There’s no doubt that parents going down slides with their children is as common as can be — but how safe is it, really?
After Huntington, New York-based mother of three Heather Clare’s 1-year-old daughter suffered multiple fractures to her leg when they rode down a slide together in 2015 (documented in a photo that recently went viral), both the emergency-room and orthopedic doctors told Clare that slide-related injuries are surprisingly common.
“They both advised us that there really is no safe way to go down the slide with your child in your lap,” Clare — whose daughter Meadow has since made a full recovery — told PEOPLE. “Even if parents tuck in their child’s feet, they can get stuck under their parents then. They really advise one person at a time down a slide.”
According to a 2017 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 350,000 children who were less than 6 years of age were injured on slides in the United States from 2002 to 2015. Of the injuries that were reported, toddlers aged 12 to 23 months had the highest percentage of injuries, many being fractures of the leg.
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As the picture posted by Clare to her Facebook account shows, Meadow’s right leg became trapped between the slide, twisting it in the opposite direction. The photo, taken just before the injury, shows Clare and Meadow smiling, unaware of what was about to happen.
“When we got down to the bottom of the slide, she was crying bad,” Clare recalled to PEOPLE of the injury, which occurred just three days after Meadow took her first steps. “It was terrible, especially feeling like I put her in that position. It was completely avoidable.”
Clare rushed her daughter to the emergency room, where doctors discovered Meadow had fractured the tibia and fibula in her right leg. The little girl would then spend the next four weeks wearing a pink cast.
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Clare has shown the shocking picture to anyone she can in the hopes she can prevent another child from experiencing the excruciating pain her daughter did.
“I spoke with other moms, and they had no idea, so it really pushed me to post the photo publicly on Facebook, and I wanted to reach more people,” Clare told PEOPLE. “I never expected it would spread so quickly.”
The image has garnered almost 100,000 shares and more than 18,000 reactions on Facebook since it was posted on Sunday. “There have been so many positive comments,” she explained of the response to the picture. “I feel like it could really help people avoid this situation.”