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For younger children, like toddlers, home is a safe place where parents stand watch as the kids get into new places and things. But even so, thousands of children every year are seriously hurt at home by falling furniture and by falling TVs. Here's NPR's Patti Neighmond.
PATTI NEIGHMOND: Shawn Stevenson and his wife Charlene can only piece together what happened that day last year. He was at work as an IT specialist. She was at home with the kids in their bedroom and went into the bathroom for just a minute. Soon after, Stevenson's phone rang at work.
Mr. SHAWN STEVENSON (IT specialist): I picked up the phone and she sounded very upset, and basically quickly told me that my son had a TV fall on him, that he was bleeding through an ear and that spinal fluid or a clear fluid was coming out of his ear as well, and that the entire right side of his face was paralyzed.
NEIGHMOND: The Stevenson's figure their 2-year-old son climbed to the top of the dresser, where the TV was. Then their four-year-old daughter started climbing up the dresser drawers, it fell on her. Her brother tumbled more than four feet to the floor and was hit by the falling TV. Within an hour Stevenson met his wife and son at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Mr. STEVENSON: He was in the emergency room for probably about four hours as just about every specialist in the world, it seemed like at the time, you know, checked.
NEIGHMOND: Two year old Michael had fractured his skull in two places. He had nerve damage in his face, one eardrum burst, the other was impaired. Recovery took months, but Michael was lucky and thankfully, says Shawn, he completely recovered. The experience that was all too common according to ER Dr. Gary Smith, who directs injury research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Smith recently analyzed federal data on childhood injuries between 1990 and 2007, and he says an average of nearly 15,000 children were injured this way every year, most of them under six years old.
Dr. GARY SMITH (Director, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital): I think it surprised us that there were roughly 40 children each day in this country that are injured by heavy furniture falling on top of them, and they have to be rushed to an emergency department to be treated. What also we found, that was surprising to us, was that there was a 40 percent increase over that 18 year period.
NEIGHMOND: Smith says TVs are the major culprit, causing merely half of all injuries. He doesn't know why the number of falling furniture injuries is increasing. One reason could be that people have a lot more TVs today than in the past. Chrissy Cianflone is with a consumer group, Safe Kids USA. She says today's TVs aren't as heavy as the one that hit little Michael Stevenson, but new TVs can still cause accidents.
Ms. CHRISSY CIANFLONE (Director, Program Operations, Safe Kids USA): They're not as stable as the big TVs of years ago and they're much easier now to tip over, because they're a lot thinner and they're not as heavy and stable.
NEIGHMOND: There are things parents can do to protect their children. TVs can be put on low stands, not high ones and if they are on top of shelves or dressers, they should be taken down. That's what Shawn Stevenson says his family did.
Mr. STEVENSON: The TV's gone. We make it a habit now to try to anchor in most of our heavier furniture that has the tendency to perhaps topple.
NEIGHMOND: The best option is to mount TVs on walls. Furniture anchors are simple brackets or straps available at most hardware stores. They can also be used to secure dressers and bookshelves to walls. Cianflone.
Ms. CIANFLONE: Parents may not necessarily think about anchoring the furniture to the walls, because they're too busy thinking about cabinet locks to secure the medicines and poisons, worrying about other baby proofing - that this is a hidden hazard that they may not be aware of.
NEIGHMOND: And, Cianflone says, never underestimate children's curiosity or their strength to pull and climb.
Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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