Mother fights years-long battle to make sure grieving parents get a chance to say goodbye

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KTRK) -- A mother's love is undeniable. Imagine the heartbreak of being kept apart from your child for days after he or she has died. That was the reality for one San Antonio mother after the tragic loss of her son in a freak accident. Now, she has channeled her grief into a years-long fight to change the state law for other grieving parents.

It was January 2013 when Lara McDaniel's son Wyatt fell through a pile of sand while playing with his brother at the family's ranch in San Antonio.

"Last time I saw him, I was giving him CPR." McDaniel said that was the beginning of her nightmare.

"He was ripped away from me without allowing me time to absorb it," said McDaniel.

After Wyatt was pronounced dead he was taken away for an immediate autopsy. Foul play had to be ruled out before the family could see Wyatt's body.

"When you see your child happy and alive and playing and the next moment you are told he's gone, that's not something that your brain can grasp without seeing it for yourself --it doesn't compute," she said.

When she finally did see Wyatt, it had been three days after his death.

McDaniel said his lips and eyes were sewn shut.

"He was bound together by bandages, I couldn't pick him up, I was told he would fall apart."

It was then that she vowed to fight for the future, getting Texas lawmakers to understand that no matter how a child dies, parents have a right to see their child's body before an autopsy is performed and before a death investigation begins.

"The worst thing that ever happened was not being able to see Wyatt."

For two legislative sessions, McDaniel fought in Austin, knowing she couldn't change her story, "But I sure as heck can make sure I didn't suffer all this in vain and that nobody else will go through this again."

After four long years, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 239 into law in June 2017, so when a child dies in a tragic way, parents will now be allowed to see their child's body in a supervised setting before an autopsy.

McDaniel says she knows that somewhere, out there, her little Wyatt is proud of his mommy.

"I hope he knew how much I loved him and how special he was to me."

Since the law passed in June, McDaniel has been working with the Justices of the Peace and Constables Association of Texas, sharing her story to put a human face on handling child deaths.

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