Nicky Walla, a mom in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, loved taking family videos. She was always capturing the happy moments that she and her husband Nate shared with their children.
So it was not unusual that Nicky was taking a video of her twin boys one day around a decade ago. In fact, it was only natural, as she was filming one of her two toddlers adorably feed the other cereal in the living room.
But the mom was suddenly distracted by the sound of the phone hanging off the hook. She swung around with the camera, at which point she saw something truly horrific. So horrific, in fact, that she dropped the recording device and started screaming.
But in the seconds before the video goes sideways the viewer can see what’s terrified Nicky. Another of her sons, seven-year-old Gavin, is silently suffocating with a window blind cord terrifyingly wrapped right around his neck.
The Walla family decided to release the disturbing footage ten years after the harrowing event as a stark warning to other parents. Gavin was incredibly lucky to survive, but tens of other children in the U.S. haven’t been so lucky.
Perhaps this was because mom Nicky reacted quickly once she saw her son dangling motionless from the blinds. Indeed, the dropped camera even continued to record as she rushed over to her son.
“I somehow got Gavin off the blinds, but I don’t actually remember lifting him off,” Nicky told ABC News. Nate, meanwhile, moved swiftly by attempting to revive Gavin.
Nicky’s panic was evident as she talked on the phone to 911 dispatchers. In the background was the sound of Nate’s voice repeatedly shouting Gavin’s name.
Nicky cried, “He choked himself! He’s blue!” The distressed mom’s feet are all that’s really visible as she paces back and forth in front of the discarded camera.
“I kind of squeezed him a little bit and then he gasped for air,” Nate explained to ABC News. It was a hugely welcome sound; after the sharp inhale the boy immediately started to cry.
Gavin sustained some bruising, including a nasty red line around his neck, but his long-term health wasn’t affected. Today you’d never guess that the happy and healthy teenager went through such a harrowing ordeal.
The Walla family has grown since it nearly lost a member. Certainly, Gavin, now a student, has seven brothers and sisters.
Despite seeing something that no parent ever should, Nicky and Nate insist that they’re “the lucky ones.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reckons that more than 100 children across the country have been strangled to death by blind cords.
While the blinds industry has challenged the figure, CPSC chairman Elliot Kaye has warned that the U.S. may experience “decades” of child cord strangulations. “It’s got to stop,” he told ABC News.
Industry representatives have accepted that blind cords can be dangerous, but while tighter guidelines have been introduced some retailers continue to sell blinds with long cords. And parents often have no idea of the hazard.
Fortunately the number of deaths has dramatically fallen since 2009, when new safety requirements took effect. Since then the maximum length a cord is permitted to be is 7.25 inches.
Kaye has called for the widespread introduction of cordless window blinds, or blinds that have out-of-reach cords. Pressure from industry lobbyists, however, has prevented the more dangerous cords from being outlawed.
Despite industry pressure, however, Kaye has achieved some progress. Target and IKEA, for example, have removed blinds with easy-to-reach cords from their stores.
The likes of Walmart and Home Depot, meanwhile, have agreed to remove dangerous cords from their shelves by the beginning of 2019. Lowe’s has also agreed to take action within the same timeframe.
As for Gavin, he’s just glad that his story is finally out there for everyone to see. “It saved the lives of other children that have been fortunate enough to have parents who have seen the video,” he told ABC News.