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news News Wednesday, November 6, 2019 Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:29 PM - Wednesday, November 6, 2019 4:29 PM

From employee to patient’s mom

Our director of marketing shares a personal story for Stair Safety Outreach Week

From employee to patient’s mom

By Dawn Wright

The morning I realized that Davis could not walk, the focus on my injured elbow and bruised tailbone quickly shifted. I was no longer the patient and my concern centered on my 22-month-old. I’d fallen on the stairs the night before while carrying my toddler. Carrying him down the slippery wooden stairs of our multi-level vacation house in Idaho seemed like the safest choice at the time.

Answering to the excited cries of my two older children – “Mom, our ball! Grab it!” – I had taken my eyes off the stairs for only a moment to grab the wayward foosball and toss it back to my kids while descending the stairs. That split second proved dangerous and down Davis and I went. As I sat stunned, my husband quickly rushed to my side and after sizing up the situation, whisked Davis from my arms. I hadn’t dropped him, but he’d slammed down pretty hard on the stairs right along with me. He was fussy. After all, a fall like that would startle anyone. But nothing seemed amiss and off to bed he went.

We found some band-aids for my elbow and called it a night. Nearly forgetting about the previous night’s incident, we were perplexed when Davis wouldn’t set foot on his right leg the next morning until my husband put two and two together. Talk about mom guilt! Not only did I feel responsible for putting Davis in harm’s way, I also had to break the news to the big kids that we were trading our day at the beach for a day in the emergency room – the only walk-in care available in rural McCall.

I’m the director of marketing and communications at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City. For nearly five years, I’ve breathed in the same air as some of the world’s finest pediatric orthopaedic surgeons. At that moment, I would have given anything to teleport the 450 miles back home for him to be seen at one of the best pediatric orthopaedic hospitals in the country.

The emergency room staff did its best, but three hours later we left with more questions than answers. The seven-hour drive home gave me plenty of time to worry, stew in guilt, and consult Dr. Google. Turns out, stair injuries are common, including injuries while being carried by an adult. WebMD reports:

“Every six minutes a young child in the U.S. is treated in the emergency room for a stair-related injury. Researchers say an average of more than 93,000 children under the age of 5 were treated for stair-related injuries in an emergency room each year between 1999 and 2008. The number of young children who were injured while being carried on the stairs accounts for about a quarter of injuries among children under age 1. These children are also more than three times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of their injuries than children who were injured in other ways.”

WebMD cites Ashley Zielinsky of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues who addressed this topic in Pediatrics. “Increased prevention efforts are needed, including parental education and improved stairway design.”

I couldn’t help but think: If parents falling down the stairs while holding their child is so common, why do we never hear about this? The work of Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability came to mind. Who wants to admit they’ve hurt their child?

Our primary care physician’s office suggested we see if Shriners Hospitals for Children could see him. The outpatient clinic at the Salt Lake City Shriners Hospital booked us an appointment for the end of the day. When we arrived for our appointment, I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I’ve walked into that building upwards of 1,200 times, but never as a patient’s mom.

Here’s what I now know first-hand. The registration was streamlined and conducted by warm staff. The entire team in clinic was thrilled to help my kiddo and knew just how to put us at ease. His doctor, Marcella Woiczik, M.D., was confident and efficient. In 60 minutes flat, my child was registered and evaluated, had X-rays taken and reviewed, was diagnosed with a “toddler’s fracture” and a cute blue cast was applied. Davis left happy with a lollipop and a boot to help him get around on his cast. Within 48 hours, he was cruising around like nothing had ever happened.

But what I will never forget is the team’s empathy when I voiced my guilt for getting him into this situation. They echoed the article’s data that these injuries are common. I didn’t feel alone and felt hope that Davis would be back to his old self in no time. They not only healed my child’s injury, but healed a mother’s heart.

I am personally committed to stair safety more than ever now and hope that sharing my story and a few tips from Prevent Child Injury’s Stair Safety Outreach Week, Nov. 4-10, 2019, will help other families:

  • Avoid carrying a child on the stairs when possible. If needed, place child in a safe place, such as a crib, when you need to use the stairs.
  • When carrying a child on the stairs, do the following:
    • Avoid carrying other items. The child should be the only thing you are carrying.
    • Keep one hand on the handrail to help prevent a fall, just in case you slip or trip.
    • Make sure the child is in your arms, not a stroller or carriage, while on the stairs.
  • When a child begins to use the stairs on their own, teach them the following:
    • Always have a free hand to hold onto the handrail.
    • Ask an adult for help if the child wants to take something up or down the stairs.
    • Keep toys off the stairs.
    • Do not play or jump on the stairs.
  • Keep stairs free of clutter and in good repair.
  • Install a handrail.
    • Handrail should be small enough for you to put your entire hand around the handrail.

Yes, accidents happen. And when they do, I won’t hesitate to turn it into a “bring your kid to work day.”

If your child has a fracture that requires urgent care, or if they have other emergency needs, please seek care from an emergency room or urgent care facility. Once the emergency situation is stabilized, contact Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City for an initial appointment at 801-536-3643.

dawn holding davis in Portland Shriners Hospital