When you look at Lisa Smith’s family you see two happy parents and their two beautiful baby boys.
But what many might not know is that back before having her sons, Lisa was the mom of one precious girl.
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Unfortunately, a tragedy would take her beloved little daughter away from her.
At the age of 17 months, Amelia, affectionately known as ”Mia”, passed away in 2015.
The worst of all? Mia’s death was completely preventable and this fact still haunts her parents.
Lisa and Chad Smith knew their daughter had an exceptional skill at a young age for keeping a beat.
The parents hoped she’d grow up to play music or be an artist.
Sadly, the musical skills of 17-month-old “Mia” never had a chance to blossom.
Mia wasn’t even 18 months old when her longtime babysitter put her down to nap in a car seat.
The beloved daughter died in 2015, after being left by a daycare provider to nap in a car seat in her home.
As you probably know, naps are common at daycare providers, and this provider was no different.
But what was different this time was that Mia was put into a car seat for her nap in an inappropriate use of the device that pediatricians warn can cause young children to suffocate.
This practice would eventually cost the girl her life.
“I got a call while I was at work,” her mom, Lisa Smith, told The Pella Chronicle.
“Worst call I’ve ever had in my life. ‘Drop everything. Mia didn’t wake up from her nap.’”
Lisa and her husband Chad had always assumed their daughter slept in a crib – in fact, on the day of her death, there was an unused crib just a few feet away from the toddler.
Many parents are still unaware of is that allowing a child to fall asleep in a car seat can cause positional asphyxia, a condition that Mia died from.
Positional asphyxia can happen when a baby’s airway is restricted from sitting upright and the baby ends up suffocating. Car seats and bouncers are extra risky, because depending on their age, babies don’t always have the strength to hold their necks up.
This condition, unfortunately, is more common than most parents and other people realize.
The daycare provider, Valerie Wackerly, also had left Mia sleeping under the supervision of an adult who was not certified in child care while she took her own child to see a doctor.
Additionally, the car seat that Valerie Wackerly left Mia in was supplied by the daycare provider and not fit for the girl. And most importantly, there was no permission given for this practice.
“There’s nothing about the car seat that’s designed to sleep,” said Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s Hospital.
After researching on the web, both Lisa and Chad were full aware of the deaths that have arisen from allowing the child to fall asleep unsupervised in the car seat.
The parents had taken care to ensure Mia was always removed from the car seat and her sleep monitored at their feet.
A toddler has yet to develop the strength to hold their necks up. Sometimes they can end up sleeping with their chins against their necks and that position can block off airflow, causing the child to silently suffocate.
Because of this, some people call it a silent killer, as children will die quietly in their sleep, with no signs of distress.
A study published by the Journal of Pediatrics in 2015 had revealed that 48% of car set deaths and 75% of swing deaths between 2004 and 2008 was caused by positional asphyxia.
The study showed that babies and toddlers should be always be properly restrained in car seats with fully buckled straps and not be left unsupervised in sitting and carrying devices.
Unfortunately fo little Mia, taking a nap in a car seat was part of her daily routine.
Mia’s parents soon learned that car seat naps were actually part of Mia’s daily drill and that the daycare provider believed it helped with “better” sleep, according to the police investigation.
”The reports we read after the fact, explained that Mia even knew that the car seat was her ‘spot’ at nap time. She would apparently run into the nap room and straight to the car seat … so this must have been a long-standing practice,” Lisa told The Stir.
Four years after Mia Smith died while napping in a car seat, her mother hopes her story might warn unsuspecting parents – and save the lives of other children.
“How many parents do you think might not know this?” Smith asked. “Probably a lot.”
That’s why she shares Mia’s story as often as she can.
Valerie Wackerly, the toddler’s in-home daycare provider, pleaded guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge. She was sentenced to three years’ probation and was punished financially, according to The Pella Chronicle.
Losing a child is beyond earth shattering: it is soul crushing. Mia was literally the flesh of Lisa’s flesh, her first child and her absolute love.
Hopefully, more parents and caretakers will become aware of this condition and will keep a closer eye on their children so that this will no longer be such a common case.
After her tragic death, Mia became an organ donor, which was incredibly difficult for her parents, and it’s this type of grief that Lisa is now trying to protect others from.
Please share this story to help Lisa and her family to warn other parents.