Last Thursday, the 9th August, we would have celebrated the 7th birthday of our wonderful little girl, Muireann.
She was taken from us on the 5th February, 2008, when she accidently hanged herself on a looped blind cord which was hanging at the side of a window in her big brother’s room.
Despite frantic attempts to revive her, her death was noted at 1630 hours by the A&E consultant – about five minutes after I found her. Her mum, Katie, was 16 weeks pregnant at the time and returned from an antenatal appointment to the shouting of our eldest two children: “Muireann’s dead, Muireann’s dead”. Kate arrived at the same time as her mum to watch me performing CPR. I can’t imagine what was going through her mind at the time; I can hardly remember what was going through mine.
The aftermath of this tragedy was profound. I described it as an emotional “tsunami”. Some people came to see us and couldn’t say anything; some people couldn’t come and have stayed away since because they don’t know how to say what they feel. The people in our village rallied around us as best they could and newspapers reported what information they could glean.
Admittedly, it was the most bizarre thing seeing our dead daughter’s face on the front page of national daily newspapers.
It was after the dust settled, and we were able to take stock of the enormity of what had just happened to us, that we decided that no parent should have to go through what we were going through.
We approached Gordon Banks, our local Westminster MP, and he launched a personal campaign to have the regulations governing the manufacture of these blinds investigated and changed in favour of safety rather than profit.
We also approached our local procurator fiscal to push for a Fatal Accident Inquiry, or FAI, to investigate the circumstances of Muireann’s death. After Sheriff David Mackie delivered his findings we engaged with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to help us try to get the message out to parents, grandparents, schools, local councils and local government, in an attempt to make them aware of the dangers posed by looped cords.
We also engaged with Parents for Window Blind Safety, an organisation founded by an amazing lady, Linda Kaiser, who lost her daughter Cheyenne Rose in the same way in 2002. Linda has been extremely supportive offering what advice she can, but, with the differences in legislation between the UK and the USA, very little can be done by PFWBS other than provide us with information and friendship in tragedy.
We now realize how important it is to support charities such as RoSPA – which works hard to help keep children safe in all areas of life.
That’s why I agreed to issue a video appeal for RoSPA which was shown over three nights to guests of the charity’s Occupational Health and Safety Awards ceremonies, in Birmingham, in May.
The appeal helped to raise a significant amount of funds for RoSPA’s campaigning work – but more needs to be done to help save children’s lives.
As part of that appeal I am now supporting the launch of RoSPA’s text giving service. Please do offer your support by texting SAVE24 £2 to 70070.