A couple whose toddler daughter died after being locked in a hot car have invented a device that will prevent the ‘forgotten baby syndrome.’
Mum, Michela Onida and her husband, Stefano would wake up at 3am everyday to get things done at home while they run a small fish shop.
While it was a daily routine for Michela to drop her 17-month-old daughter, Gaia, to the nursery before taking her elder daughter to school, in July last year, she accidentally made a small change which she forever regretted.
That fateful day, Michela took her elder daughter to school, and believing she already dropped Gaia at the nursery, she then drove to work, parked the car and left — accidentally leaving Gaia inside the car under the scorching heat of the sun.
At noon, after four hours, Michela closes the shop and went back to the car and was shocked to find Gaia already fighting for her life from being locked inside the car under temperatures of 30C.
“I heard heavy, stifled breathing coming from behind, I turned my head — it was Gaia!” Michela told news.com.au.
She said she called her husband, and rushed Gaia to hospital but were too late. Gaia died. Her body temperature was 42 degrees Celsius.
After the tragic incident, Michela found out that she had suffered from a bad memory disorder often associated with the ‘forgotten baby syndrome’ that time.
“I suffer from dissociative amnesia. I thought — I was sure — I had dropped Gaia off at the nursery before going to work, saying ‘goodbye’ to her and giving her a kiss on the cheek as I do each morning,” she said. “But instead, when I got back into the car after hours, there she was, stuck in her baby seat. She was sleeping, maybe she was dreaming.”
However, as they grieve for their loss, the couple decided to do something positive out of the tragedy and hope that no parent will ever experience what they did. “I don’t want to go back to that morning, it hurts so much talking about it. This is why we’ve decided to do something useful by taking from this tragedy a piece of our experience that can help other parents avoid that more toddlers die forgotten in car back seats,” Michela said.
The couple then sought the help of a software company to develop a ‘forget-me-not’ device to double check that kids haven’t been left in the car.
“OK, You Are Here! consists of a magnetic badge with a chip, like a credit card, which the parent who drops off the baby swipes under an electronic machine placed at the entrance of a daycare centre or nursery,” explains Michela. “It creates a database that tracks daily attendance and can be used to monitor the presence of kids up to three years of age.”
Michela added that an SMS alert will be sent to the mobile phones of both parents if the baby does not arrive in the morning, which means, the child hasn’t been dropped off.
“This device makes us very proud, it’s what keeps us going. We want to help other parents know that their baby is in the arms of teachers, looked after, protected and cuddled, like my Gaia should have been,” she said.
The couple wanted to create a network between families and schools. So far, the device has been implemented in two daycare centres in Tuscany.
Michela said that the device helped heal their wounds. “This project has given a reason to move on, a way to handle our daily grief and become active by turning our personal drama into something useful which we hope will support other families”, she said.