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2022-06-07 07:20:55 By : Ms. Laura Luo

A young mum has revealed how strapping her 10-month-old son to a rear-facing seat saved his life after a horrific car accident.

Zoe ten Broek, from Melbourne, has been placing Jaxon into his car seat facing the back of the vehicle since birth after she discovered the method could significantly reduce injuries in crashes.

Her decision saved his life after she was faced with every parent’s worst nightmare in July 2020.

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The then-21-year-old mum had strapped little Jax into his car seat like any other day so they could visit her parents.

But the 20-minute drive was cut short after her son suffered serious head injuries - including a fractured skull, a brain bleed and a torn ligament in his neck - during a collision.

“I felt very helpless, all there was to do was hold his hand and hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” Zoe tells 7Life.

Before the horrific crash, the mum strapped Jax to his seat and did a “pinch test” to ensure his straps were tightly secured and fitted correctly.

“I started to make my way to my parents’ house just like I have done so many times in the past. Though this time we never made it there,” she says.

“It was a 20 minute drive, but we crashed only two minutes after leaving home. The next thing I remember was men putting me in an ambulance and telling me that I had been in an accident.

“Jax was no where to be seen.”

The distraught mum says she lost consciousness when her son was airlifted to The Royal Children’s Hospital while she was taken to The Royal Women’s Hospital.

“My mum was with Jax and she updated me throughout the night but I think because of the pain meds they gave me, those messages really weren’t hitting home,” she says.

“After having spend the night in the hospital myself, I finally got to go see him.”

The following afternoon, the mum frantically rushed to her son’s hospital bedside.

“24 hours later was rather shocking,” she recalls.

“Nothing could have prepared me for seeing my little man in that massive bed with so many tubes and wires everywhere. His poor face looked nothing like it used to.

“Everything was swollen, from his eyes to his fingers, to his poor little toes.

“It was an awful lot to process, I had no memory of what happened and suddenly it all hit me at once that I could lose my precious boy any second.”

Zoe said one of the hardest things was not being able to give her son a hug.

“The only thing I wanted was to pick him up and hold him, but I wasn’t allowed to do that until weeks later,” she says.

“I really think that that was my main thought, just to want to hug it all better.”

Jax remained in hospital for one month where he underwent four major surgeries.

“It was touch and go for a while,” she says.

“Many tears later I was thankfully lucky enough to be able to take my boy home without any permanent issues.”

More than 19 months on, Zoe, now 23, says she can’t help but think the outcome would have been different if she had placed Jax, now two-and-a-half years old, in a front-facing seat.

“Not a day goes by where I don’t think about what life would be like if we weren’t so lucky,” she said.

“If I hadn’t known to keep him rearward facing, he definitely wouldn’t be here the doctors have told me.”

The mum says she only knew about rear-facing car seats when she took it upon herself to do her own research before buying a baby seat.

“When I got pregnant I entertained myself with reading and planning things online. For whatever reason I dived rather deeply into car safety and really educated myself,” she says.

“I don’t know why I specifically obsessed over car safety, but I’m very very glad that I did. If it wasn’t for my own research I would have had zero reason to do extended rearward facing.”

During her research, she found alarming stats about the severe injuries sustained in a car crash.

“Did you know that if your child’s car seat was forward facing and you were to get in an accident their neck would get hit with the force of 180kg to 220kg? Whereas if they were to be rearward facing that force would be 40kg-60kg?” she says.

“I’m so thankful to have known that information before the absolute worst happened to us.”

Australian guidelines state children can be placed in front-facing seats from six months old.

However, Zoe says she hopes her story can encourage parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats for “as long as possible”.

“I think what bothers me the most is that it would have been ‘legally’ fine for me to have forward faced him for four months already,” she says.

“How can we have so much research on extended rearward facing and have such outdated laws? It made me rather angry. Had I listened to the law instead of the research my 10-month-old would have been instantly internally decapitated.

“On the flip side it also made me feel extremely lucky. Everyday I’m thankful that I still get to create more memories with my little man.”

By Rhiannon L. / Public Health

By Farid F. / Health & Wellbeing

By Rhiannon L. / Public Health

By Farid F. / Health & Wellbeing