An Australian mother has been creating awareness about car seat safety for children after her infant son survived a near-fatal crash.
Two years ago, Zoe ten Broek and her then-10-month-old son, Jaxon, met with a horrific accident that left him with a fractured skull, brain bleeding, high pressures in the brain, and a torn ligament in his neck.
“I can recall the day very well,” Broek told The Epoch Times, “but the entire accident and the direct moments after the accident I don’t remember at all.”
At the time of the accident, the full-time mom, who's now 24, was living with her son in Yarra Glen, and they were on their way to dinner at Broek’s mother’s house.
“We left our house at 3:40 p.m., and not even 5 minutes into our 15-minute journey, we had crashed,” Broek said. “I don’t know what happened or why it happened.”
Broek, who was familiar with the route, explained that the weather wasn’t particularly bad that day.
Jaxon had been strapped in the car seat, which was facing the rear of the vehicle—a technique she credits for saving his life
She was told that an oncoming car had clipped the tires of her car, spinning it out of control and into the path of a third car, which T-boned her at 100 km (62 miles) per hour, exactly where Jaxon was sitting.
When Broek gained consciousness, she found her car taken off the road and parked in a valley.
“I didn’t recognize where I was and Jaxon was already long gone,” Broek said.
After receiving some help from paramedics, the mother-of-one was informed that Jaxon had been airlifted to The Royal Children’s Hospital.
“[They] weren’t willing to give me more details at that time,” Broek said. “The lack of details from the paramedics terrified me. In my head, no details meant that he was definitely in a very fragile condition, which later proved to be true.”
Broek was taken to The Royal Women’s Hospital; she was in a lot of pain due to the impact, and she also suffered a light concussion and a broken collarbone.
For the next 24 hours, she couldn’t see her son and only received updates via phone. Doctors told Broek and her parents that they weren't sure if Jaxon could make it.
When Broek saw Jaxon for the first time, she was left in “massive shock.”
“It was very distressing as he was barely recognizable,” she said. “There was so much swelling over his entire body, his head was completely wrapped and his eyes were black and blue.”
Witnessing her baby boy in that condition, the heartbroken mother feared never seeing him conscious again.
“It was like waking up in my worst nightmare,” she told The Epoch Times.
For the next four weeks, Jaxon remained in The Royal Children’s Hospital. In the first two weeks, in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Jaxon underwent four surgeries. He was later sent to a neuro ward, where specialists helped prepare him to go home. Jaxon then spent the next few months recovering.
Since the accident, Broek, who's always advocated for an extended rearward-facing car seat, told The Epoch Times, “After it saved my son’s life, I’ve become even more verbal about it."
“Young children have relatively large heads, and in an accident, the head gets violently thrown forward,” Broek said, adding that a rearward-facing car seat helps protect them in the best way possible.
She explained that when the child is strapped to a car seat that is forward facing, however, their large head gets thrown “forward at such a high speed that the chances of head and spinal injuries are really high, which can lead to instant death.”
Broek said that after coming across an online mother’s group and reading their posts, she learned that a lot of parents were still unaware of the risk of prematurely forward facing their children.
“If people knew just how much better protected they are when rearward facing, I refuse to believe as many parents would be turning them forward so young,” Broek said.
She also urged parents and guardians to educate themselves on car safety guidelines for children.
“Having an appropriate seat that was used correctly saved Jaxon’s life, and the only reason that was the case was that I took it upon myself to do the research,” said Broek, who currently lives with her family in Gippsland.
Jaxon turned 3 this month and is described by his mother as the “happiest, most affectionate toddler.”
Despite Jaxon struggling through some developmental delays, Broek is hopeful that he will soon catch up with his peers.
“But in the meantime, I’m just thankful that we get to celebrate yet another birthday this month and that he’s grown to have the beautiful personality that he has,” she said.