DALLAS -- Eric Stuyvesant never thought it could happen to him.
He had seen stories in the news about parents who left their kids in the car.
"I know who I was before the accident, and I know what my reaction would have been," Stuyvesant said. "And it would have been a short tempered, ill-tempered snarky commentator on social media."
Stuyvesant and his wife Michelle are experienced parents. They both had children from previous marriages, and were raising their eighth child together.
"Michael surprised us," Michelle said.
But a change in their morning routine one day in June 2015 changed their lives forever.
Everyday, Eric drove his son to the babysitter and then dropped his wife off at work. But Michelle needed to start arriving a little earlier at the office, so one day, they decided to drop her off first.
"My routine after dropping Michelle off was always the same as well," Eric said.
He says he was on autopilot. He drove home to shower, check email, and get ready for the day. He didn't realize that Michael, then 3 years old, was still in his car seat. More than an hour later, he ran to the car with one fear in his mind.
"I killed my son," he said of what he thought. "I was absolutely sure that I had killed him. And when I got to him, he was still alive, and at that point in time I felt that as long as he's breathing there's hope."
He found Michael sweating profusely and saw that his eyes had started to turn gray and his lips were blue. He grabbed his son and ran inside, jumping into a cold shower to try to cool his body temperature while an older child called 911.
Michael was rushed to hospital. He survived, but there was serious damage. He had suffered six strokes while in the car and had a long recovery ahead.
"He learned to walk again, learned to sit up again," Eric said.
According to the advocacy group Kids and Cars, the Stuyvesant's story is far from unique. A change in routine is a common factor for parents who accidentally leave children in vehicles, and parents rely on their subconcious habit memory when they are fatigued.
Michael is now nearly fully recovered and progressing well, but the incident is still extremely difficult for his parents to talk about. They haven't shared their story until now, but want to speak out to try to help other families and encourage people to take a moment before they judge.
"If people could be understanding and think before they speak," Michelle said. "Put yourself in somebody else's place and imagine what they're going through. Or try."
"The fact there's a story to tell is a blessing," said Eric. "Hopefully we can save some other parent from a similar circumstance."
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