A Life-Threatening Accident at the Cottage

Kitchen Table CEOs Blog - A Life-Threatening Accident at the cottage -keeping kids safe-by tracy smith - manitoulin island - emergency services - ornge helicopter-kids trauma - picture of a dock in the water

March 4, 2020

I would like to share with you something that happened to my family and I when my son was 23 months old. I have posted this story before, but feel it is important to share. The story reminds all of us how very careful and proactive we have to be to keep our kids safe and avoid life-threatening accidents.

How the Accident Happened

In 2009, my husband and I endured the horrible experience of a life-threatening cottage accident while visiting Manitoulin Island. The accident resulted in our 22-month-old son being rushed from a family camp by ambulance to a local hospital and then airlifted by helicopter for a 2-hour flight to a children’s hospital in Ottawa.

The accident was one of those things you never dream of happening … On the last day of our annual getaway to Manitoulin, a large tube television came crashing down and fell on my son’s head. The toppling TV sent him to the floor and knocked him semi-conscious with a literal dent in his head.  We were absolutely panicked and had no clue what to do. We ran next door where my aunt and uncle live, my husband carrying my son’s lifeless body and me, seven months pregnant, screaming and tripping along the way. Once there, my aunt and uncle immediately called 9-1-1 (why didn’t we think of that?). 

In the minutes that followed, I was asked a series of questions by the 9-1-1 dispatcher about my location that I couldn’t answer.

I Had No Idea What the Address Was

I was at a camp I had visited every summer for the past 30 years, but knew nothing of the “official” name of the road or the camp-numbering system (something told me the dispatcher would not know where “The Beaver Lodge”  was located). I was hysterical and feeling the pressure of critical seconds passing by, and I handed the phone to my aunt. Thankfully, she took control and explained where we were as best she could. As in most cottage destinations, the directions into our camp are informal at best. These types of directions, I can assure you, are not helpful in an emergency situation where accuracy and timing can mean life or death.

The minutes, hours and days that followed after our 9-1-1 call are all a blur now and involved an ambulance, multiple emergency rooms, being airlifted to Ottawa, x-rays, CAT Scans and a final diagnosis of three skull fractures.  Good news: no brain damage or long-term effects and a HUGE wake-up call as to just how careful we, as parents (grandparents, aunts, friends and family), have to be with our precious children.

That fateful morning, we became one of the 100 Canadian families that would rush their child to an emergency room this year due to a toppling television set and one of the more than 9,000 whose child became injured because of falling furniture (www.safekidscanada.ca). 

Everyone Can Do Their Part to Protect Children

With vacations and weekends away always around the corner, parents and cottage owners alike need to be proactive and aware of the life-threatening dangers that exist for young children when they are visiting or lending out their cottage. 

Common Hazards That Cause Life-Threatening Accidents

  • Old Furniture that may be easily toppled
  • Bunk Beds – mattresses should fit properly and beds placed tight against the wall with proper side rails in place.  Children under six years old should not use the top bunk
  • Dated Children’s Equipment –Safety standards for cribs, play pens, high chairs, car seats and other toys are in place for a reason. Ensure the equipment being used is acceptable and has the appropriate labels and instructions
  • Toxic Substances and Medicine; Exterior Doors – keep locked and make sure that your children cannot open them.
  • Water– whether in the lake or the bathroom, be sure to supervise at all times.
  • Televisions – need to be kept on low, sturdy furniture, never on dressers or make-shift stands. Place on the floor if appropriate furniture does not exist
  • Electrical Outlets and cords
  • Blind cords – definitely a strangulation hazard.

Had it not been for the health services that were available on The Island, I’m not sure what we would have done.  We were pleasantly surprised, given our isolation, at the fast arrival of the ambulance and so thankful that The Island had emergency centres to receive my son, diligently care for him, and coordinate the proper next steps.

I shudder to think of what would have happened if it weren’t for the helicopter and paramedics team,  who flew to get us and were so well trained. They took complete control of the situation and stabilized our son for the long ride to Ottawa. 

Thank You to Everyone Who Helped Us!

Thanks to everyone involved, my family and I have been able to return to The Island we so love in good health and my son is now a healthy, 12-year-old. We will, however, ensure that wherever our family stays, we know all of the important emergency information, including our exact phone number and address with proper directions to our location.  And you can bet that any precariously perched television sets are ALWAYS placed safely on the floor.

Please share this article with your parents, relatives, friends, and anyone that you visit or that you know host young families on a regular basis. It can happen to anyone.

From my kitchen table to yours,

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