This article originally appeared in the Jan. 14, 2010 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
At their daughter’s hospital bedside, the parents of Alyssa Wilson wait and pray for her recovery. The toddler has been in the intensive care unit at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center since Dec. 14, the day before her second birthday.
Alyssa apparently tried to climb on a television stand in her Park Hills home, when a 42-inch TV and speakers toppled and fell on her. Alyssa’s head injuries were so severe that doctors initially believed she might not survive, but she has shown improvement and may move out of intensive care late this week.
“She had a really touch-and-go birthday,” said Alyssa’s mother, Melissa Sciortino. “We’re very thankful because she has made a lot of progress.”
Three-year-old Skyler Melton was fortunate to have less severe injuries. He spent one night in the hospital on Dec. 29, after a 32-inch television fell off a dresser and grazed his head.
“He had pulled out a drawer and was standing in it to climb up onto the dresser,” says Skyler’s mother, Jennifer Melton of Hillsboro. “That TV could have smashed his face and hurt him really badly, but luckily it just grazed him.”
Fourteen children were treated at Cardinal Glennon in 2009 for injuries suffered when televisions fell off of dressers, entertainment centers or other stands. Five of those children required hospitalization, according to Cardinal Glennon Trauma Program manager Chris Green.
“This is one of those accidents that you think will never happen in your home,” Green says. “People need to understand that these things really can and do happen, and that it’s vitally important to take steps to protect your children or others who might be visiting your home.”
Nationally, data collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov) shows that about 264,200 children went to hospital emergency departments between 1990 and 2007 for injuries caused by furniture tip-overs, and that 300 of the children died.
To help prevent tip-over hazards, CPSC offers the following safety tips:
- Furniture should be stable on its own. For added security, anchor chests or dressers, TV stands, bookcases and entertainment units to the floor or attach them to a wall.
- Place TVs on a sturdy, low-rise base. Avoid flimsy shelves.
- Push the TV as far back as possible.
- Place electrical cords out of a child’s reach, and teach kids not to play with them.
- Keep remote controls and other attractive items off the TV stand so kids won’t be tempted to reach for them and risk knocking the TV over.
- Make sure free-standing ranges and stoves are installed with anti-tip brackets.
Making your home safe for children can be challenging, particularly when they are the type who tend to climb and explore. With some time and effort, though, you can help prevent tragedy.
Dr. Bob Wilmott is Chief of Pediatrics at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and is a Professor of Pediatric Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. If you have a question about your child’s health, go to the “Ask Dr. Bob” section of the Cardinal Glennon Web site at www.cardinalglennon.com.