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‘I lost my little girl and I will never be the same’
Zoe Hart, a very bright and bubbly 20-month-old girl, was put in bed for her afternoon nap. But when her parents checked on her 10 minutes later, she had died, strangled by a common household item.
When Dee Hart last saw her 20-month-old daughter Zoe alive she was cheekily playing on her bed instead of taking an afternoon nap.
“She was looking at herself in the mirror while jumping up and down and having a good time, so I put her back to bed,” Dee, of Hobart, tells Kidspot, remembering that devastating day in September 2002.
Ten minutes later, Dee’s husband Stephen checked on their little girl and his shocking discovery changed their lives forever.
“She had got up to have a look out of the window, slipped off a little side table and her head went through the blind cords. She was hanging,” Dee says.
“All of the little beads from the cords were embedded in her little neck. My husband couldn’t actually break it apart because they were that strong – so we had to unwind my daughter off the cord.
“I was on the phone to Triple-0 and we were trying to both do CPR – he was pumping and I was blowing, but it was all too late.”
“The sooner they get rid of them the better”
That horrendously dark day when Dee and Stephen lost their darling daughter will always be deeply etched in their minds.
“It was disgusting – watching your only child die on the ground in front of you and there is nothing you can do,” says Dee, who was 14 weeks pregnant with her son Michael at the time of the heartbreaking tragedy.
Dee is telling her heartbreaking story to Kidspot today, following IKEA’s announcement last week that they will only sell cordless blinds in their stores globally.
“It’s about time – we don’t need cords hanging everywhere. Even the curtains don’t need cords – we used to just pull them along,” Dee says.
“They are just so dangerous – so the sooner they get rid of them the better.”
While IKEA has developed cordless roller blinds, a cellular blind with non-accessible cords, and Roman magnetic blinds and curtains without drawstrings, IKEA Australia range manager Tim Prevade says a satisfactory solution is not yet available for Venetian blinds. As such, IKEA will no longer be selling this product.
“IKEA is committed to working together with our customers to raise awareness of this important issue and to help families get the knowledge they need to ensure a safer everyday life at home,” he says.
15 deaths since 2001
There have been at least 15 deaths associated with corded window coverings in Australia since 2001, with an Australian child reported to die each year from strangulation by blind or curtain cords. At least nine of those deaths were children under the age of three.
In February 2014, another two families lost children to this easily-prevented accident.
A 16-month-old girl died at a home in Hornsby, in Sydney’s north, after becoming tangled in a blind cord that wrapped around her neck. She was in cardiac arrest when emergency services arrived and died at the scene.
In the same week, a 15-month-old girl was found unconscious in her cot in Quakers Hill, in northwest Sydney, and later died in hospital.
“You don’t get over it – you learn to live with it”
Dee doesn’t want any other parents to live with the same unbearable heartache day-in and day-out that she and Stephen endure.
“You don’t get over it – you just learn to live with it,” she says.
“Some days are bad and some are good and that’s how life will be until the day I die. And I’ll never be the same person because you can’t be.”
She is putting all of her energy into her three other gorgeous children. Dee had twin girls, Zara and Adele, two years after Michael was born.
“Stephen and I have just stuck together. It’s tough sometimes but we love each other and we’ve got three other beautiful children,” she says.
“Don’t think it can’t happen to you”
She has also been raising awareness about the dangers of blind cords ever since the tragic loss of Zoe and has a Facebook page – Zoe Dee Hart Awareness of a silent killer.
“We need to let parents know because a lot of people don’t realise. We need to save as many lives as possible,” she says.
“It was the last thing we ever expected to happen to us – so don’t think it can’t happen to you.”
Tips for blind and curtain cord safety
(Supplied by Product Safety Australia)
Choose blinds and curtains with safe design features that:
- have warning labels to remind you of dangers to children
- provide a way to secure cords/chains so there are no loops or strands that children can reach
- operate without exposed cords/chains
How to install safely
- When installing new blinds and curtains, make sure you or the installer secures any loose or looped cords – do not leave them hanging down
- If possible, get rid of looped cords by cutting the cord and installing tassels
- Some blinds can’t operate properly without looped cords. To keep them out of children’s reach you should secure these cords with either tie-downs (cleats), or tension devices that enclose cords and chain loops
- You can get tie-downs and tension devices from hardware or window furnishing stores. Always fix tie-downs and tension devices firmly to the wall or window frame so a child is not able to remove it
- Never use materials that can’t support a load, such as double-sided tape or glue
Safety tips for the home
- Go through every room in your home and check for any blinds or curtains with long cords that are either loose or looped
- Remember, this includes any cords that are within children’s reach at floor level or near furniture they can climb on.
- Do not put children’s cots, beds, highchairs or playpens near a window where children can reach the blind or curtain cords
- The cords can get around children’s necks and strangle them while they are playing or sleeping
- Do not place sofas, chairs, tables, shelves or bookcases near windows with corded blinds or curtains
- Young children often like to climb onto furniture to look out the window. If they can reach the cords, they may quickly become entangled in them, lose their footing and suffer strangulation or serious injuries
- Make sure blind and curtain cords are not hanging anywhere within children’s reach
- Loose cords can easily wrap around and strangle children who are jumping, playing or climbing nearby
- Always supervise children in any rooms with reachable blind or curtain cords
- Accidental strangulation can happen very quickly, so never leave children alone in these rooms, even for a short while