It was time to go home, but Shona Keetley’s 18-month-old son had just seen a long, shiny slide and wanted to take a ride.
Keetley and her partner had taken their son, George, to a farm in England. But as they were passing by a play area, the toddler started “kicking up a fuss” for one last adventure, his mother said. So, she said, she didn’t bother to remove his shoes; she just hopped on the slide, secured her son between her legs, and whizzed down the slide.
A video shows Keetley and her son get about halfway down when the small child’s leg bends underneath them. A gruesome snap can be heard as the boy bursts into tears. His mother lifts him up to free his foot, then sets him back down — and the two of them continue on their way.
Keetley, 26, said she never heard the sound, and she never imagined her son’s leg had been broken. Now, she said, she is warning other parents about the possible dangers.
The incident occurred more than a year ago at Rand Farm Park, not far from the family’s home in Cleethorpes in North East Lincolnshire. But Keetley’s cautionary tale has gained widespread attention since the mother recently shared her and her son’s experience on a parenting blog called Channel Mum.
Keetley said in the post that she wanted others to know how “something so innocent can be so dangerous.”
“You certainly don’t think or expect something like this could happen but it can so easily happen,” she said.
Research has shown that a child who rides down a slide on an adult’s lap is at a higher risk of getting hurt.
A study presented last year at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago showed that from 2002 to 2015, more than 350,000 children younger than 6 in the United States suffered injuries on slides. The highest number were among children, like George, younger than 2, according to the association.
It said the most common injuries were fractures, noting that broken legs can occur “when the child’s foot catches the edge or bottom of the slide, then twists and bends backward while sitting on a parent’s lap.”
“Many parents and caregivers go down a slide with a young child on their lap without giving it a second thought,” lead researcher Charles Jennissen said in a press release at the time. Jennissen, clinical professor and pediatric emergency medicine staff physician at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, added that “in most cases I have seen, the parents had no idea that doing so could possibly give their child such a significant injury. They often say they would never have done it had they known.”
Keetley told The Washington Post on Wednesday that she had never heard about the possible dangers, that she had taken her son on slides in the past and that it had never been an issue.
This time was different. Still, even after George had broken his leg, Keetley said, she never suspected anything was seriously wrong with him. Although the toddler had started crying on the way down the slide, she “gave him a cuddle,” and he quickly calmed down, she said; then she and her partner put him in his stroller and took him to the gift shop to buy him a toy car. She said he was in good spirits.
It wasn’t until the parents got their toddler home that they realized something was wrong.
Keetley and her partner, James Landymore, put George on the couch — then the child crawled down and collapsed on the ground, unable to stand, Keetley said.
She said Landymore noticed that their son, who was crying, could not bear weight on his leg, so they decided to take him to a nearby hospital for evaluation. At worst, Keetley said, she thought he had twisted his ankle or perhaps pulled a muscle.
But when doctors at Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby took an X-ray of the little boy’s leg, they saw that it was broken.
“I was mortified,” Keetley said. “I started crying.”
Keetley said she felt terrible that she had taken her son on the slide, and she felt even worse that she never realized he had been hurt. Later, she watched video, and that time, she said she heard the snap.
“It made me feel funny. It made me feel sick,” she said.
But, she said, the doctors told her that slide-related injuries are common, especially among young children and since George was so young, his bones would heal fast.
Within weeks, Keetley said that their toddler was fine. But, she said, she never again rode down a slide with him. George, who is now 3, goes on his own, she said.
“If your child isn’t old enough to go down the slide on their own, don’t go with them. Don’t put them between your legs or on your lap — either way is just as dangerous,” the mother said, urging other parents not to make the same mistakes. The mother said she also should have removed her son’s shoes, but because they were in a rush, she skipped that step — something that she wants others to learn from.
Despite the trauma, Keetley said her son, even at his age, has maintained a sense of humor.
“He’ll have my phone and want to look at the video,” Keetley said about the footage that shows George breaking his leg. She said the preschooler will watch it and say, “Look, Mommy. Look what you did.”
“Thanks, George. Thanks for reminding me.”