The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

July 8, 2014

Protect your children, forgetting can be fatal

ENID, Okla. — Someone once said, “I’ve a grand memory for forgetting,” but I can’t remember who it was.

Oh, yeah, Robert Louis Stevenson.

The point is, to forget is human, to remember is darn near impossible.

I have gotten to the point where I have developed a mental checklist of a morning, which goes something like this, “Pants on, pants zipped, cell phone, check.” This assumes, of course, that I’ve remembered to don a shirt and shoes.

Not that I’m alone in my hypomnesia. More than once my wife and I have gone to the store, picked up milk, orange juice and other perishables, and left them in the car overnight. We’ve done the same thing with takeout boxes from restaurants. For some reason my wife insists on throwing the food out the next day. I say we should live dangerously, but she refuses.

At any rate, it’s easy to disremember. But how easy is it to forget a child strapped in a car seat?

That is the assertion of a married couple in Georgia. The husband, Justin Ross Harris, sits in jail, charged with felony murder and second degree child cruelty in the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper.

Harris claims he forgot to drop Cooper off at daycare before heading to work on June 18, leaving the baby in the car in the parking lot with all the windows rolled up as the outside air temperature hit 88 degrees.

That means the temperature inside Harris’ SUV likely rose prodigiously. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that temperatures inside a closed car parked in direct sunlight can climb as high as 172 degrees when outside air temperatures reach between 80 and 100 degrees. The temperature can rise as many as 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes alone.

Cooper was trapped in that car, strapped in his car seat, for seven full hours.

Children are especially susceptible to heatstroke, particularly those 4 and younger. Heatstroke sets in when the body’s internal temperature tops 104 degrees.

Visible marks on the child’s face and the back of his head seem to indicate Cooper struggled to escape his fate.

Children’s bodies do not regulate their temperature as efficiently as do those of adults. Children don’t sweat as much as adults, and their bodies warm three to five times faster than adults.

At first Cooper Harris would have become dehydrated, possibly suffering cramps, dizziness or weakness.

Then he would have suffered heat exhaustion. He could have become nauseated and disoriented, besides developing a headache.

In the final stages of heatstroke, his skin would have been hot and dry. He would have had difficulty breathing, his pulse would have begun racing, at some point he would have lapsed into unconsciousness and died.

I wonder if he cried for his mommy and daddy.

His father is charged with leaving him in that hot car to die on purpose. He was apparently exchanging sex-related texts with various women, not his wife, during the time Cooper was dying in his car. The baby’s life was insured for $27,000.

He says he is not guilty. He says he just forgot. Perhaps. If not, and he is convicted, he should be bound hand and foot, placed in his car and left to die just as his son did.

But people do forget many things. They even forget tiny children secured in car seats.

It has been suggested that the next time you are driving somewhere with your child in a car seat, leave something you can’t forget right next to them, like your left shoe.

Even the most forgetful or dim-witted among us will quickly realize their mistake when they begin walking across the parking lot wearing only one shoe.

It also has been suggested that, when a child is secured in a car seat in the back seat of a vehicle, you place something to remind you of them on the front seat next to you, like a teddy bear, for instance, or a doll, or a big honkin’ note penned in bright red letters reading “Hey, stupid, don’t forget your kid in the back seat.”

And even if you’re not going to be very long, and even though you crack the windows a tad or leave the sun roof partially open, don’t leave your child in the car alone. They can still be affected by the heat.

And don’t leave the car running with the air conditioner on, or you will encourage some knucklehead to jump into your car and take off, thus assuring that you will be making an unwanted appearance on the evening news.

This goes for your dog or cat, too. Leaving them in a broiling hot car is no way to treat them.

Perhaps the best way to deal with this problem is to apply the words of Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Unless, that is, you are fond of being baked like a pan full of cake batter.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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