind I'm thinking that I already made a stop, I've dropped the baby off," she said. Raelyn says her daycare provider called, but she missed the call on her personal cell phone. She called back but failed to reach her. They finally made contact later in the day. "She's like 'No, no Lyn you didn't drop him off this morning,'" Raelyn said. "And right then and there the whole morning flashes through my eyes. And I'm like 'Oh my god, he's still in the car. Please, he can't be in the car, I remember dropping him off.' And I ran to the car. And there he was." Raelyn performed CPR, but Bryce was later pronounced dead at the hospital. She says the high temperature that day had only been 66. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, even if the temperature is 60 outside, inside a car it can reach 110 degrees. That's more than enough to cause heat stroke in a young child. Raelyn says when Bryce died she made a promise to try to prevent others from doing what she did. She says the first thing a parent has to do is admit it can happen to them. "Everyone has a right to disagree with what I say, that it could ever happen to them," she said. "But I ask them one question. Do you ever want to know what it feels like to perform CPR on your own child? Are you willing to play Russian roulette with your child's life to find out it can happen to you?" Balfour offers the following advice: Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and any time your child is in the seat put it up front as a reminder. She also recommends putting something you need next to the car seat when your child is in it. "A lot of parents have developed a plan where they take a shoe off and they physically put it back with the child, because they can't get out of the car without their shoe on their foot," Balfour said. Balfour has had four children with Jarrett since Bryce's death. She says now, even if she's absolutely certain there are no children in the backseat, she still looks in the back and checks every time she parks.

Click here for more information on how to prevent such a tragedy.

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