We all have them; accidents for which we are totally unprepared. Those weird situations that nobody warns you about. The peculiar events that send you rushing to the E.R. or worse. I’m talking about fringe episodes from the “Outer Limits” where you feel like you’ve stepped off the planet.
When my youngest son was two, he was strapped in an 80s car seat next to the driver’s seat (Hey, it was allowed back then!). I pulled into our driveway, pushed the garage door opener, put the car in park; and with the motor still running, I walked the four steps to our mail box.
Behind me, the sounds of an engine caused me to whirl and jog back to the car. My innocent toddler had managed to pull the gear shift down into drive. The car was rolling! I tried to climb inside; but by this time, I ended up wedged between the car door and the middle post of our double garage. I realized that if I didn’t pull my head inside the door it would get cut off. The only thing barely holding the car at bay, was my body. The next thing to go would be my leg still stuck outside the car.
I reached for the gear shift, but couldn’t quite make it. The more I stretched, the more the car moved forward into the garage. If I failed to stop it, the car would plow clear through the back wall. I screamed and yelled, but there was no one to hear me. I tried again with super human strength, and this time the gear slipped into park and I turned off the ignition.
My sweet baby boy was none the wiser. He’d had a good time at my expense. The bruised and bloody scrapes on my left side reminded me how foolish I was to leave him for an instant.
Freakish accident number two: My then three year old daughter refused to take a nap. I told her she didn’t have to sleep, only take a rest, but she continued to bawl in protest. I ignored her whimpering and crying while I tried to have a lie down myself. Of course, her protests continued, persistent and unrelenting. After about 20 minutes her wails escalated. I ran upstairs and burst into her room.
I’ll never forget the horror that met my eyes. The bed covers were in flames. The air was filled with smoke that burned my nose and eyes. Using the lamp as a toy, my daughter had pulled it to the bed, removed the shade, and turned the light bulb off and on, off and on before losing interest. The hot bulb had eventually burned through the coverlet and into the mattress. All this occurred before regulations mandated fire retardant fabrics on all bedding. Who would have thought that a bedside lamp could pose such a danger to a child who had outgrown her crib?
In today’s frantic paced world, one of the worst tragedies happening in our hot climate is forgetfulness. Parents forget how quickly infants and children can burn under the sun’s hot rays while splashing at the beach or playing in a park. They don’t realize how suddenly dehydration can put a child at risk.
Some parents even forget they have a child. According to “Tell Mel” a column in the Fort Myers “News Press” by Melanie Payne, last year 44 children suffered the horrible death of heatstroke inside of the family car. Some parents simply felt cracking the window would be enough to keep their child safe while they slept. But when outside temperatures hover at 98, the inside temps can reach 105-110 degrees.
“Dad’s were more likely than mom’s to forget a child was in the backseat. The parent is distracted, preoccupied or running on autopilot. The child falls asleep. The parent gets out of the car and leaves the baby behind.
“Safety experts say the death comes when a parent breaks a routine. For Reginald McKinnon, it was picking up his daughter from day care and taking her to the doctor. After the appointment, he put her in the rear-facing car seat in the back and headed for work. He spent the day there not realizing the 17 month old was still in the back seat.”
Of course, this story did not have a happy ending. When parents take turns dropping a child off at day care, they are more likely to forget. “After studying this problem, the Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered that if a parent puts something important in the back seat at the same time they strap in their infant, they are more likely to remember.”
An item as simple as one shoe will do the trick. What reasonable person would hobble into work wearing only one shoe? When retrieving the missing shoe, or a laptop or cell phone, the parent is reminded of the baby in the back seat who may be sleeping quietly.
If this one procedure by a parent saves a child’s life, it is well worth the trouble.