“What Kind of Parent Forgets a Baby?”: The Tragedy of Children Killed by Heat

From the Washington Post: 

An 8-month-old boy died Friday after he was apparently left in his mother’s car while she was at work, Alexandria police said.

The exact cause of the child’s death was not immediately known, but the temperature reached 90 degrees at Reagan National Airport.

Typically, temperatures inside cars with closed windows rise well above the outdoor temperature.

Alexandria police said they were called to Inova Alexandria Hospital after an unresponsive child was brought there just after 4 p.m., said Lt. Mark Bergin, a police spokesman.

According to Bergin, hospital staff were told by the child’s mother that the boy was in the car when she left her home in Alexandria in the morning for work in Arlington County.

Bergin said the mother intended to drop the child off at day care. It was not clear why she did not.

He said that as the woman was driving home, the child was still in the car.

He was unresponsive and was taken immediately to the hospital, Bergin said.

Neither the woman nor the child was identified.

Police in Arlington and Alexandria said the investigation would be conducted by Arlington police.

Arlington police provided no additional details.

Also on Friday, Baltimore County police said a toddler died after being left in a vehicle in Lansdowne, police said.

A relative was supposed to take 16-month-old Sabriya Towels to a Head Start Center on Friday after picking her up at another location but instead drove to their home in Baltimore, went inside and slept for a few hours, police said.

Police said that about four hours later, the relative, who was not Sabrinya’s parent, went to the Head Start Center to pick up the toddler and realized she was not there. He then ran to his vehicle and found the girl inside.

That case was referred to the State’s Attorney’s Office for review, police said.

Meantime, a friend on FB pointed me to this powerful, heartbreaking story, which won a Pulitzer Prize a few years back:

“Death by hyperthermia” is the official designation. When it happens to young children, the facts are often the same: An otherwise loving and attentive parent one day gets busy, or distracted, or upset, or confused by a change in his or her daily routine, and just… forgets a child is in the car. It happens that way somewhere in the United States 15 to 25 times a year, parceled out through the spring, summer and early fall. The season is almost upon us.

Two decades ago, this was relatively rare. But in the early 1990s, car-safety experts declared that passenger-side front airbags could kill children, and they recommended that child seats be moved to the back of the car; then, for even more safety for the very young, that the baby seats be pivoted to face the rear. If few foresaw the tragic consequence of the lessened visibility of the child . . . well, who can blame them? What kind of person forgets a baby?

The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

Last year it happened three times in one day, the worst day so far in the worst year so far in a phenomenon that gives no sign of abating.

The facts in each case differ a little, but always there is the terrible moment when the parent realizes what he or she has done, often through a phone call from a spouse or caregiver. This is followed by a frantic sprint to the car. What awaits there is the worst thing in the world.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X