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Mother shares her story of leaving newborn in the backseat

More than three dozen children died from heat exhaustion this year

A Florida mom broke her silence about how she left her newborn in the backseat of her minivan.

She spoke with investigative reporter Louis Bolden.

She is still concerned about backlash from other people, so she's using her the name "Donna," and Donna has a message for other parents.

"We don't think it could ever happen to us until it does," she said.

Nationally, 39 children have died this year from heat exhaustion after being left in hot cars, according to noheatstroke.org. Most people normally think about hot car deaths during the heat of summer, but kids can die in cars when the temperature is as low as 57 degrees.

Donna took her son to a doctor's appointment and accidentally left her 2-month-old daughter, Zia, in the van for nearly an hour.

"That's when I realized, 'Oh, my goodness, I have the baby,'" she said.

She felt "complete panic -- like my heart stopped," she said.

It happened in July 2014. A nurse described Zia's face as "bright tomato red," according to the incident report.

Zia was crying and "covered in sweat," according to the report.

"Her diaper was full, and urine was leaking out of the side," another nurse told deputies, according to the report.

"It was like the scariest moment I've ever had, just not knowing (if she would make it)," Donna said.

[Read more about Noheatstroke.org here]

NoHeatstroke.org ranks Florida second highest in the nation for hot-car deaths with 77 deaths from 1998-2016.

Donna was one of the lucky ones, because Zia survived and is now 2 years old.

"It was so close that she could not have been here with us, and she is such a joy," she said.

"People always ask, how do you forget your child?" Bolden asked.

"It's when you're off of your routine. When you're off of your routine, that's how things happen," Donna said.

Donna said she was off her routine, because her mother had kept Zia all that morning.

She said she didn't get Zia until the afternoon, right before her son's appointment, and they were running late.

"You're just thinking about, 'I have to do this. I have to get here. I have to get there,' and that's when accidents happen," she said. "It is such a horrible feeling. It is such a horrible thing to have to go through. We just have to slow down."

With an outside temperature of 80 degrees, the interior of a car heats to 120 degrees in 50 minutes, according to research done by Noheatstroke.org.

"Have you forgiven yourself?" Bolden asked Donna.

"When I sit down in a hot car, it just all comes back to me, and I just have a really hard time with it," she said.
"I'm constantly checking, even if I know I don't have any kids, I'm still doing a backseat check. Every time I get out of the car just to make sure nobody climbed in and I wasn't aware of it."

Some experts suggested people put a purse, phone, or shoe in the backseat of the car if there is a child and are running late and are out of a normal routine.

GMC is coming out with new technology that could help.

It would alert the driver at the end of a trip if the back doors were previously opened.

The feature will be rolled out in some models in 2017.


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