“Be like an elephant, never forget”

I worried for awhile (what? worry? who me?) because I was not observing Corrigan playing with toys in the manner in which they were intended. In fact, at Christmas-time I made it a point to watch him for an entire day to see if there were any toys that he played with properly. Sadly, there were none.

He played around his toys, he enjoyed swatting them away, he liked to dump things but he did not push the proper buttons on any of his “electronic” toys, he did not properly play with chunky puzzles, he didn’t hold up stuffed animals and play with them, he did not build with bricks or blocks and he definitely did not seem to understand things like toy cars.

Like all things “Corrigan” things happen at his own pace.  He is now 2 days away from 25 months old and he finally understands how some of his toys are meant to be used. Some. Right now, I will take “some” and encourage the things that he does understand. Currently, his “love” are cars.  Mainly regular-sized Hot Wheels cars but Connor let him borrow a few of his bigger cars from his younger days and Corrigan has hardly put them down.

Cor’s fascination with all things “car” extends to the real things as well.  He likes to stand in the front yard and watch them drive by the house. He also likes to walk around-and-around a parked car because in Maryland there has to be a license plate on both the rear and the front of the vehicle. Corrigan loves that there are letters and numbers on the plates and walks around to touch each one…exclaiming, “TWO!” for each number and “D!” for each letter. According to Corrigan, every license plate in Maryland is 2D2  DD2.

It is that time of year though that real cars can become death-traps for little children. This is the time of year that the nightly news makes mention of another family’s horror when they discover that they accidentally left their sweet little angel in a parked, hot car.

It is also the time of year that curious little kids discover the fun of playing hide-and-seek in an unlocked vehicle, or the scare-yourself-on-purpose-fun of hiding in a dark empty trunk. It is the time of year that your travel-loving, three-year old wants to go “bye bye” so badly that she decides to sneak out of the front door and “wait” for you in the car. The sad tragedy happens when the parent has no clue what the little one is up to. This is the time of year that a parked car kills.

I knew that I wanted to write this blog post last evening. This morning I woke to find a Facebook post from local Baltimore station WJZ 13 that a little girl narrowly escaped death from hyperthermia after her DayCare did not realize that she was sleeping in the back on the van after a field trip.

According to the department of Geosciences there have already been 18 deaths due to children being left in hot cars for 2010.  EIGHTEEN!  Last year, in 2009, there were at least 33 of these deaths in the United States.  Since 1998 there have been a total of 463 hyperthermic-deaths.

According to this report, 51% of those deaths were “forgotten” by busy,tired or distracted caregivers and 30% were because of a child playing in an unlocked vehicle.  The greatest majority of these tragedies happen to children under the age of 1 year old (30%) and more than half of the deaths are children under the age of 2!

Interestingly, in the three-year period of 2006-2009, when almost all young children are secured in the back seat due to airbags, there have been 108 known fatalities from hyperthermia. This is a TEN-FOLD increase from the early 90’s when airbags were less common.  Due to airbags (which are valuable safety tools!) we now place all of our kids in the backseat. The problem is, we cannot see them back there easily. When our kids are out-of-sight, they sometimes slip out-of-mind.

Heatstrokes occur when body temperature exceeds 104 degrees F and their system becomes overwhelmed.  Symptoms are dizziness, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness, rapid heart beat and hallucinations.

A child’s system is not as efficient as a grown-up’s system and their body temps warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s!

In yet another strange coincidence, the New York Times, just this morning, posted an article about this very same topic.  I only just found it when I was Googling for more statistics for this post. There are some sobering stories in that article.  They break my heart. Obviously, this topic is on a lot of people’s minds.

The thing is that a 95degree day makes me think of the horrors of hyperthermia but these tragedies can happen on days when the temperature seems pretty mild.  On a 72 degree day, the interior (especially if a black or dark interior) can quickly heat up to a temperature of over 200 degrees F.  Leaving a window down a few inches does. not. help.

I would also like to make mention that hyperthermia kills pets as well.  “Cracking” the window for your dog while you go and shop at Costco is negligent and unacceptable as well.  Please, leave your pets at home on summer days.

What can you do to prevent a tragedy?

1. NEVER EVER EVER EVER leave a child unattended in a vehicle.  Not for a single minute.

2. If you see a child in a car, unattended, call the authorities. If you, God forbid, notice a distressed, obviously heat sick, child in a locked car BREAK THAT WINDOW.

I mean this. The time that it takes to wait for rescue could be too long. A window can be replaced. A child cannot.

3. Always lock your vehicle when not in use. Make sure that you keep your keys out of reach of children who are easily able to unlock vehicles with remote entry key fobs.

4. A great tip that I found is to leave your purse or cell phone on the backseat beside your child. Women never forget their purses, by having to reach into the backseat for theirs they will see the child.

5. Place a stuffed animal in your car. When you are driving with your child, place the stuffed animal beside you on the passenger seat to remind you that you are carrying precious cargo.

6. Always check the backseat when you leave. Make it a routine thing to do.

7. Ask your child care provider about their “head count” policy at the school/daycare and how often they account for the children, especially after an outing or field trip.

Finally, I want to dedicate this post to Ava Rosemeyer.  Ava’s mommy, Sheye, is a much-loved, well-respected photographer. Three years ago, beautiful Ava left this world after climbing into a parked car in her family’s driveway.  I remember, so clearly, when this tragedy occurred and how the sadness ripped through the photo community. To this day, when I hear of a child dying in a hot car I instantly think of beautiful Ava. Please, take a minute to read Ava’s story here.

