Linda Kaiser lost her daughter in 2002.
We were shocked when we heard the news that Mike Tyson's daughter had tragically died after getting a cord wrapped around her neck in a treadmill accident. We talked to mom of three Linda Kaiser, who lost her daughter to a cord accident, for her perspective.
Momlogic: Describe your life prior to the cord accident ...
Linda: On May 25th, 2001, I gave birth to my twins, Seth and Cheyenne. My husband and I baby-proofed our house. We put locks on the cabinets, made sure all the safety plugs were in, and we made sure the window cords were high out of reach. I did everything I thought a parent should do. I thought what was listed in the parenting magazines was just common knowledge, and I felt I was doing all the right things.
ML: Can you please take us through what happened to Cheyenne?
Linda: On June 12th, 2002, it was a summer's night. I put the twins down at 7:30 PM. They usually played together in their crib and fell asleep. I put my ear to the door and didn't hear anything. I thought they were sleeping, so I continued to turn the house down for the night. My husband, daughter Maddie, and I were sitting in the living room talking, and before putting Maddie to bed, we all went into the twins' room to check on them and watch them sleep (as we did every night).
Suddenly, I saw my daughter, Cheyenne, in the corner of the crib in an unnatural position. She was sitting up with her head down. I grabbed her and saw the window cord around her neck. I called 911 and did CPR. It was too late -- she had been gone for a while. She died and our world came crashing down all around us. Cheyenne died just 18 days after her first birthday.
ML: How did Cheyenne reach the cord?
Linda: I didn't understand how she got the cord because I tied them up. She must have grabbed the cord in between the flaps of the blinds and formed a loop out of it. That loop went around her neck and she strangled that way. At first, the police didn't believe me, and they were very suspicious because they didn't understand it. The police interrogated me and it wasn't until about two weeks later when a friend sat me down and showed me exactly what had happened.
ML: As a mother grieving the loss of your daughter, what gave you the strength to turn your tragedy into triumph by starting your organization?
Linda: A friend made a memorial website for our daughter and a lot of people contacted me through it. Within two months, three moms contacted me who had also lost their children. I realized it wasn't a freak accident, and cord accidents happened more than I thought. Then, a retired NY firefighter contacted me and said since about 1991, there were over 300 kids who died and that it happened every two weeks. I realized I needed to do something. I didn't want another parent to go through what I did after losing my daughter. There was a need to understand how dangerous these cords are. In 2002, my husband and I founded "Parents For Window Blind Safety."
ML: What was your reaction to hearing about Mike Tyson's 4-year-old daughter?
Linda: I immediately wanted to reach out and contact him and tell him how sorry I am because I support parents who lose their children to these types of accidents or whose children are injured. My heart absolutely goes out to the Tyson family -- and to any parent whose child strangles on anything. It's violent and, too often, a parent cannot hear a child strangling.
People point fingers at the parents. They ask, Where were you when your child was hurt? What were you doing? Often these people don't have children or they have one child and don't realize as a parent, you try to multitask. It only takes two minutes for a child to strangle, and have air cut off to the point where there is physical damage. It only takes 4 minutes for a child to strangle to death. A household chore like vacuuming or dusting can take that much time -- you can turn your back for a few minutes and it can happen, just like that. Any cord longer than 7 ¼ inches can kill a child.
I hope the public isn't hard on the Tyson family and I hope they don't judge what kind of parents they are. I have studied these accidents, and it's silent. Kids have strangled in the same room as their mom who's napping. You cannot hear anything.
ML: What is your advice to moms?
Linda: Every parent should go cordless on whatever they can in their home, be it the window coverings or electronic appliances like the computer, phone, etc. Parents need to know that any cord longer than 7 ¼ inches can strangle a child.
92 children have died since 2000 from window cord strangulation. Most of them were on window covering products manufactured after 2001, meaning these cords had safety tassels, but just one string with a safety tassel can still strangle around a child's neck.
In terms of the Tyson tragedy, I never thought about the treadmill, but I know exactly what they're talking about. I can't tell you how to make it safer in this situation because that cord is supposed to be a safety device. You use it for safety -- maybe they need to make a retractable cord ... I would tell parents to be mindful of what's in their home, check that wires and cords are secured and not hanging, and make sure all cords are out of your children's reach.