Scottish mum shares story of tragic accident that killed her baby

A SCOTTISH mother has spoken of her heartbreak after a bag of shopping slipped from the top of a pram, killing her baby son.
Baby Ben. Picture: contributed / BBC ScotlandBaby Ben. Picture: contributed / BBC Scotland
Baby Ben. Picture: contributed / BBC Scotland

Ben was just three months old when he died following the tragic accident, and six years on Nicole Bowles is sharing her story in order to raise awareness for Child Safety Week 2018.

Nicole had been out shopping with her two young sons when she placed a chicken from the butchers on top of their double pram.

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She didn’t notice the chicken had fallen through the hood - covering his face.

Nicole Bowles. Picture: BBC ScotlandNicole Bowles. Picture: BBC Scotland
Nicole Bowles. Picture: BBC Scotland

Nicole, who lives near Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute, told BBC Scotland’s Kaye Adams show, how the nightmare unfolded.

She said: “We did the usual mum stuff. We went into town, got some formula. He had reflux so we had lots of different types of formula.

“We filled the basket underneath the pram, with Alistair (Ben’s older brother) in the seat on top of the pram.

“Then I went to the butcher’s to get some chicken for tea that night and, because the basket underneath was filled, I naturally put the chicken on top of the hood of the pram. I didn’t think anything of it - I had done it thousands of times before with purse, keys, shopping. It was a natural habit.

Edward, Alistair and Toby, with Nicole and Dan Bowles.  Picture: BBC ScotlandEdward, Alistair and Toby, with Nicole and Dan Bowles.  Picture: BBC Scotland
Edward, Alistair and Toby, with Nicole and Dan Bowles. Picture: BBC Scotland

“A 10-minute walk home and at some point during the walk home the chicken had fallen through the hood and landed on Ben’s face. When I went to go and remove him from the pram, I was greeted by the sight which led to me giving him CPR. He was not breathing, he was blue, he was floppy.

“My friend went and got help and they called the ambulance and called my husband who came back from work. The ambulance crew managed to get him pink again which was an amazing sight for me.”

Nicole described the horror of the events that followed.

The 33-year-old continued: “They took him to the hospital...where me and my husband were greeted by the health care professionals saying he was hooked up to machines.

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“As the rest of the day unfolded, we had to make the decision to stop treatment because he was not responding any longer. And so, later that afternoon, me and my husband got to say goodbye to him in the most peaceful and beautiful way, but it wasn’t what we expected for that day.”

The couple have since had two other sons, Toby and Ed.

Nicole said: “Luckily we weren’t investigated (by the police) because I had been with somebody all day. So that element was taken out of it which I really appreciated because I lived in fear of Alistair being taken off me because I thought I wasn’t a good mum any more.

“And that’s where accidents really come into their own. Yes, children die and that’s sad. But with an accident there is someone to blame and I very much blamed myself and spent many years blaming myself for my actions.

“But I have come to terms with the fact that I put the shopping on top of the pram but I didn’t make it fall - it was an accident. We’ve pulled together as a family. We’ve respected the fact that we’re going through something really hard to deal with. We’ve given each other the space and we trust each other that we don’t mean to hurt anybody around us and we just hope that people understand that.”

Nicole told the radio show she was speaking out in order to help other families realise that they are not alone.

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She said: “You do feel like you are going crazy, because nothing feels normal any more”, she said.

“I have felt blame, shock. I have PTSD from the accident. Obviously, having to give your own son CPR is not the most conducive to a healthy mental state. I am left with an over-riding anxiety of what could happen.

“But the reality is bad things can happen - accidents do happen. We have gone on to have two more children and I desperately want to wrap them up in cotton wool, but they have to live their lives and not live their lives in fear.

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“I know they have got to walk on a wall. I know they have to jump off something really high because that’s what being a kid is all about. I just have to risk-assess everything to make sure that I’m in the safest place possible.

“The scariest place to me is a car seat. People put their child in a car seat and think they are safe because they are designed for safety. And people become relaxed about it.

“People don’t understand why there are limitations on things - the knowledge isn’t there. But if we have the information, we can prevent preventable circumstances.

“There is a reason why car seat manufacturers and midwives and healthcare professionals say don’t leave a little person in a car seat for more than two hours - don’t let them sleep in them. It’s because they’re not strong enough to support their own heads and they can cut their own airwaves off. It happens, unfortunately.

“The key is people are scared that we will become this ‘we’re not allowed to do anything’ society and that is certainly not what I advocate.

“I do feel like we are living in a world where we’ve got to wrap everybody up and put warning stickers on everything. In doing that we take away (the element of) pushing your boundaries, knowing your limitations.

“You can only do the best you can with the information you have at the time. So make information out there more accessible, in a less scary manner.”

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