Finding and Fixing Hidden Dangers
Published: July 22, 2014
By: Carol Muse Evans
Last November, 4-year-old Stanley Henchliffe of Birmingham was spending his second night in his own bedroom, having been a co-sleeper for most of his young life. It was 10 p.m., and his family had just gone to bed when they experienced what they call their worst nightmare.
They heard a crash, and both parents ran into his bedroom. Stanley’s feet were in the bottom drawer of a TV stand, and the TV itself was about two feet from his head. It looked like Stanley was sleeping, but he wouldn’t wake up.
Stanley’s dad picked him up and put him on the bed, but Stanley wasn’t breathing, and he was turning blue. They didn’t even know if and where the TV hit him – they saw no immediate bruising, cuts, etc. Paramedics came and found no broken bones, and his vitals were normal.
Yet The Henchcliffes knew something wasn’t quite right. Stanley’s breathing became labored at the hospital, and they put in a breathing tube and sedated him. The family waited for a CT scan in what his mom said was the longest 45 minutes of her life. “We spent a lot of this time on our faces on the floor, begging God for him to be okay,” Danielle recalls.
There was good news and bad news when the doctors came in. Stanley’s chest, lungs and heart were great, but he was very sick. He had a significant skull fracture and brain bleed, which would lead to a blood transfusion, a blood clot, an allergic reaction and what eventually, was diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury that would likely follow him the rest of his life.
But Stanley improved, and went home five days later, facing possible surgeries, physical therapy and learning to do many things all over again. The Hencliffes were grateful, though, and the ICU nurse hugged Danielle and told her they “didn’t think he’d make it.”
What happened to Stanley is something you don’t hear people talk about much, but it was a very common injury in the 1980s when these larger, heavier TVs were common. Now it’s still more common than you’d think, Danielle says, because many people who buy the lighter, flat screen TVs are moving the older, larger TVs that still work great into children’s rooms and playrooms for video games, movies and more. And if they aren’t secure, the results can be dangerous and downright deadly.
“We thought we were good parents. We never imagined something like that,” Danielle recalls. “I was embarrassed, and my husband was more than me. He thought he failed as a parent and a husband. We thought we’d be judged.”
But they weren’t alone. In the Hencliffes’ case, the TV had already been in Stanley’s room for a year. But it was never secure, and Danielle says they didn’t know. Now they are reaching out to other parents to warn them of the dangers.
Julie Farmer, RN, MPH, Kohl’s Think First Alabama Special Coordinator at Children’s of Alabama, says the Henchliffes story, unfortunately, is too common. Older TVs are one of the many safety concerns for young children in the home. “Just about any TV nowadays needs to be secured,” Farmer says.
From TVs to older homes with lead paint, to stair accidents, toys, to bathtub falls, drownings and scaldings, to the simple rugs without anti-slip pads that can cause dangerous falls, the home needs to be examined for safety, not just for children, but for adults and the elderly.
It’s never too late to make the home safe and safety. Kidshealth.org has several great home checklists to help you make your home safe.
Check out kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/home/household_checklist.html for a great list. Among the concerns in the home are:
- Kitchen appliances such as stove and refrigerator,
- Kitchen utensils such as knives and other sharp items
- Access to cleaning products
- Access to plastic bags
- Poisonous house plants
- High chair safety
- Lead paint on walls, beds, etc.
- Older cribs and secured hardware
- Window blinds, curtains and cords
- Fire retardant sleep ware and cords on clothing
- Smoke alarms
- Access to medication
- Access to alcohol
- Access to firearms and ammunition
- Space heater safety
- Electrical outlet access
- Carbon monoxide detectors, especially if you cook or heat with gas
- TVs, computers and other large items being SECURED
- Working fireplace safety
- Mirrors and pictures on the wall hung securely, as well as furniture items like tall bookcases
- Anti-slip rugs
- Safety bars or guards on upper level windows
- Stickers on clear glass doors
- Checking to be sure hand-me-down baby equipment, toys and clothes have not been recalled
- Stops on removable drawers so they cannot be pulled out
- Stair safety
- Secured bunk beds and bunk bed safety
- Is the thermostat on the hot water heater set below 120°F (49°C)?
- Are razor blades, nail scissors, and other sharp tools stored in a locked cabinet?
- Are laundry chutes locked with childproof locks
- Outdoor pool safety and safety in the yard
You can also visit the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Home-Safety-Heres-How.aspx for other great tips on making your home safer. You cannot fix what you don’t know is dangerous, so educate yourself on the potential dangers in your home, and grandma’s, too.
Today, Stanley has returned to preschool and is doing well, but he still has issues. “Most of his struggles are emotional now, more than he ever had before the accident,” Danielle says. “He is forever diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
“Some days he plays with me – he’s still a 4-year-old boy,” she says. “This is our path, this is the journey we are on now. If I can just help one person prevent this – it’s my soapbox now.”
Carol Muse Evans is publisher and editor of Birmingham Parent, and a parent of two.,