Friday, June 7, 2013

A Serious Accident

I should start this one by saying that neither of my kids is hurt, but we were all a little shaken. I’m sharing this story because I never thought anything like this would ever happen to us, and I can’t imagine how horrifying of a situation we could have had if one small detail of this accident had been different.

Last night Matt and I planned a date night to celebrate our five year anniversary. I was in our bathroom curling my hair while Matt and the girls played on our bedroom floor. Neither of us are sure of the exact chain of events because everything happened so fast, but I remember hearing a loud noise and a panicked yell. I dropped my curling iron in the sink and turned toward the bedroom just in time to see our dresser and everything on it tumbling forward.

I was too far away to catch anything (or anyone) as everything came down – including a DVD player and flat screen TV. Matt dove in front of the dresser and I lunged toward the kids. The plugs ripped from the outlets and the DVD player and TV crashed to the floor. Both kids were immediately in hysterics, and I started assessing for injuries as Matt pushed the dresser back in place. By the grace of God, Allie wasn't hit by anything. Just a few minutes earlier, she was laying where the DVD player fell, but she's been working on her army crawl and had managed to inch herself out of the way. I didn’t see what hit Reese, but she was crying and saying her head hurt and that the TV hit her. We didn’t find any bumps, and a few minutes later she was acting normal again. We think she may have been hit by a picture frame, but we never did find any marks on her.

For several minutes after we all settled down, we sat on the floor holding our kids and forcing our minds away from the horrific images of what could have been.

Maybe we’re naïve, but we had no idea that could happen. Oh, we’ve heard of furniture tipping over and hurting or even killing small children. We know that TV’s are dangerous and that furniture should be bolted to the wall, but we thought our setup was safe. Our dresser is tall enough that the kids can’t reach up and pull the TV down, but it's wider than it is tall so it doesn't seem top heavy. It sits on a level floor and it’s a high quality dresser – one I always thought was too heavy for a three-year-old to topple.

I always thought the tipping hazard was a result of kids climbing in open drawers, but Reese was just opening and closing drawers and relocating her doll from one drawer to the next. The drawers are small but they're on rollers and they don't pull all the way out. We think she just had too many drawers open at once and the weight of the clothes made it just heavy enough to shift the center of gravity, making it possible for one small tug to take it off balance.

After we discovered that everyone was okay, we finished getting ready and went on our date. On the way we stopped at Lowes and picked up brackets to attach all three of the dressers in our house to the walls.

Looking back, I remember very specific moments where I thought certain pieces of furniture should be more secure but I never acted on that hunch. I just didn’t think it would happen. And even though we had to find out the importance of it the hard way, I’m so very thankful that we didn’t find out in a devastating way.

I know we’re not the only parents with unsecure furniture in the house. I don’t know why it’s so common to wait until something happens to address a potential hazard, but don’t do what we did. If you have dressers, desks, and bookshelves that are not secured to the wall, please consider doing it. Watch your kids in other people’s homes, and make sure they stay clear of furniture that isn’t stationary.

Things happen quickly, and parents certainly can’t prevent everything, but in this situation we didn’t even know there was something to prevent in the first place. I hope this story resonates with other parents who assumed that a toddler can’t tip a dresser or that certain things are not a fall risk. Know that it can and does happen to anyone in any house. And when you have these occasional close calls - as we all do - be thankful for the eye opener and try not to dwell on the what-ifs. Don't let your mind trick you into thinking that it wouldn't have happened to a better dad or a more attentive mom. And don't let those thoughts stop you from sharing your story with other parents. Your close call could prevent someone else's tragedy. 

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