Freefalling

by Robert Lanz LCSW

If you are one of those families that has more kids than space, at some point you will move the sofa too close to the window, not realizing the sofa is just another playground ride to a three year old. This is especially important if you live on the second floor like the kid who fell out the window and landed in the bushes that night I was working. His parents didn’t realize he had fallen until he crawled out of the bushes and banged on the front door.

“Who is it?” was the wrong question at that point.

Calling 911 when the kid wasn’t even crying may have been a wrong decision too. Showing up in the ER with an uninjured child announcing he fell over ten feet out the window will bring on multiple interventions including x-rays and a nosy social worker who will give you a safety lecture. If you have more bad luck the social worker will call the police and they will call the department of Children’s Services if the paramedics haven’t already done so. The police will make a home safety check on the spot and then add another layer of admonishment and safety lectures.

The Children’s Services worker will repeat the admonishments and safety lecture when she visits within the requisite seventy two hours. By now you will believe the entire medical/social/legal system thinks you are incapable of learning from experience but somehow several repetitive admonishments and lectures will get you up to speed in your child protection duties.

I used to teach getting home safely to the fifth graders at the local school adopted by the hospital as part of our community services outreach. I was never sure why they picked me for the job but I enjoyed it and the kids seemed to like my presentations. Fifth graders are usually ten years old and able to function independently if they get the right instruction and learn to use the right tools, that’s me, and follow the right rules  until a parent gets there.

The rules were pretty simple. Don’t answer the door if you don’t know who it is. Don’t have friends over unless your parents know and approve of them. Have a neighbor your parents trust as a standby just in case. If I was teaching the class now I’d have to add in a safety lecture about cell phones and internet porn sites.

In those days the kitchen was the most dangerous room in the house- gas, flames, boiling water, sharp objects, wet floors and all that. Now I’d guess the most dangerous room in the house is the one with the internet connection and no parents around. And while I’m still in the safety lecture mode, here’s an aside for you grown ups. You will age out of the kitchen dangers and move into the truly most dangerous room in the house for oldsters, the bathroom.

For that nightmare, turn your water heater down so you can’t possibly scald yourself even if it seems like really hot water is a good idea at the time. Replace the glass shower door with a plastic curtain. Put no skid surfaces on the floor and grab bars next to the shower, the bathtub and the toilet. And speaking of toilets, they are a common place for faints and even heart attacks so in the future when you are sitting on one, look around and notice there is no place in the whole room for a soft landing. Be careful.

And next time grandkids come over to visit, make sure the sofa isn’t next to a window on the second floor.

End of lecture. No safety checks needed….

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About robertjlanz

Author and health care professional.
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