Recently, a fellow Coast Guard spouse (whom I really consider a friend, though we've never actually met) lived through a nightmare. She experienced the kind of morning that you read about in forwarded emails or hear about on a TV news magazine, and makes you want to run to your babies' bedroom and hug your children, even though it's the middle of the brief nap time you've been looking forward to all day.
Miss F's little girl Baby J was up and about the house early, while Miss F was still getting up. Baby J pushed a step stool over to the kitchen counter and climbed up, then reached up on top of the refrigerator and found a bottle of throat spray (the family was just recently recovering from a round of colds/flu that had worked its way through the house). Baby J managed to OPEN the bottle, and drink most of it. Miss F found Baby J stumbling around the kitchen with slurred speech and a puffy face. They rushed to the hospital, where Baby J was given charcoal and IV fluids and tests for kidney and liver function. After several tense hours, all the tests came back normal and Baby J recovered from Phenol poisoning.
I should mention that Baby J isn't actually a Baby, but a pre-schooler, about the same age as my oldest boy, Pete. Which is why this story really hits home, and why I'm sharing it with all of you.
I'm dying for a little more sleep, a little more rest in my life, while I'm exhausted just growing a baby and trying to keep my children from destroying the house around me, let alone prepare meals daily and keep a stash of clean clothes ready for my family. On many days, I hand them each a banana and cup of milk and try to lay down a little while longer before starting my day. Just like Miss F, my children are running around the house some mornings without my direct supervision, and are now big enough that even a baby gate can't keep them contained. And just like Miss F, I have some tylenol and vitamins, cough syrup and baby-tylenol up on the window sill above my kitchen sink, out of reach, as far as I know, of my children.
So this week, upon hearing of the accidental overdose, I prayed for Baby J's full recovery, Miss F's peace, and my own children's safety. Then I went to the kitchen and removed all the bottles, moving them to the highest shelf in the locked pantry. I know that with kids, no storage method is full-proof (which also scares me to death about the locked gun-box high on a shelf in our basement) so I'm tempted to throw it all away and only run to the CVS down the street when someone spikes a fever. I know that's not practical, and I have to be reasonable, and so the medicine will stay in the house, on the top shelf, in a tupperware box, in the pantry with a child-proof door. Just like so many things in life, I'll have to hope that my reasonable precautions will protect my family
What scares me even more than Baby J's accidental overdose was some other parent's response to the incident. A chorus of "that's so scary" was typically followed by "my kid would never climb up there" or "my kid knows medicine is only for when you're sick" or "my kid doesn't know how to open a childproof cap". Maybe I'm overreacting, but this kind of keeping your head in the sand is how accidents keep happening. I can guarantee you Miss F never thought Baby J could climb up from the step stool to the counter and then to the fridge. And I'm sure Miss F would never leave a medicine bottle around, thinking that Baby J could find it and manage to open it too. Finally, I know throat spray tastes horrid, and who would think that upon tasting that nasty liquid, that Baby J would keep drinking it? So look around your house today, and think about what you might hate to find out your child can get into before they have the chance to get into it. Because the first time could be the last time.
And then go hug your kids. After they wake up from nap.