Cape Town - For a Cape Town mother who did not buckle up her child, and watched him die as a result, his death seems like yesterday. But Nicholas Durães Steyning died in 1986. Since that terrible day, his mother, Rosa Durães, has not stopped urging parents to buckle their own children up.
“You think it won’t happen to you. I was young and did not think of the consequences of my actions,” she said.
“It was Saturday August 23, I was a new mom, and my son was three-and-a-half months old.”
She, her now-ex husband who was driving, brother-in-law and son went to Makro in Milnerton.
“We were driving in a Golf from the Gardens area. I was sitting in the passenger seat breastfeeding him.
“We were in the middle lane driving towards the intersection of Oswald Pirow and the N1. The traffic light was green, there was a car in the right lane just ahead of us.
“As we approached the intersection a car turning right from the opposite direction sped up trying to beat the car in our right lane.
“He didn’t see our car and cut in front of our car and we T-boned him.
“On impact my son hit his head on the cubby-hole, my ex-brother-in-law was not strapped in (behind her) which caused more force on my seat.
“I hit the windshield with my head,” Durães said.
“I have been told that you multiply the weight and it could be a few tons that crushes your child.
“My son had a head injury but was still conscious and crying.
“A good Samaritan stopped and took us to hospital. My son stared at me the whole way while screaming in pain, it felt like he was pleading for my help.
“The hospital didn’t do anything for three hours while I was lying on a stretcher not being able to go to him. I heard his screams, I hear them still.
“When he was finally attended to he was taken in for surgery and went into a coma.
“I prayed so hard but on Monday August 25 they told me that they were going to do some tests and see if he would breathe on his own, if not they would put back the life support.
“I was asked to go to another floor and express milk for the other children while my child was unable to benefit from my milk.
“When I returned to the ward they told me he had died.”
The driver of the other car had allegedly been with his lover and did not want his wife to know.
“He was taken to court by the State and was charged with culpable homicide.
“He got a R500 fine and a suspended driving licence for a short period,” she said.
How did she survive her pain?
“I have not survived the pain. I will always hear his cry and remember his pleading eyes. Time does not heal.
“Every year it is a little harder to come to terms with what happened. I have failed as a mother, I have not done my duty of protecting my child.”
Since 1986, she has taken every available opportunity to encourage people to “buckle up their precious cargo”.
“Most people react aggressively by swearing or telling me to mind my own business and that it is their children.
“One occasion I mentioned to a lady that I was speaking from personal experience, she sarcastically said ‘sorry for you’.
“The sad part is that I have friends who are aware of what I went through and they still don’t buckle their children up …” Durães said.
“It takes just a minute to buckle them up and just a minute to lose them forever.”
l The Western Cape’s Safely Home Campaign is this month urging motorists to buckle up, especially their children.