Bubbly 16-month-old Bronwyn was the baby of the Taylor family. Doted on by her mum, dad and three big brothers. But then her short life was taken in seconds following a tragic, horrifying accident that's every parent's worst nightmare. Now Cathy Taylor, 42, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs, shares her story as a stark warning to other parents...
Giggling, our toddler Bronwyn whooshed down her new slide into the arms of her brothers. It was 2 April 2016, and my husband Matt and I felt lucky.
We’d suffered tragedy when our baby Megan was stillborn at 20 weeks in November 2013. But we’d got through it, had Bronwyn a year later. Now our family was a happy mix of Matt’s two boys – Boden, 16, who suffers cerebral palsy, and Dylan, 10 – my son Owen, 10, and Bronwyn, 16 months.
That afternoon, we were dropping Boden and Bronwyn at Matt’s parents Shirley and Barry’s. They were babysitting while we took Owen and Dylan to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the theatre.
‘Bye, sweetheart, see you soon,’ I smiled, kissing Bronwyn as she played on her slide – a gift from her nan and grandad.
During the show interval, I nipped to the loo. But walking back to our seats, I saw Matt sprinting across the auditorium.
‘We’ve got to go,’ he cried, panic in his eyes. ‘Bronwyn’s poorly.’
‘What’s wrong with her?’ I gasped.
‘Her heart’s stopped. She’s not breathing,’ he said.
Terrified, we grabbed our stuff, raced outside.
A police car was already waiting, making my tummy twist tighter with fear. All in tears, we were raced to Royal Stoke University Hospital.
‘Please tell me she’s OK,’ I sobbed to the police officer.
‘We just need to get you there,’ she said to me.
We arrived there before Bronwyn.
‘When she’s here, we’ll do our best,’ a consultant promised us. ‘But I’m afraid there’s not much hope…’
I crumpled in despair – just hours ago, she’d been my giggling, happy, healthy little girl.
‘But how?’ I cried.
‘It was a blind cord,’ Matt wept.
He quickly explained he’d called his parents in the interval, and an officer had answered and told him Bronwyn had got tangled up in the blind cord. Just then, Bronwyn was brought in on a stretcher.
Matt and I went into A&E with Bronwyn. As doctors worked on her, Matt stroked her head.
‘Come on, sweetheart, please wake up!’ he begged. I watched, helpless, as doctors frantically tried to revive her. But then everyone just stopped.
‘I’m sorry,’ someone said, as our girl was pronounced dead.
Just like that, she was gone. Matt and I clung to each other, our world blown apart. Bronwyn was taken for tests, as we told Dylan and Owen. Then she was brought back wrapped in a blanket. Apart from a mark on her neck, she looked perfect, sleeping. We cuddled her, kissed her. Dylan and Owen, too – they were so strong. Heartbroken family came to say goodbye.
Boden didn’t understand, so he went into emergency respite care at the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice Trust for two weeks. Barry and Shirley were utterly bereft, and blamed themselves. No-one was sure what’d happened.
Barry had gone for a nap, while Shirley looked after the kids. Bronwyn had toddled into the conservatory to play. Shirley, looking after Boden, had turned her back for a brief second. That’s when the cord, which was tied up, fell down or Bronwyn reached up or knocked it down. Caught inside a loop, she’d fallen.
Shirley had found her not breathing, called an ambulance and started CPR. Barry had raced in and collapsed with shock.
Paramedics arrived within two minutes, rushed Bronwyn – and Barry, who needed urgent treatment, too – to hospital. Thankfully, Barry was OK.
‘I’m sorry,’ Shirley wept. But we didn’t blame her or Barry. They are the best grandparents – it was just a tragic, senseless accident. In time, there’ll be an inquest, but tests showed, while Bronwyn hadn’t accidentally hanged, she’d died of strangulation. She’d got tangled, fallen forward onto the beaded cord and it’d crushed her windpipe. She’d died in seconds. At least she didn’t suffer.
In bits, Matt and I planned our baby’s funeral and, on 26 April, a horse-drawn carriage carried Bronwyn to church. Then Matt, my sister Kerry, her partner and I carried her tiny coffin in, Dylan and Owen walking behind. She was buried next to Megan, in her favourite pyjamas, teddy under her arm.
Three months on, we’re having counselling, but it still doesn’t seem real. Now we’ve launched a campaign urging parents to put safety catches on their blinds. And to childproof everything. Bronwyn had her whole life ahead. Now there’ll be no tooth fairy, no first day at school…
But if we can warn other parents, save one child, our little girl won’t have died in vain.
Bronwyn’s heartbroken Dad Matt, 41, says, ‘It still hasn’t sunk in that Bronwyn is gone, and it never will. Sometimes the grief catches you off guard, hits you so hard it feels like having your heart ripped out over and again. My parents are just devastated, but it was a freak accident. Everyone is torn apart. I just hope we can stop another family suffering.’
For more information on blind safety, see The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents