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Nurse Practitioner (Mother) leaves 21 month old in car for 8 hours

Nurses Article   (5,855 Views 68 Replies 984 Words)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

14 Followers; 88 Articles; 227,020 Visitors; 1,783 Posts

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Nicole, NP, left her 21 month old baby, Remy, in the car where Remy remained until Nicole returned at 4:30 when her shift was over. Remy died and Nicole was left to blame herself forever. How do mistakes like this happen?

Nurse Practitioner (Mother) leaves 21 month old in car for 8 hours

Nicole was by all accounts a competent, caring Nurse Practitioner. Her patients loved her and her coworkers spoke highly of her.

She was also the proud mother of Remy, short for Remington.  Nicole and her husband had tried for 15 years to conceive and they were overjoyed when they had Remy, now 21 months old. Coworkers said she loved to show them photos of little Remy. By all accounts, Nicole was a loving, responsible parent.

In the morning of June of 2018, Nicole was working at Evergreen Family Medicine in Roseburg, Oregon. That morning, she drove into the clinic’s parking lot as usual. She got out, locked her car, and went to work her shift at the very busy clinic- as usual.

In doing so, she left her 21 month old baby, Remy, in the car where Remy remained for hours until Nicole returned at 4:30, when her shift was over.

Nicole discovered Remy unconscious and blue. Nicole screamed for help and attempts were made to revive the toddler, but she was pronounced dead.

Supporters and Haters

The community quickly divided into supporters and haters. What happened to little Remy is almost too horrific to contemplate. Sides were taken.

Both sides felt empathy- empathy for the mother and the suffering she would never escape from. Empathy for Remy, a vulnerable child who suffered a horrible death.

The supporters felt ‘This could happen to me”. An understanding that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” They found room for forgiveness and compassion.

The haters responded with “She isn’t competent to be a mother”.  Some called for Nicole to be punished. Initially charges of second degree manslaughter were filed but they were dropped.

How could this happen? As we understand more how the brain works, we understand better how mistakes can happen. To anyone.

She Was Out of Routine

Usually Nicole’s husband dropped Remy off at daycare, but he had worked night shift as an EMT and Nicole wanted him to sleep.

Thankfully, being out of routine usually results in errors such as remembering to bring in a journal to work but forgetting to take your lunch.

   I forgot to lock my car! I always lock my car. Oh, right, I was waving at my neighbor when     I got out and walked across the street to talk to her.

She Was Distracted

Nicole no doubt was thinking of her shift ahead of her at the clinic. There was a lapse in temporal memory. Her brain was filled and looking forward. Maybe she was wondering who the medical assistant would be on duty that day, or if the antibiotics she prescribed the day before had helped her patient.

She had to remember to ask her boss if she could order large size disposable BP cuffs and she had to renew her license soon. Did she have enough CEs?

There was no trigger to cause her to look in the back-facing car seat, where Remy was soundly asleep. No visual reminder. No audible alarm.

   I was interrupted by my phone during med pass and thought I unclamped the     secondary tubing for the antibiotic. 

She Was on Autopilot

In the police  affidavit, Nicole said “I thought I dropped her off at daycare this morning”.

   I thought I took my birth control pill this morning. Or was that yesterday?

Called inattentional blindness, we all have operated on autopilot. Memory experts tell us that the basal ganglia takes over and suppresses the prefrontal cortex for many reasons, including when we are tired, as in the case of new parents.

Kids in Heated Cars

Kids do not do well in heated cars. Approximately 30-40 children each year succumb to death in overheated vehicles. Some were forgotten in cars, others accidentally locked themselves in.

Babies and young children are particularly sensitive to the heat as they have larger surface areas and less efficient cooling mechanisms. A child’s temperature rises faster than an adult’s, up to 3-5 times faster. The temperature in a car can rise to 125 degrees in just a few minutes.

The prevalence of back facing car seats accounts for the young age, as infants and small children can easily be asleep or not able to communicate. Rear-facing car seats look no different whether or not there is a baby or toddler inside.

Conclusion

What happened to Nicole can happen to anyone.  It will happen again this summer, when the death toll from kids in cars typically rises.

What would prevent this? Jailing Nicole would not prevent this.  

Maybe educating parents similar to education around infant co-sleeping and the use of seat belts. Public service announcements. Supporting initiatives to increase awareness such as Look Before you Lock and occupant detection systems.

Perhaps placing a necessary item in the back seat next to the child, such as a purse or cell phone. Kids and cars.org even suggests placing your left shoe in the back seat.

Most of these suggestions are to trick the brain out of autopilot and the brain state that allows these accidents in the first place. 

Mistakes are not intentional but prevention and compassion are.

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Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, and am a blogger and author.

14 Followers; 88 Articles; 227,020 Visitors; 1,783 Posts

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Kallie3006 has 7 years experience as a ADN and works as a Jack of all trades, master of none.

1 Follower; 5,188 Visitors; 374 Posts

To many people are quick to judge or think that this could never happen to them, until it does.  What a horrible experience.  Thoughts and prayers to all involved, such a sad set of events.  

 

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SmilingBluEyes has 20 years experience.

2 Followers; 64,720 Visitors; 19,521 Posts

ZDogg just had a post about this.  Lots of people offering compassion for this lady.  I have compassion; I do. But what about compassion for the child? So many defending her; not as many mentioning the hell of dying in a hot car. 

