Saturday, August 13, 2011

Live and Learn

My dear friend Ms. J wrote about a scary experience that recently happened with her daughter, Peanut. It reminded me of something that happened with Will when he was about the same age. I never wrote about it because. . . well, I'll be really honest, I was embarrassed about it. And though I am fortunate that most of the comments I receive here are positive (or at least polite if voicing disagreement), I have had a few negative comments from time to time. And if someone had issues with me letting my son go potty by "himself" at the zoo, I am sure that someone will have issues with this and I was a little too raw about it to blog it in "real time".

That being said, I am not a rainbows and lollipops parent. There are many wonderful things about being a mommy, but there are lots of things that are frustrating, embarassing, and downright confusing. And then, there are times when you mess up, plain and simple. Some time has passed since this happened and, as I was thinking about it today, I realized that sharing this story might actually be a bit of a PSA. Because other people might not think about things the same way you do, so even a loving family member can unintentionally put your child(ren) at risk.

Rewind to a little over a year and a half ago. It was late fall 2009 and I was just barely pregnant with Emma and Will was somewhere around 17 months old. Battling morning sickness and exhausted, I was laying on the floor of his gated playroom, listlessly watching him play when he toddled over to me and handed me a WET, CHEWED ON half tablet of mystery origin. A tiny bit of white powder was at the corner of his mouth, dismissing my fervent hope that a dog had chewed the unidentified pill. Fortunately, there was still enough of an imprint left that I was able to Google and figure out that it was. . . VICODIN. Only half, mind you. IMMEDIATELY, my mind freaked out, wondering where the heck the other half was. Oh, and WHERE IN THE NAME OF GRAVY DID THIS VICODIN EVEN COME FROM?!?! I had percocet following my c-section with Will and couldn't remember the last time I had vicodin before that. And super-healthy, surgery-free M hasn't ever been prescribed vicodin. Even if we DID have vicodin in the house, we keep all medications (even the "baby" ones) in a LOCKED cabinet far above young childrens' hands in our upstairs bathroom - and WILL DIDN'T CLIMB STAIRS at that age and we had baby gates at the top and bottom of the staircase.

After identifying the mystery pill, I immediately called our pediatrician's office, and was told to call poison control. That phone call might have been the lowest point of my parenting career. Calling poison control and admitting my child had a vicodin in his hand, that was clearly chewed upon, and that I didn't even know where it came from. . . yeah, my Parent of the Year Trophy definitely was a bit tarnished. Fortunately, the lady on the phone was very, very nice. She said that even newborns can safely tolerate small doses of vicodin and that unless he ingested more than half a pill, he would be just fine, if a bit drowsy. She said he could have taken several pills and still be okay. She gave me warning signs to look for and did suggest I try to identify the "source" just to make sure it didn't happen again and that he had, indeed, only had a half tablet.

I scoured our house, looking for stray vicodin. Then, coming up empty handed, I then started making calls to people who had recently been in our house. It was awkward, but I was desperate to find out where this pill had come from. Fortunately, I was only two calls in when I discovered what had happened.

Turns out, it came from my MIL, who had visited the day before. She keeps half vicodin tablets in a baggie in her purse for her geriatric dog who travels everywhere with her. The baggie was in her purse, but after checking it while we were on the phone, she realized it was partially unzipped and had spilled into (and apparenlty out of) her purse. She was POSITIVE she had 9 half tablets before and she had 8 in her purse now. And Will had found the 9th. I was all at once both furious and relieved. Will was fine, but I felt as if we'd had a close call. I (very politely) made it clear to my MIL that she was no longer allowed to bring any sort of medications into our home if they weren't in childproof containers AND I put her purse in the closet when she visits. She felt terrible about what happened (she loves Will more than life itself and would never want to harm him - she just wasn't thinking about the potential danger) and was eager to make sure it never happened again. Problem solved (though I still went through the house twice more to make sure there were no more halves that she might have miscounted).

This story serves as a good reminder that those that visit you might not be aware of the necessary precautions you should take when you have children around. Obviously, vicodin is a scary one that most people would think about taking special care with, but even the more "innocent" medications like acetaminophen can be dangerous in high doses. It is likely that most people who enter your home have medication in their belongings. It is a sensitive topic to broach with some people, but there are gentle ways to do it. If you have people visiting, especially overnight guests who might have a medicine bag with them, it is easy to offer them a special place to keep things where accidental access is less likely to happen (a locked cabinet or high shelf of a closet for example). I usually phrase it like this: "I can't guarantee Will, Emma, or our dog will stay out of your purse (or whatever personal items they might have brought). Can I put it in this closet for you?" I show them where I am putting said belonging(s) so they have free access to it, but it keeps the kiddos out and whatever they might have brought in. It also takes the burden off of them and places it on me and I don't need to get into the whole "are you carrying drugs" with you conversation. And yes, I also do think that it is very, very important to teach my children not to get into peoples' things and not to eat things that haven't been given to them by an adult they trust. But my children are still very young and I do not want the cost of them breaking a "rule" to be their lives.

So, all is well that ends well and I learned a valuable lesson. Hopefully, you can learn from it, too.

Without a call to poison control.

*If you have other suggestions on this topic or stories to share, that's great. If you disagree with how I handled this, that is fine, too. I am always eager to learn from others' perspectives. Just keep it respectful, please, we're all on the same team here!


Sophie said...

