Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cathy's Story: A Poison Tragedy

This week is National Poison Prevention Week. Poisoning is the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries in the United States — ahead of motor vehicle crashes and guns.

Fifty years ago, in 1962, 3-year-old Philip was rushed to the nearest hospital, 30 minutes away. Tragically, he had ingested a bottle of rat poison. Though all attempts were made to save his life, he lived only a few more hours. Fifty years later, his sister, Cathy Seifried of Kingwood, Texas, is still grieving. According to Cathy, her brother's death, a tragedy in itself, had long-lasting effects on her entire family as grief, sadness, and remorse took its toll. "I had good parents," says Ms. Seifried. "They managed to function and go through the daily motions ... but as a family, we were broken."

Today, Ms. Seifried focuses her efforts on supporting poison control centers. She feels that had her family had access to the education, outreach, and support that today's poison centers offer, it might have avoided terrible heartbreak and devastation. "Philip has been gone for 50 years," says Ms. Seifried. "I know there are many other stories just like his. For their sakes, please get involved with your local poison center in promoting poisoning prevention and the Poison Help number. You can make a difference."

By dialing (800) 222-1222, you can get emergency treatment and poison information over the phone through the Texas Poison Control Center Network (TPCN), which consists of six Texas poison control centers. Through the toll-free number, more than 70 percent of accidental poisonings are handled safely over the phone, preventing emergency transport and emergency department visits. Calls are answered by experts in poisoning treatment and prevention 24 hours a day. Callers have access to poison advice in more than 150 languages and all calls are free and confidential.

What can you do to prevent poisonings?
  • Keep medicines and cleaning supplies locked up and away from children. Children act fast. Unfortunately, so do poisons.
  • Always use your glasses to read your prescription bottle, and only take medicine with the lights on. These simple actions can prevent accidents.
  • Ask visitors to keep purses and luggage containing medicine out of reach of children at all times.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and check batteries at least twice a year.
  • Keep the (800) 222-1222 number accessible and programmed into your phone. Your local poison center can send you magnets and stickers with the number. Call the Poison Help number even if it's not an emergency. When in doubt, check it out.
  • Support legislation that helps fund local poison centers. In 2011, federal budget cuts reduced funding for poison centers by 36 percent. The Texas Legislature reduced TPCN’s funding by 18 percent. Poison centers, which handle about 4 million calls a year, are now in jeopardy; further cuts will make it difficult for poison centers to continue providing life-saving services.

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