Last week, a Chicago Mom Blogger posted her experience with the Illinois Poison Center (IPC). Accidental pediatric ingestions of potentially harmful substances make up over 50% of our calls in Illinois; we receive 40,000 to 45,000 calls annually regarding children 5 and under. There are over 1.2 million calls in the U.S. fielded by designated poison centers from this age group. It is an incredibly common story, but very often, an untold story.
There is a tremendous reluctance among people who use our service to discuss their experience with the Illinois Poison Center. I could look at our past surveys and e-mails comments on why callers do not want to tell their story and compile a very long list; but here are some of the most common reasons given:
- It doesn’t matter, no one else will do what I did to their child
- People will think I am a bad parent
- Someone is going to report me to DCFS
- I am going to get reported to immigration
- I am so embarrassed about what happened and don’t want anyone to know
- Surely so many people call, someone else can share their story
The reality is that people’s personal stories carry lessons for us all. I can put together tables and graphs of dry statistics, but a personal tale, in almost any communication forum, will carry more weight than an impersonal factoid. In those stories, there is a common thread within the shared experience that we can all relate to. There is an opportunity to share our fears and relief; and the potential to learn from each other so that we can have happier, healthier homes and families.
Some of the IPC staff have submitted a poster presentation for the 2010 North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology, the largest scientific toxicology conference of its kind. The focus of the poster is on how methanol poisoning can occur. Did you know that over 30% of cases of methanol ingestion called to the IPC occurred because the substance was transferred from the original container to another container such as a water bottle, Gatorade bottle or other unlabeled container? That statistic is compelling to me, but without context it is just a number.
A story of how it could have happened is a powerful reminder of how important it is to keep chemical products in their original labeled containers. The typical scenario we hear is “There was a small amount of windshield wiper fluid left in the jug, so I put the little bit that was left in an empty Snapple bottle that was in the car. I forgot about it for a couple of weeks and my wife and son took the car to his basketball game. After the game, my son was thirsty and saw the bottle of blue liquid and . . . ”
A story such as this from a real person adds context to how easily these accidents can happen. So tell your story. Educate us all on how we can learn and improve on our choices and decisions. We would love to read about them in our comment section below or on the IL Poison Center Facebook discussion board.
Until next Tuesday,