Scary!!!! Poison control calls are terrible- although oh my goodness they are so nice and calm, when I've called they made me feel like I am NOT the worst parent in the world. I've had to call because my then 3 yo daughter helped herself to alot of yummy (flouride)toothpaste, and then later on my 2 yo son got into a high cabinet and ate almost a whole bottle of gummy vitamins (I knew he was being way too quiet for more than 15 seconds). Both times it turned out to be nothing to worry about, but I felt like I had a red flag on my name and number!! It could have been so much worse, and that is the scariest- the "What ifs". I'm just thankful it was OK, lesson learned (at least for toothpaste and vitamins) Hadn't thought about "screening" houseguests, but that makes perfect sense too...

Anonymous said...

Whoa. Terrifying. I'm glad everything turned out okay!

And I really like your way of getting your guests' possessions out of reach. It's subtle and non-accusatory but effective.

HereWeGoAJen said...

I've heard one of the most common causes of accidentally poisoning in toddlers is from Grandma's purse. Excellent reminder. We always put visitor's things on the counter or on the stairs (our stairs are baby gated), but your idea of the shelf in the closet is really good. I don't really feel that safe with the things on the kitchen counter because Elizabeth can now get up there, even though she usually doesn't.

Searching said...

What a great way to phrase it!! I think that is an excellent idea. And don't think you are a terrible parent. How about the ones who DON'T call, KNOWING their child ingested drugs? Either they are too lazy, don't care, ignorant as to what is/is not okay for babies to have in their bodies, embarrassed, whatever. Get over it and call for help. That's what loving, responsible parents do. And you even did the detective work to find out what it was.

Kids get into things you don't even know is there (like GM's pills- esp be wary of older adults or those w/arthritis since they are most likely to have easy-open tops on their meds or in baggies. Their stuff DEF needs to be up. I use a little TSA lock to hold together the zipper compt of whatever bag I have all my meds in (all in their bottles, in 2 gallon ziplock bags). That's life. If someone swears their kid doesn't then they either aren't watching them or they choose not to see it bc their angel couldn't possibly do such a horrible thing. (My sis still swears my nephew NEVER put things in his mouth. Despite me fishing many coins out and even showing them to her, soaked in saliva. It's normal infant development, how they explore & learn. Everything goes in the mouth, yay for normal development and no oral aversions!).

I think you are a pretty awesome mom! I would love for you to give parenting classes to my pts' parents!

erin said...

This is scary, but I think you handled this exactly as any parent of the year trophy holder would. The good thing to know is that your MIL had already halved the pills, and Will handed you a half a pill, so he ingested so little and that the poison control said he would be and has been and is just fine. Scary? Yes. Lesson learned? Yes. I can't say that I would have even considered this as a possibility with visitors, but while my kids are older now and know better, I will definitely be more vigilant as a visitor to other people's homes. I think you sound like a great mom and should not have shame in what happened- you keep your home safe and did the best thing for all involved.

Nicky said...

Sounds like you handled the situation perfectly. Very very scary though. I'll also add that keeping your own home safe is fantastic, but you need to be especially vigilant when visiting other people's homes, too. Especially if it's a home without small children, and therefore likely to not have precautions in place.

We had a similar situation, but it was AT my MIL's house, not ours. We were staying there for several days, and one morning my in-laws were watching LL while I took care of the baby. I walked into the kitchen to find LL at the kitchen table, alone, sorting a dozen or so pills into little piles. Turns out my in-laws had laid out their morning pills (blood pressure, cholesterol, various other prescriptions, along with a few mega-dose vitamins) and then gone outside to chat with a neighbor, leaving them on the table with LL, who was 2.5. Um, really?!? I triple-checked that he hadn't actually eaten any of them, but then lectured my in-laws AT LENGTH about safety. I don't expect them to make their house child-proof, but I do expect them to use some common sense when they're watching him.

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

I never even thought of having anyone put their things up...I'm glad you posted about this.

j.f. said...

My kid once ate half a tablet of something! Fortunately out of a pill box, not the bottle, so I knew exactly how many he'd taken, and he threw up immediately because it tasted horrible. And of course I felt so stupid- it was somewhere I thought he couldn't reach but he could. Now it lives on top of the microwave.

He ate a little wood glue once too. But that was totally my husband's fault.

The people at poison control are so nice about it though!

Christy said...

You handled the situation beautifully, and thanks for bringing it up now.

Brian once had to call poison control because Andy got in to a tube of Butt Paste. Yeah, that's a hard one to explain!

Ms. J said...

Wow. This has to be the scariest thing I have read in ages. I commend you for sharing it, and it is something I am going to talk to the grandparents about. I was shaking reading your entry.

If you skimmed the comments I received in reply to my own blog entry, you will see that apparently none of us are alone on Less Than Shining Mommy Island. I think it's important to share these type of experiences, both scary and funny.

By the way, Peanut colored her tongue green with a magic marker on Saturday. It was a washable marker. And she licked a bubble wand. Non-toxic bubbles, of course. There is no end to what the child will try. Sheesh!

Willy's Auntie said...

Thank you for sharing that story. I am a new auntie of a 2 year old (adopted) little guy. That will remind me and the grandparents that we need to be cautious about what we bring in our purses into his house.

KC said...

I see this ALL the time being a peds ICU nurse. And yes, it does seem to be one of Grandma's meds. Unfortunately they often take meds for high blood pressure and is NOT good for little ones who have lower blood pressure to begin with.

But...on a positive note, most kids I've seen in the ICU have always ended up being just fine.

Thanks for sharing though. It is definitely a good reminder, especially when people visit.