Six months ago, toddler Levi Smith was fighting for his life in hospital after being accidentally run over in the driveway of his home.
Levi, then 14 months old, managed to get out of his house, in south-west WA, through a fly screen door that had not latched properly.
While his parents were busy herding their older child into the family car for the school run, the toddler, who was no taller than the car’s rear bumper, walked to the end of the driveway.
“I reversed out and [my wife Cindy] stepped back, and let out a blood-curdling scream,” Levi’s father Gary Smith said.
“I stopped, moved the car forward, she picked Levi’s body up from the ground and when I got out [of the car] I realised what was going on.
“The ambulance arrived, and from there he was pretty much whisked away while they were trying to put a tube down his throat for breathing.”
Levi was rushed to Bunbury Regional Hospital with life-threatening injuries, including two collapsed lungs and ligament damage in his neck.
‘Is our boy going to live?’
“The hardest thing was the wait,” Mr Smith said
Mr Smith was also initially arrested over the incident, creating additional stress for the young family, before police determined it was purely an accident.
Levi, now almost two years old, and his parents recently reunited with the Emergency Department staff who saved the toddler’s life.
“We have no doubt that if it wasn’t for the absolutely amazing care Levi received from all of the staff we met he would not have made it,” Ms Smith said.
Emergency physician Steve Hardwick recalled the toddler endured five hours of resuscitation attempts at the hands of a team of specialists and nurses.
“My first impression was that he was badly shocked; he was really critically unwell,” Dr Hardwick said.
“He had a punctured lung on the right that was compressing his heart and impairing the circulation going through his body; once we fixed that things got somewhat better.”
Levi was then transported to Perth, where he spent 10 days in the intensive care unit and another three weeks recovering in the Perth Children’s Hospital
‘Kids are so quick’
According to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, about one child is run over in Australian driveways every week, with seven children dying every year from entirely preventable accidents.
The Smiths are using their experience to speak out about vehicle safety around the home.
“Driveways are not a playground, kids are so quick, and in the blink of an eye they can disappear,” Mr Smith said.
Since the accident, the couple has had their driveway completely fenced off from the house and they are urging other Australian parents to install reverse cameras in their cars.
“Whether it’s a 30-year-old classic car or a top-of-the-range brand new car, reverse cameras make a big difference,” Mr Smith said
“Get one fitted.”
Ms Smith said she was ecstatic with her son’s recovery.
“It was long, it was crazy, but he’s doing fine now, he’s a big pain in my backside like usual,” she said.
“Levi’s walking, he’s talking, he’s eating, the whole kit and kaboodle — he’s doing it.