'I would give anything to swap places with him', says mother of hit-and-run toddler

The mother of a two-year-old boy who was seriously injured in a hit-and-run incident in Cork earlier this week has said that she thought her toddler was dead when she saw him "like a little ball" on the road outside her home.

Zac Higgins incurred serious injuries when he ran onto the road while playing with a ball near Castle Meadows on the Skehard Road in Mahon in Cork city at about 4pm on Monday.

He was hit by a blue Mazda 6 which left the scene.

A teenager was released without charge in relation to the hit-and-run which left little Zac in an induced coma.

He is being treated for his injuries at Temple Street Hospital in Dublin.

He was transferred from Cork University Hospital after the accident which occurred on Monday afternoon.

Aishling Sexton, mother of Zac, told the Neil Prendeville show on Cork's Red FM that she was helping her son Max, 7, to do his homework when the accident occurred at 3.50pm last Monday.

Her daughter Belle, 4, and Zac were playing in the garden. A young neighbour called Ben raised the alarm.

Ben was standing at the door and it seemed he was like hyperventilating – he couldn’t get the words out, it was like he couldn’t speak and I said ‘What’s wrong?’ and he said ‘Zac’ and I went out the door and then somebody shouted he was knocked down.

“I said ‘Where is he? and I looked up and down and he was in front of me but he was so small I just didn’t see him – he was like a little ball on the road - I thought he was dead, I really thought he was dead – I started screaming ‘He’s dead’.

“And you know, it was like an eerie silence – as if there was nobody around – then they were lots of people in the playground in front of our house and they were coming over to help but there is a fence between so they couldn’t get in and some people rang the ambulance.

“The neighbours came over and they were helpful were – I was just distraught, I couldn’t do anything, I thought he was dead – I just froze, froze with the shock."

Ms Sexton expressed her gratitude to paramedics, neighbours and to hospital staff at CUH who helped Zac before he was transferred by ambulance to Temple Street Hospital in Dublin.

Aishling said she could never express how appreciative she and her husband, Paul Higgins, are of the great outpouring of support they have received over the last few days.

Paul Higgins with his son Zac
Paul Higgins with his son Zac

Zac is still in an induced coma but a CT scan has indicated that there is no major brain damage.

He did incur a small bleed to the brain which required surgery and he will remain in the induced coma until early next week.

Aishling said that Zac also has broken bones including a broken collar bone.

“He got a big knock to his tummy but it didn’t damage anything – there are all kinds of broken bones including a broken collar bone but please God, they will all heal – the hospital staff said they couldn’t believe it – it’s a miracle that’s he alive- he took the full brunt of the impact and it was high speed too.

He’s still in an induced coma and all we can do is hold his hand, pray for him, sing to him, you know – that’s all we can do – I would give anything to swap places with him- I have prayed and prayed and prayed that he will wake up and be okay.

“They think they are going to keep him under until Sunday or Monday – they’re being very cautious – they are doing the MRI today so hopefully it won’t show up anything and it’s just a swelling and it’s just all time now - he’s going to have a lot of rehabilitation and everything when he comes out of it.”

Meanwhile, a file will be prepared for the DPP after the 17-year-old arrested in connection with the incident was released without charge.

Investigations are continuing.

Paul Higgins, father of the two-year-old, posted an emotional statement on Facebook earlier this week thanking neighbours for their kindness at this difficult time.

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