A parent’s nightmare

Joshua S. just turned 3 years old in January. Rob and Beth S. took their identical twins, Joshua and Zachary, to the movies for their birthday. “A Bug’s Life” would be the only movie Joshua got to see in a real movie theatre. From infancy, Joshua loved television and movies. We’re so glad we took him to the movies that day, on January 10th, the day they turned 3.

Tuesday, February 9

Everything seemed so very normal. We all piled into the car early that morning, stopped by our local bagel store and then headed into Manhattan to drive Rob to work.

The boys and I grocery shopped after that. I juggled two carts, one with the kids and the other with the groceries. When we got to the cash register, each wanted to help . Josh wanted to stay in the cart with his bunny. He soon changed his mind and leaned over to help. The entire cart tipped over with Josh in it! He was a little scared, but quickly became his funny, lively self.

The bagger said, “Are they twins?”

“Oh, yes. Don’t they look alike to you?” I replied. She then told me she was an identical twin, and her twin had died a month earlier in a car accident. My heart went out to her.

The boys and I came home, unloaded the groceries and they asked me, “Now what we gonna do?” When I suggested a picnic at Wave Hill, they were ready. Wave Hill is a special place with an herb garden, picnic tables, huge oak trees, several homes with an art gallery and puppet theater, beautiful green grass and rolling hills, and much more. Well, Wave Hill was cold so we played indoors for a while in the puppet theatre. Josh was the crow and I was the nest with the three baby birds. He “cawed” and fed me worms, always asking one more time, one more time.

Back home we ate lunch. After that, I read them Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.”

3:30 PM

“OK – time to head upstairs for your nap.” After our busy day, they were ready. Well, they still wanted to play. I heard them banging their cribs together and running around in their room. I go back upstairs. They burst out from behind their Bug’s Life curtains, laughing like jokers. Zach said he had a poop, so I changed his diaper. I then put Josh in his bed, gave them each a book, and kissed them. I left them in their beds and went to finish some errands JUST LIKE WE ALWAYS DID!!!!


Back downstairs, I load some laundry and yes, we do have a baby monitor in the basement. I only heard silence, no noises. Then I clean up the living room and head upstairs to rest.


I walk into the boys’ room and see clothes all over and Josh lying on the floor –RIGHT NEXT TO A SLEEPING ZACHARY! All I could see was Josh – everything around him a blur. I think I pushed the drawer off him, grabbed him, and thought – oh, my God! Oh, my God! I am his only chance right now. At first, I thought he was knocked unconscious, because there was no blood, no sign of anything wrong except Josh didn’t wake up. I scooped him up, and ran into our bedroom to phone 911. “Stay calm, stay calm,” I kept telling myself.

She took my address and asked, “Is he breathing?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Place his head back, pinch his nostrils, and completely cover his mouth with yours – breathe into his mouth.”

“Is he breathing?” she asked.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Take his pulse under his arm.”

I lifted his shirt and saw no cuts, scrapes, no damage at all to his skinny little perfect body. I told her there didn’t seem to be any pulse. I kept trying to do CPR on him. Finally, I hear the ambulance and run downstairs to let them in. The medical team takes him off the bed and lays him on the floor, a flatter surface.

Quickly, I page Rob, my husband, to …”call home immediately.” He responds and says he’s at a seminar in Lower Manhattan. Now he knows something horrible has happened and he’s on his way.

Zach’s still sleeping and the police – always on the scene of such a call involving a child – offer to drive Zach and me to the hospital. Neither neighbor answers their phone. I run outside, see people staring, standing around and I wonder – can’t anybody help me?

What a ride that was to North Central Hospital – sirens flashing, Zach and I in the back seat hugging each other and crying. Once inside the ER, I’m led to the room where Josh is. I stand outside, looking in, just hoping and wishing this were only a bad dream. A doctor leads me into a conference room. Zach and I cling to each other and very soon, several doctors come in. The male doctor sits down and asks me for some information.

“No!!! What’s going on with Josh?”

One of the female doctors squats down and whispers very gently, “He’s not alive.”

My response, “You mean, he’s brain dead?”

“No, I mean he’s not alive.”

That was Tuesday evening, February 9th.

Wednesday, February 10, sometime in the morning

The Medical Examiner called. She asks if we have any religious objection to an autopsy. Not at all, we want to know what happened.

The Medical Examiner (ME) listed the cause of death as compression of chest. She said it only took 2-3 seconds for the “event” to happen. He took a breath and there was no breath. His little heart couldn’t beat under the weight of the dresser drawer. Also, our pediatrician described a phenomenon that kills young athletes on the playing field – when a child is hit in the chest at a certain time during the cycle of the heart beat, it can stop the heart. The ME concurred, although she said it was hard to prove through an autopsy.

So – now we are almost certain of two things – first, he wasn’t pinned down by the whole dresser, and second, he tried to open the drawer, pulled too hard, and pulled the drawer out, slamming him in his chest. This was a short, 3-drawer piece of furniture designed for a child’s room, purchased when we bought the two cribs, over three years ago.

Our family will go on. We know there’ll always be a scar where Josh brought laughter, love, and pure delight in the joys of living and life. Please be aware of the furniture in your home.