 

My son in law has a truck that when you turn off the ignition, the speaker says "check the back seat"......wow.  Way back in the 90s I did not need reminding, nor did anyone I knew. I lived in Oklahoma and it was very hot all summer.  I never took pets out in the car and always got the child out of the seat before even grabbing my purse (no cell phone back then).


There is a lot of technology available to prevent this. Apps for phones; even vehicles equipped with programs to help people remember to take their kids out of the car.

 

I dunno, I never had this happen. I am so not perfect but---  I did not have to leave my purse or "something valuable and important" like my stupid cell phone--- in the back seat to remind me not to leave my kids to fry in the car. I was a nurse, worked night shifts,  military wife, chronically sleep-deprived, you name it.  I. never. did. this.

 

I feel horrible for that mom. She will never forgive herself for this, never forget. But that child went through a hellacious death. I can't forget that, either.

 

TBH:  I was even more concerned about abduction.  Someone getting in the car, stealing it with the baby inside.

 

I feel for that family. But I think people need to review their priorities. If that makes me and un-compassionate, I am sorry.

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JadedCPN has 13 years experience as a BSN, RN and works as a Pediatric Float RN.

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49 minutes ago, SmilingBluEyes said:

 If that makes me and un-compassionate, I am sorry.

According to this article, that makes you a "hater." I have issue with this article suggesting that if people don't give mom complete sympathy and understanding, then they automatically get labeled as a "hater." 

This is clearly a horrible situation. I feel for the mom who did not do this on purpose. But I especially feel for this poor child who died a horrible, horrific death. 

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5,714 Visitors; 758 Posts

I wonder sometimes. Deciding to work and have children at the same time is not easy, doable but there are cost. 

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traumaRUs has 27 years experience as a MSN, APRN and works as a Asst Community Manager @ allnurses.

15 Followers; 134 Articles; 186,613 Visitors; 20,719 Posts

All I can say is that its easy to judge others. Believe me, being humbled is a painful experience. I feel horrible for this poor Mom. I also feel for the child...

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MunoRN has 10 years experience and works as a Critical Care.

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I'm not sure why it has to be one or the other, I would think most reasonable people would have sympathy for the fate of both the mother and the child.  

Edited by MunoRN

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VivaLasViejas has 20 years experience as a ASN, RN and works as a Retired/Disabled Nurse and Blogger.

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Maybe I'm a terrible person, but I ain't buying it. I get being on autopilot, but you don't just walk off thinking you dropped the baby off at daycare, you  check the back seat before you lock the car doors and go to work. I'm not saying the mom did it intentionally, and putting her in jail would serve no purpose; but it's a horrific case of neglect that should NEVER have happened. What that child went through is almost beyond comprehension.

That being said, in a way I feel sad for the mother. She has to live with this every moment of every day for the rest of her life. But so do the father, grandparents, and other involved family and friends. They're the ones I really feel sorry for.

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klone has 13 years experience as a MSN, RN and works as a Director of OB Services.

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This happened a year ago, and this is someone I knew. She is a good person, and a good practitioner, and a loving mother. There is research that talks about brains on autopilot, and how it can actually create false memories when you're doing something on muscle memory, and you deviate from your normal routine.

Please, let's not demonize this woman. This is personally painful to me. I know that she is going through her own personal hell.

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5 hours ago, Nurse Beth said:
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She Was Out of Routine

Usually Nicole’s husband dropped Remy off at daycare, but he had worked night shift as an EMT and Nicole wanted him to sleep.

This!!

I feel like in 95% of these stories, this is the case. The spouse who doesn't usually take the baby to daycare has the baby in the back seat, then they head in to work like they do every single day.

Such a tragic situation--my heart goes out to the baby and both of the parents.

I agree with other posters who claim that it can happen to anyone. I don't have kids, but I know that when I'm running into work, I never check my back seat.

Unfortunately, I don't know if any of the proposed reminders would be all that beneficial. If the car states, "Did you check the back seat?" every time you stop, you're going to start ignoring it--nurses know as well as anybody about alarm fatigue and inattentional blindness. I do like this idea of putting something essential in the backseat like your purse, stethoscope, or shoes.

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traumaRUs has 27 years experience as a MSN, APRN and works as a Asst Community Manager @ allnurses.

15 Followers; 134 Articles; 186,613 Visitors; 20,719 Posts

8 minutes ago, klone said:

This happened a year ago, and this is someone I knew. She is a good person, and a good practitioner, and a loving mother. There is research that talks about brains on autopilot, and how it can actually create false memories when you're doing something on muscle memory, and you deviate from your normal routine.

Please, let's not demonize this woman. This is personally painful to me. I know that she is going through her own personal hell.

Thanks for your insight. Its a horrendous event for the entire family and for their friends.

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NightNerd has 5 years experience as a ASN, BSN, RN and works as a Med-psych nurse.

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4 hours ago, MunoRN said:

I'm not sure why it has to be one or the other, I would think most reasonable people would have sympathy for the fate of both the mother and the child.  

Completely agree! It's awful to think of this baby's last hours, and I can't imagine the guilt and pain this mother must experience every time she thinks about it. It is terrible from every angle, and my heart breaks for the whole family.

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