Portland, OR – Editors: The family of a 4-year-old boy who fell from a window, sustaining a devastating neurological injury that required emergency skull removal surgery at OHSU Doernbecher, is available to share the story of their child’s dramatic recovery with the hope that it will prevent other families from experiencing a similar tragedy.
As the temperature climbs into the 90s, Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s hospital strongly recommends families take preventive measures, including installing window guards, the only proven method of preventing children from falling out windows.
Between 2000 and 2005, 17 children in Oregon died as a result of unintentional falls, including window falls; most were between 1 and 5 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many more children survive the fall only to suffer disabling brain and spinal cord injuries.
“It may be our moderate climate or the relative absence of high-rise living that reduces the attention paid to window fall-related dangers here in Oregon, but whatever the cause, every year, at the end of the rainy season we see an increase in window fall injuries with devastating consequences,” said Daniel Guillaume, M.D., M.Sc., assistant professor of pediatric neurosurgery, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “What is so anguishing and painful about these injuries is they are entirely preventable.”
In 1976, 217 children fell to their deaths through open windows in New York City. The city responded to this tragedy by mandating window guards in all apartments in which children younger than 10 are housed, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Three years later, in 1979, there were 80 such fatalities. In 2002, New York City reported three child deaths from window-related falls.
“This significant reduction in the number of window fall-related deaths shows the benefit of simple preventive measures,” said Nathaniel Whitney, M.D., M.S., OHSU resident in neurosurgery. “A window guard that is compliant with the New York City law currently sells for approximately $35. The relative small expense required to purchase such an effective tool only magnifies the tragedy of each child who is injured or dies from a window fall.”
“Unfortunately, no amount of parental supervision has proven adequate to prevent window falls,” said Brian Farrell, M.D., Ph.D., OHSU resident in neurosurgery. “We strongly encourage all parents to consider window guards of similar importance to car seats and bicycle helmets. All are injury-prevention devices. An increased awareness to this problem and its remedy will help us all to continue doing everything possible to eliminate preventable injury and death among Oregon’s children.”
For more information about window fall prevention, visit the OHSU Doernbecher Safety Center.
About Oregon Health & Science University
Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university and Oregon’s only academic health center. OHSU is Portland’s largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU’s size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.