Popular blogger and podcaster Jen McLellan is hoping other parents continue to safely use booster seats for their children after her 9-year-old son escaped a major car crash with only minor injuries, years after he started protesting having to use it.
It was on Sept. 15 when Jen’s husband Chris McLellan, 41, and son Braeden McLellan were driving near their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and crashed into an SUV that ran a red light. Jen quickly arrived on the scene after Chris called with news of the collision.
“I didn’t realize how major of an accident it was and that my husband wasn’t okay until I arrived on the scene to see fire trucks and ambulances had already arrived,” Jen, 39, tells to PEOPLE.
“When I finally saw Braeden, he was covered in something red — I must’ve looked like I was going into shock because multiple people screamed out that it was a drink,” she continued. “My son was holding a red Slurpee that spilled all over him and the backseat when the accident occurred.”
The crash left the front side of the family’s Hyundai Elantra completely mangled and caved in — a sight that left Jen in disbelief.
“It was worse than I could’ve imagined,” Jen recalls. “My boys were moved to the ambulance to be evaluated, and I tried to process everything that was happening.”
Though Braeden had skin abrasions from the seatbelt holding him in place, he managed to avoid any major injuries. Jen says the paramedics credited their use of a booster seat to keeping Braeden safe during the collision.
“The paramedics said they don’t see kids his size doing so well after an accident like this. They praised my husband and me for having him in a booster and said it saved him from far worse injuries,” says Jen, who runs the blog Plus Mommy. “I was so incredibly thankful my son was able to walk, but he was clearly in pain from the seat belt impact, and we’d later learn his left hip was also badly bruised.”
Just two years earlier, Braeden had begun telling the parents that he didn’t want to use a booster seat anymore — and today Jen is thankful she didn’t budge on her persistence to use it.
A few days after the crash, Jen shared pictures of the accident and of Braeden to the Plus Mommy Facebook page to call attention to using a booster seat and making sure it is installed correctly.
“I felt called to share our story after hearing the paramedics, care providers at the ER, and his pediatrician all say how thankful they were our son was in a booster,” she says. “Everyone said things would’ve been so much worse had he not been in a booster because they often see kids who aren’t properly restrained.”
Safe Kids has a list of tips to keep in mind when strapping a child into a booster seat, such as making sure the seat belt lies flat on a child’s chest and not placing the shoulder belt under their arm or back.
Chris is still experiencing pain from the crash, which has left him largely homebound as he recovers. The family has started a GoFundMe to help raise funds for medical costs.
Braeden’s condition, thankfully, has improved.
“Physically he’s doing much better, and I know the booster is to thank for that! Emotionally he’s still processing everything that happened and his father has a long road to recovery,” Jen says. “I now tell my son, ‘Cool kids are safe kids!’ My son has been fighting us on being in the booster for the past two years. My husband and I are so glad we never budged!”