A mother of three is warning other parents after her infant daughter suffered multiple fractures to her leg when they rode down a slide together.
In September 2015, Heather Clare took her then 12-month-old twins, Meadow and Matthew, to Heckscher Park in Huntington, New York, for a day of fun at the playground. After placing Matthew on her lap and taking him down one of the park’s nearly 10-foot-long slides, Clare gathered up Meadow and took her down next — and that’s when things went horribly wrong.
“I took Meadow down the slide on my lap, and about halfway down the slide, I realized her foot was caught between me and the slide,” Clare, 35, tells PEOPLE. “I was trying to stop us from sliding so I could release her foot, and my husband got a picture of us at that exact moment.”
As the now viral picture posted by Clare to her Facebook account shows, Meadow’s right leg became trapped between the slide, twisting it in the opposite direction. The photo, taken just before the injury, shows Clare and Meadow smiling, unaware of what was about to happen.
“When we got down to the bottom of the slide, she was crying bad,” Clare recalls of the injury, which occurred just three days after Meadow took her first steps. “It was terrible, especially feeling like I put her in that position. It was completely avoidable.”
Clare rushed her daughter to the emergency room, where doctors discovered Meadow had fractured the tibia and fibula in her right leg. The one-year-old would then spend the next four weeks wearing a pink cast.
During Meadow’s recovery, both the emergency room and orthopedic doctors told Clare that slide-related injuries are surprisingly common.
“They both advised us that there really is no safe way to go down the slide with your child in your lap,” Clare says. “Even if parents tuck in their child’s feet, they can get stuck under their parents then. They really advise one person at a time down a slide.”
According to a 2017 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 350,000 children who were less than six years of age were injured on slides in the United States from 2002 to 2015. Of the injuries that were reported, toddlers aged 12 to 23 months had the highest percentage of injuries, many being fractures of the leg.
While there was a concern the injury could cause Meadow’s leg to grow shorter than her uninjured one, almost three years after the incident, she has made a full recovery.
Since then, Clare has shown the shocking picture to anyone she can in the hopes she can prevent another child from experiencing the excruciating pain her daughter did.
“I spoke with other moms, and they had no idea, so it really pushed me to post the photo publically on Facebook, and I wanted to reach more people,” Clare says. “I never expected it would spread so quickly”
The post has garnered some 88,000 shares and more than 10,000 reactions on Facebook since June 24.
“There have been so many positive comments,” she says of the response to the picture. “I feel like it could really help people avoid this situation.”