Parenting

My Two-Year-Old Died A Preventable Death, And It Haunts Me Every Day

Updated: 
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Carri Funk

Trigger warning: child loss

(Read more about the STURDY Act and Parents Against Tip-Overs here.)

October 23, 2007, is the day our life became a blur, the day where our family was rocked to the core.

It was late afternoon; I was at work. My husband and I worked for the same company in the same building. I remember the executive assistant came running out to find me, telling me there was an emergency and I had to go home.

At first it didn’t really hit me how bad this was. We hopped in the car and my husband frantically drove us home. We lived a short three miles from our office, but the drive felt like three days. The whole way home we prayed that everything was okay. The only thing we knew was that our daughter had been injured.

When we pulled onto the street where we lived, it was like a scene from a movie — police cars, fire trucks, ambulances — one of which was driving away as we pulled up. I’ll never forget jumping out of our moving vehicle to chase that ambulance that was carrying my daughter. They stopped for me, but they wouldn’t let me in; they wouldn’t let me ride to the hospital with them. They left me. We went inside to find my babysitter (who is also a family member) and four-year-old son hysterical.

When our sitter went to get Madison up from her nap, she found her underneath her dresser. We can only imagine that Madison was trying to get her juice cup which was sitting on top. The sitter frantically removed the dresser from our daughter’s body; her face was blue but quickly regained normal color when the dresser was off of her. She thought there was hope. She immediately administered CPR while calling 911. What she experienced that day and what she saw has changed her life forever.

Courtesy of Carri Funk

As my husband and I went into the house, we realized the severity of the situation. The police questioned us about Madison: what WAS her age, what WAS her full name … I lost my cool. I didn’t know my daughter was dead at that point, so I asked what do you mean what WAS her name…her name IS Madison Daley Funk!

My husband and I were driven to the hospital in the back of a police car, like criminals. We made phone calls along the way, calling people who we felt were closer to God than we were, people whose prayers God would listen to, please don’t let our daughter be dead.

As we arrived at the hospital, we knew it was bad. The staff was positioned methodically along the corridor as we were escorted in to a tiny room just outside of the ER. When we got there, we already had a few close work friends who had arrived just prior to us, so we weren’t exactly alone. Almost immediately the emergency room doctor joined us; she knelt down next to my husband and me and very clearly said, “Mr. and Mrs. Funk, your daughter has died. We did everything we could for her. We are preparing her now for you to be able to see her. We will come and get you as soon as she is ready.”

A blur. That’s how this felt. How could this be happening? Not to us, not to our family. We are good parents, good people … things like this don’t happen to good parents, right?

Wrong.

I had only seen one other dead person in my entire life at this point, and now here I was holding my dead daughter. I didn’t want to let her go. She didn’t look hurt. You couldn’t even see any injury. She died from blunt force trauma/asphyxia. She had died immediately, we were told. No suffering, we were told. But we would suffer from that moment on.

Courtesy of Carri Funk

I couldn’t believe how quickly my husband and I were separated and then questioned, each by different detectives, while we were still in the emergency room. I guess time is of the essence. I know now that is standard protocol, but in the moment it felt terrible.

While we were being questioned at the hospital, detectives were in our home. Imagine how my children felt listening to them lift the dresser and then tip it over, repeatedly … testing to see if the force of the dresser could really kill a child. Trying to determine how someone “couldn’t hear it fall” from downstairs. (For the record, our daughter took the force of the dresser, which is why no one heard the fall —that is logical, common sense!) We were investigated intensely by Virginia Beach police, along with Child Protective Services. What a process. I would not want their jobs and am super grateful for their service, but none of that gratitude made this process any easier.

Once we arrived home that evening, I remember the hardest thing was telling my then eleven-year-old and four-year-old sons that their baby sister had died. She was in Heaven now. The coming months would be challenging as we helped them navigate their grief journey, all the while trying to navigate our own.

Within the hour of our getting home, we got a phone call from LifeNet Health, asking for our daughter’s organs. We said YES. It never occurred to us to say anything different. If we could help save another life, we would. We are proud to say that Madison’s heart valves were placed with two different children! The miracle of organ donation is amazing and LifeNet Health has been a critical part of our healing.

Madison Daley Funk was two when she died a very preventable death. We could not sit back and do nothing. We knew if we didn’t know about furniture tip over dangers, other people may not know about it either.

We called a furniture strap manufacturer and she sells us straps at cost; we give them away every chance we get. We designed our website, Maddie’s Message, as a place to read our story and learn about furniture safety. We love to do random acts of kindness in her honor to help share our story outside of our circle of friends. I regularly say, “Please strap your furniture – don’t wish you would have.”

But all that is not enough. Although I’ve given out thousands and thousands of furniture straps, watched endless news stories, studied furniture tip over statistics, we are not making headway. The numbers are not getting better. Just as many children are dying today due to tip-over accidents as they were when my daughter died.

I look forward to seeing a day where the death rate DECREASES. The only logical response to prevent these accidents is to continue to educate and advocate for solid standards to be put in place.

This article was originally published on