I would like to point you in the direction of other much more qualified organizations for more information about hot car safety. If you would like more information please visit:
1. 4 Our Kids Sake
2.Harrison’s Hope
3. Kids and Cars
4. Forget Me Not USA

Edited to Add: Shortly after publishing this post I was directed to this Pulizter Prize Winning article in the Washington Post.  What a heartbreaking piece to read.  Please know that I did not post this blog entry as judgement to any parent suffering the loss of a child to this tragic kind of accident. Awareness can help…judgement cannot.  This quote, from the Washington Post article, kills me even after reading it three times, “In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.”

Just when you think that it cannot happen to you…well, we know how that can end. Do not let your belief in your own capabilities weaken your responsibility.  It CAN happen, it DOES happen and vigilance saves lives.

My thoughts are with every parent that discovered their child in this horrible way.

I hope that your family has a safe and happy weekend!

Much Love, Mindy

11 thoughts on ““Be like an elephant, never forget”

  1. Hey,
    Saw your post and read it. Nice write up. While I have not had to deal with any kids locked in cars over the last 9 years, I have had plenty, and I mean plenty of calls for pets trapped in cars. Animal Control comes out and has a spectra heat thermometer which can read the cars interior temperature. Just this month alone I have had 3 calls for dogs in cars. All 3 were cited, and 2 of the dogs were seized. One was taken to the pound, and the other to the emergency vet clinic. And where were the owners? One was working out in the gym (Yorkie), another one was shopping in the mall and left the dog in the car (mutt), and the last one was left in the parking lot
    at the mall (yellow lab). The last one, the kid lied to his parrents saying he was goig hiking with the dog while he actully met up with a girl and ditched the dog. The dog was in the car for 6 hours before I was called out there. If you dont have the time for your pet, don’t have them.
    Hope both Cs are doing great, take care and have a great summer!

    Like

    • Thank you, Richard, for your insight! As a Trooper, I cannot imagine what you see…and thank you for sharing about pets in cars. It just infuriates me to see panting dogs in heavy fur coats sweating it out in vehicles. So dialing 911 for a dog in a car is appropriate then? That is good to know!

      Both C’s are doing well…I hope the same is true of both of YOUR C’s!

      Mindy

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  2. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing this information. I have a little girl of 9 months, and everyone needs a reminder of how precious life is! I am a bit late, but I’m following you back now from WW!

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you’ll come back and check out the Low Entry Lowdown or my Twitter party calendar. The Low Entry Lowdown is a list of links to several different low entry giveaways from around the blogosphere, so you’ve got great chances to win!

    Blessings,
    Stephanie
    Ten Talents…

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  3. Oh, and I almost forgot…we are the ones doing the remodel on the house from 1889. It is going to be a lot of work 🙂 I’ll try to remember to post the before and after pics from the cottage they already redid on the property. Insane how different it looks 🙂

    Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

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  4. FANTASTIC post!!! I am SO horrified when the parents who go through the hell of forgetting their child are demonized. We ALL make mistakes. Yes – this one seems unimaginable. But a sleeping or quiet child can be forgotten for a moment by a distracted person!

    THANK YOU for this fabulous post!

    Like

  5. In 2008, while at Target, we noticed two toddlers strapped into their car seats in July. A couple ladies were standing by the car, while 1 was going inside for security.

    As we processed what was happening, the youngest girl started vomiting. This is a very dangerous sign of heat stroke/hyperthermia. My husband got into his tool box & broke the window with a tire iron. Within moments, the child was unconscious & I was providing rescue breaths. It is singly the most terrifying moment of my life, and they weren’t even my babies.

    It took over 10 minutes for rescue personnel to get there, you are RIGHT, do not wait! There is NO REASON EVER that a child should be left in the car. Wake them up, take them in with you, if it’s too hot for YOU to stay in the car, it’s too hot for them. Even if you parked in the shade, when it’s 100 degrees out, your children need to be with you at all times.

    I am still so proud of my husband thinking fast. This article is beautifully written. It’s not nagging, it’s informing. Thank you for it. You did a remarkable job balancing getting the info out & making a personal connection.

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  6. Fantastic and helpful article. I’d also just like to mention that parents and caregivers need to pay attention to children’s drinks. If a sippy cup is left in the car, even an insulated cup will be too hot for kid’s to drink from.

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  7. Thanks everyone for stopping by and leaving such nice comments!

    Leighbra- what a story, thank God your husband acted so quickly. Do you know what happened to the children? Did they survive?

    Terri- I never thought about the hot drink tip but it makes perfect sense. I was also reminded, this weekend, of how hot the clips and clamps are on seatbelts and childseat restraints in a hot car as well. So many things to be aware of!

    Again, thank you all for reading and sharing your thoughts!

    Mindy

    Like

  8. The medics had come, provided care for the girls in the parking lot (about 40 minutes) & had left before the mother even came out of the store. She was arrested. If those ladies hadn’t been standing there (I’m sure we wouldn’t have noticed the girls, we weren’t parked that close to them), the results would have been much much worse. The oldest girl was hospitalized for a week, the youngest for about a month. *Our newspaper still prints hospital admissions & discharges. We were told we would be called if the police had any questions or if it were brought to court, but we were never called.

    Knowing HIPAA regulations, I never wanted to pry, but I know that the girls entered foster care for a period of time and were given a temporary guardian to make medical decisions for them while hospitalized.

    I’m telling you, just being in the parking lot with them made me sick from the heat. It still haunts me. To keep sane, I tell myself that they’re doing just fine now, no problems, because if I think about it, or what they went through too much, I get panic attacks. I can’t imagine how these parents feel.

    (I’ve been sending this article to every parent I know this week, I’m like a cloud of depressing news raining on people’s summer plans lol)

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