August 5, 2013

7-year-old Maple Valley Girl Falls Out of Window

That is the type of headline that makes your heart stop, as a Mother. Now, imagine it's your little girl..

You don't want to, because thank God it wasn't, right?! I have done this with a million headlines. Drownings, children left in vehicles, walking away from the bathtub or changing table or bedside for that split second they roll off, the detergent on the sink, or allergy medicine not put away properly....the list goes on and on.

My girls are 5 and 7. We THOUGHT...we were WAY beyond baby gates, stairs, chemical scares, etc. Our children are independent little girls! They play. They get lost in Squinkies and Pet Shop buildings and whatever the American Girl or Barbie drama of the day is. I can read two chapters in a row (okay, maybe 5), shower without worrying they'll be roaming somewhere in the neighborhood, and if I'm being completely honest, NAP whilst they play some Mario Kart. Yes, I said it...nap. Scott and I have really enjoyed this new level of independence we have all reached, b/c we have been able to complete our dream of building a table, paint random pieces of furniture, mow the grass or whatever we choose while they ALSO get to dive into their imaginations and be their own little girl selves!

Scott and I just finished reading an amazing book called "Mitten Strings for God," that was recommended by our friend, Melissa. It is an extremely inspirational book, and here is the book description from Amazon: "As mothers today we are faced with a daunting list of responsibilities. How easy it is to simply rush headlong through our lives, slaves to our daily obligations, and in the process race our children through their childhood. But there is a better way... In Mitten Strings for God, Katrina Kenison shares her own search for a more satisfying balance in her life. The result is a lyrical and tender series of reflections, interwoven with gentle suggestions and advice, that remind us what happens when we slow down and are fully present in our lives. Suddenly there is room for joy and play and intimacy, space for wonder and reverie, and time to awaken to the beauty of the world and discover the sacred in the ordinary. Tranquil in our own hearts and minds, we can offer our children the one thing they need more than anything else: us. And we receive something priceless in return-the chance to savor our lives and the precious people in them." PART of that slowing down was what we were practicing that Saturday. No birthday parties, no soccer games or dance recitals, no dinner parties planned, just BEING...TOGETHER...AS...A FAMILY...whatever that looks like for you and your family. The discussion for the day's agenda over breakfast that morning was either a family visit to NW Trek, or do a few hours of organizing until lunch, and then come together for family legos, puzzles, games, Wii, dinner and family movie. We chose the latter!

So, Scott is downstairs organizing DVDs into a bookshelf we'd recently moved into our family room. I'm in the office upstairs, ONE door down, organizing bills and shredding credit card offers ONE door away from my little girls. They are playing with their Melissa & Doug mini dollhouse on Shelby's bed. Shelby's bed is a twin and until the accident, was next to the window. It was a WARM summer day in Maple Valley, and their rooms get super hot like most of the upstairs rooms in the Pacific NW b/c most families here have no central A/C. We had the little safety features on our slidling windows, that sort of click over (not screw to lock) and prevent the window from opening beyond maybe three inches? I'm guessing? Well, they're all still screwed in, but the safety thing that folds down have long been broken off by the force of our girls opening and shutting the windows...and to be fair in our office and our own bedrooms upstairs, they were installed and broken by the original owners and we've never replaced them.

Now. In our office and master bedrooms, the window sills are 3ft off the ground. Those are usually too high (unless they are assisted by a couch or furntiture for kiddos to even consider climbing onto). In our girls' rooms, the ONLY two rooms in the house like this...the sills are 2ft off the ground. You know as well as I do HOW MANY TIMES I'VE TOLD THEM TO GET OUT OF THE WINDOW SILL. MOST children do listen to their parents' warnings...(maybe?), but I don't have most children. I have my own girls...and they are curious, and impulsive and do need to be told a million and three times, that sitting in the sill is not a safe choice or allowed.

So, broken safety latches, some Melissa and Doug family pretend time, and about 10 min. later...they hear the neighbor's dog bark. Anna Lee loves animals. She loves dogs. She loves talking to people, especially our neighbors, and at this point is apparently standing in the sill facing out to look at the dog with the window open and the screen attached. Keep in mind. I am ONE DOOR DOWN. There were no raised voices or arguing or screaming little girls 10 seconds before this. I was RIGHT HERE. It was as simple as Shelby wanted the window shut and Anna Lee wanted it to stay open. The story told by both girls is this. Shelby stood up from her bed (beside the window) with her pillow and went to "help" her sister move away so she could shut it, and Anna Lee lost her balance, fell through the screen, fell the four feet to the shingled roof over the garage, bounced twice on the 10 feet of angled shingles, and then fell the 10 ft. down to the concrete driveway below.

My heart is racing recounting this, and I'm hoping yours is too, so you will not count yourselves out. It COULD happen if you aren't prepared. By the Grace of God, and yes, we are Believers if you can't already tell on my page...Anna Lee was airlifted to Harborview (see the news video attached). As you can see that is not my neighborhood or my window (thanks, Maple Valley Fire Dept.). Anna Lee was surrounded by guardian angels and sustained a total of five skull fractures, including her ethmoid and nose, and had no brain bleed or concussion or displacement of those fractures so no surgery was needed. Not a single bone was broken, just a lot of skin and her little skull to heal. I think I am finally breathing. But, just a little.

Yesterday, as I was returning some dinner bowls to an amazing friend (one of the very many that responded so quickly and lovingly with food and treats for my girls), she let me know that the SAME THING had just happened to another friend of hers right here in Maple Valley. Upon sharing my need to want to start some kind of a safety campaign or chain...or whatever that looks like...just basically spread the word so we can be AWARE....another girlfriend and Mama said THREE children so far have fallen in Snoqualmie Ridge. My heart is aching for all of those family members...and believe me, you DO NOT want to get me started on a Mama and her "what-ifs".

SO...HERE GOES. I'm posting this article from the Maple Valley there's the credit...and you can click and go there as you like....but, I will also paste below. PLEASE ACT NOW. This article came out exactly one month before Anna Lee fell, and I probably skipped right by it!

Warm-weather safety: 7 tips to prevent kids from falling out windows
With the recent warm weather, it's a good time to remember the dangers that open windows pose to children. Even screened windows can be dangerous, they keep bugs out, they don’t keep children in.
Nationwide, thousands of children are injured or killed from window falls every year. The most common victims are toddlers who fall out of an open bedroom window with a screen.
To prevent window falls, follow these tips from the Center for Childhood Safety at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Health Center:
- Move furniture away from windows and balconies. A bed, couch and other furniture allows a child to get higher and closer to a window.
- Only open windows outside of a child’s reach or climbing distance. Open double-hung windows from the top. A child can fall from a window opened as little as 5 inches.
- Every year, many children fall out of open windows with window screens. Window screens will not keep your child from falling.
- If you must open a window within a child’s reach or climbing distance, install an operable window guard. Window guards have horizontal bars no more than 4 inches apart that screw into the side of a window frame. Guards can be special ordered from a hardware store or over the Internet.
- For windows that can’t be used for fire escape, install stops that keep a window from opening wider than 4 inches. These can be purchased at a hardware store for about $2. Some new windows come with stops.
- Plant grass or shrubbery around your home to soften the impact surface in case of a fall.
- Monitor window safety at your child care location and anywhere children visit.

Please please please SHARE THIS WITH AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN THINK OF, so we may raise awareness, and protect our little ones.