Today I'm posting a letter that was sent to me by a friend as the anniversary of her son's fall from his bedroom window approaches. Becca is one of the most intelligent and conscientious people I know, married to an equally-intelligent and conscientious firefighter. If this horror could happen to their family, it could happen to anyone's. Becca has the courage to share her story to protect others from suffering as her family has. Please take a moment today and read her story and her message and then think carefully: who do you know that has a pre-school aged child or younger? Share this message with them today.
Our son fell out his window, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and it was our fault. Many people have told us that we're the best parents they know and that accidents just happen sometimes, so we shouldn't blame ourselves. But we know the truth is that our sweet son's fall was preventable. In writing this, I must revisit that day and the agony, fear and sorrow that followed it but I'm writing because I hope our story will motivate you to safegurad your windows in time to protect your children from our son's fate.
For those of you who don't want to go through the whole sad story, I'll skip to the point. GET WINDOW GUARDS FOR YOUR WINDOWS IF YOUR KIDS ARE YOUNGER THAN SIX AND YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE STORY TO YOUR HOUSE. I wish someone had reached us with that message before October 21st, 2010 when our 3-year old fell through his screen onto concrete fifteen feet below.
If you're tempted to let yourself think something like this couldn't happen to you, think again. If you believe these kinds of accidents just happen to unintelligent or uninvolved parents, please read on.
Why didn't we have window guards on our windows? It wasn't neglect or laziness, it was because we didn't fully understand them. But don't assume that means we were negligent parents who were unaware of protecting our children's safety. We own and have read many parenting books; thousands of pages of good parenting information. Looking back on it, I even see that there is some information about window safety in them but we still somehow missed the important details of it. We had read about window locks, but thought it was the ordinary locks that were part of our windows, not the child-proof, after-market locks that allow for easy removal in case of fire and are designed to allow windows to open but not to such an extent that a child can fall out. The explanation for that lapse isn't lack of IQ or lack of caring. It's just that parenting is an enormous job with so many components that we missed this one safety device.
We did have many other child protection devices. In fact, we'd gone beyond the well-known safety products such as outlet covers. For example, we had mesh over the rails on our deck even though the deck isn't very high. After a thorough research on car safety, we'd opted for Britax car seats and even have our seven-year-old in a 5 point harness with side impact protection. I'd also made a call to the Washington Poison Center to request Mr. Yuk stickers and put them on anything that might be poisonous for kids to drink even though they were all in locked cabinets.
Most heartbreaking is that we had the cords for our blinds wrapped up high so he couldn't reach them and accidentally choke himself. In fact, it was those cords that he was fascinated by and reaching for the day he fell from his window. It was nap time and since he wasn't tired, he was just quietly playing in his room. In that one moment of childhood curiosity, he lost so much!
Nine months later, I am still haunted by visions of blood running out of my son's ear and skull, his eyes fluttering closed and by the uncertainty for his future. My son, my husband and I, and our other two children to some extent, will forever live in the prison created by the consequences of not installing window guards.
Our son was an intelligent, well-behaved little boy. Several days prior to his accident, my husband had explained to him very clearly how dangerous his window could be. He listened and seemed to register every bit of information. He understood it... but just at the level that a 4-year-old can, not the way adults comprehend real dangers. He was curious and in the end, talking wasn't enough. Telling kids to stay away from windows isn't necessarily enough to avoid tragedy. I wish we'd known then what we know now about window guards.
I'm certain there are many educated, involved and loving parents out there who don't have child safety window locks, but would install them if they knew the risk compared with the minimal effort and time to put them on. Talking to your children necessarily isn't enough to avoid tragedy. Fifty children a year fall from windows in Oregon alone and 5,000 nationwide. I strongly encourage you to get child safe window stops or 4-inch window opening limiters if you don't already have them. Here are three window safety products recommended by the Safety Store located inside the Legacy Emanuel hospital:
Guardian Angel window guards
Kid Co Window Stop
KidCo Mesh Window Guard
Window guards or child safe window locks can be simple and cheap and they are worth your child's continued well-being. The staff at the Safety Store of Emanuel hospital in Portland, OR are passionate and knowledgeable about window safety and more than willing to help. Their number is 503-413-4600.
Also feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Becca Cunningham