A Home Accident Statistic

Cradling Tammie, my two-month-old daughter, I carefully made my way down the stairway. Reaching the landing, I turned to descend the last six steps. Suddenly, the rubber sole of one of my wedge heels caught on the carpeting. Horrified, I found myself hurtling down the last five steps.

Although the time that passed between my tripping and landing could be measured in milliseconds, a million and one thoughts raced through my mind. They all centered on how to protect my fragile baby. Willing my body to encircle her like a wheel, I tumbled like a tire-rim tossed across a pile of rocks. Finally I banged to a stop.

My daughter was born with Thrombocytopenia with Absent Radius (TAR) Syndrome. One very serious aspect of TARS is an extremely low blood platelet count. Platelets prevent hemorrhaging from cuts and prevents monster-sized bruises. The last thing my baby needed was to be banged-up!

Laying on the floor and hurting in every place where my body had made contact with the steps, I lifted my head and examined Tammie. Miraculously, it appeared that I had somehow managed to protect her from injury. Relieved, I joined her in having a good, long, hard cry.  

According to multiple statistic-gathering organizations, more accidents happen at home than anywhere else. For the United Kingdom, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)’s website states, “Most accidents happen in the lounge/living room than anywhere else in the house.” The bottom of my stairway is a few feet away from our living room. I wonder if that makes it count as a living room accident?

In the United States, the website for the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) lists eight major causes of home accidents. One is the failure to wear slippers or shoes with rubber soles, since walking around in socks can cause a person to slip and fall. In my case I feel that the rubber sole on my shoe caused me to fall!

I was lucky. Many people die from falls at home. The NCHS gives the number of deaths each year due to falls as 30,000. This is 9.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

The NCHS also showed that twenty-one million medical visits take place each year due to accidents that happened at home, resulting in a cost of 220 billion dollars. I wonder how many people have accidents like I did, but don’t go in for treatment. All I did was mention the fall at Tammie’s next appointment a day or two later.

While in the backyard this morning I saw something that reminded me of my tumble down the stairs many years ago. Even birds suffer as the result of home accidents.

All summer I’ve enjoyed watching a barn swallow and its mate swoop though the yard eating bugs and scolding my cats. The pair had a fine brood of hatchlings who excitedly twittered and bobbed their heads with open beaks whenever the parents came home.

Swallows like to build their nests under barn eves and alongside rafters. They use grass and straw with mud to construct their creations. This year these birds had found a long, tangled loop of fishing line. Seeming to have a mind of its own, a big section of the plastic filament refused to be contained by the bird’s saliva-mud-pack adobe. Hanging loose from the nest, it was an accident waiting to happen. A barn swallow had gotten tangled in the material. In the struggle to get free it had apparently died of strangulation. Did the victim’s claws get tangled first, or maybe one of its long, graceful iridescent-blue wings?

The nearly invisible plastic string must have pulled tighter and tighter as the bird futilely struggled and flapped, trying to get free. All her instincts were to survive so she could take care of the babies. As a mother myself, I wondered, “Did the male bird continue to bring food to the youngsters? Were the little ones strong enough to fly away to find their own food?”

I didn’t find any dead baby-birds so I believe that, in her death, the dead parent kept the dangerous line taunt, helping her inexperienced fliers safely exit the nest.



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