The whole thing took less than 10 seconds.
We were playing in the basement playroom. I sat down for a moment and was perusing social media on my phone. Looking up, I saw my 15-month-old son toddling over towards the corner of the basement where we had propped up a 6-foot-long banquet table on its side to prevent him from “exploring” the cat litter box. I saw him reach up towards the top of the propped table. Part of me thought, “That probably isn’t a good idea.”
In the instant that I had that thought, it happened…he pulled the table down on top of himself.
I was five feet away. I saw it happen. He reached up and grabbed the top. I watched in disbelief as he lost his balance backwards and fell, pulling the table directly on top of his little body. Even though I was in the air leaping towards him as he fell, I wasn’t fast enough.
I saw his bottom hit the floor and his trunk fall back, his head hitting the carpet. The table was flat on top of him, covering nearly the entire lower half of his body. He was stunned and silent as I threw the table back up and towards the wall and snatched him up into my arms. He looked at me for a moment, and then he started to wail that horrible choking cry that signified to me a combination of fear and pain. I sat down and snuggled him and calmed him down. Then I stood him on the ground to move the table to a safer place.
But he wouldn’t stand up.
Oh, he tried, and fell down, and tried again, and fell down again, then started to cry again and rub at his leg, which was turning a nice shade of red and blue.
So we called the doctor, and I learned that if you sound sufficiently frantic when the receptionist answers the phone and you tell them that your toddler was hit by a falling table, they will transfer you directly back to the triage nurse and you don’t have to leave a message and have someone call you back. The nurse asked how fast we could get in. Within five minutes I had called my cousin to take care of my older son and bundled my toddler into the car seat and driven to the pediatrician’s office. I cried as I explained to the medical assistant what had happened.
The doctor came in, poked at his legs a little bit, watched him try to stand up and fail, and sent us across the street for x-rays. She reassured me that the femur is a very strong bone and very difficult to break, but I could tell she was also worried.
Over at the radiology clinic they got the x-rays taken very quickly and then instructed me to wait until the radiologist could read the films and send the results over to our pediatrician. I watched my usually mobile son play with the toys in the clinic from a seated position for what seemed like hours (it was really like 15 minutes). Finally an assistant brought me the phone, and the nurse on the other end told me the best news I had heard all year. “No fracture, probably just a bad bruise from the fall.” She told me to take him home, give him some ibuprofen, put some ice on it, keep him quiet for a day or so, and bring him back in if he didn’t start standing on his leg by the next day. I could have cried with relief.
We were so very lucky.
I want to say that again, clearly, so that there is absolutely no confusion on this fact.
We. Were. Very. Very. Lucky.
I want to vomit when I think about what could have happened. The table was an old style banquet table that was six feet long by two feet wide and weighed probably 40 pounds. It fell with enough of a thud that I felt the vibration of the crash through the carpet. It could have broken his leg. If he had been further underneath of the table it could have broken his ribs or damaged internal organs. If he had turned and fallen completely underneath as it fell he could have had a head injury or even died.
That night my husband and I discussed what had happened and resolved never ever to prop anything large or with any significant amount of weight against the wall. We checked the bookshelves and other furniture pieces to be sure that none of them were easily tipped and made plans to secure those items that could move with any ease to the wall.
We both realized that we had been lucky this time, but that next time the outcome could be tragically different.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that approximately every 30 minutes a child is sent to the emergency room due a falling television or piece of furniture, and that on average one child dies every two weeks from an injury sustained from a tipped television or piece of furniture. Here are some quick and easy tips that they suggest to help decrease the likelihood that your kids end up as one of the 33,000 people every year injured by tip-over accidents.
Tips for Avoiding a Furniture Accident
- Mount flat screen televisions on the wall if possible.
- Secure flat screen televisions that are not wall mounted to the wall with anchoring straps.
- Use sturdy, low furniture to hold old CRT televisions, and secure the television itself to the wall with anchoring straps.
- Don’t assume kids won’t climb! Purchase anti-tip devices or brackets to secure old furniture, bookshelves, and dressers to the wall. You can purchase these types of devices online, at home improvement stores like Lowes or Home Depot, or you can visit the Safety Store at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
- Newer furniture likely will come with anti-tip brackets. Install them right away and re-install them any time you move the furniture to a different place in the room.
- Remove items such as toys and remotes from the top of the TV or furniture to prevent the temptation to climb.
In the end, my toddler escaped this falling-furniture episode with only a scare, a big bruise, and a very guilty feeling mother. I am vividly aware that it could have been so very much worse, and I am still thanking God and his guardian angel that my mistake didn’t result in any serious or permanent harm.
Do you have any other tips for preventing falls and furniture injuries? Share them in the comments below!