Danni Oliver leaned over the back seat of her car to watch Cassie Witte demonstrate how to keep Danni’s 1-year-old daughter safe in the rear-facing child safety seat.
Danni asked several questions, including whether it’s better to place the seat in the center of the back seat. She learned that if she’s placing only one car seat in the back seat, install it in the center — if a good fit is possible — rather than next to a door to minimize the risk of injury during a crash. The back seat is a must-do because of the possibility of an injury in the front seat if an air bag is activated.
Danni received the tips and a new car seat from the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Safety Program, dedicated to the prevention of childhood injuries through education and awareness. “This is an amazing program,” Danni said afterward. “Financially, it helps with a next-level car seat. And, we obviously still had some questions unanswered.”
Cassie said she held her son in his car seat when taking him home from the hospital eight years ago. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. “I got lucky that I never was in a car accident with the kids.”
Cassie took a course to be certified as a child passenger safety volunteer instructor. She now works for SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in the program funded by Kohl’s Cares. “Knowing I can help someone else avoid a catastrophe means everything to me,” she said.
Kim Fanter, a registered nurse with the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Safety Program, also assisted Oliver. Kim has been with the program since it began about 12 years ago. Car seat classes through the Safe Kids St. Louis program date back much longer. Organizations throughout the metro area offer child safety seat inspections and installations.
“Our grant funding through Kohl’s allowed us to purchase the car seats and help with distribution,” Kim said. “We work with MODOT and many other community agencies throughout Missouri and Illinois.”
From September 2017 to August of 2019, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon’s program inspected 3,959 seats and distributed 2,292.
When she first began in the program, car crashes were the leading cause of preventable deaths for children in the United States from birth to age 18. Now, the numbers are reduced and other causes are higher until children are age 5.
Many people struggle with the directions for car seats, Kim said. An instructor with the local child passenger safety classes through the Safe Kids coalition and a member of the Missouri Child Passenger Safety Board, she sometimes sees children who are riding improperly in cars. She’s learned to approach the drivers gently to inform them of a better way and that help is available.
Her goal, she said, is to keep children out of the hospital. It goes to the SSM Health mission, “Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God.”
The hospital walls, Kim said, “don’t confine that mission. We need to be out in the community with the families and working with them. I’m a registered nurse, I’m not at the bedside anymore, but I’m at the carside. I’m with the families, teaching and making sure the kids are safe.”
Erin Bening, director of emergency services at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, would prefer not to see your child, especially for preventable injuries.
“So we do lots of things around injury prevention,” Erin said.
Included is the hospital’s violence intervention program which focuses on preventing gun violence in conjunction with the Missouri Foundation For Health. The LOV Program (Life Outside of Violence) reaches out to children who come to the emergency department after an act of violence toward them (including bullying).
About 900 gun locks were provided free last year at the emergency room. The gun locks are at the front desk in the waiting room and are distributed at community events. The SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Foundation provides the funding for the locks.
The SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Safety Program seeks to prevent childhood injuries and contribute to the reduction of infant mortality in the St. Louis region and beyond. In partnership with Safe Kids Worldwide, Kohl’s Cares and other local organizations, services include Infant and Child CPR classes, Baby Safety 101 classes with safe sleep resources, no-cost car seats to families in need, and more.
“We rely heavily on partnerships,” said Erin, who has worked at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon for 16 years. “I know we can make an impact and prevent injuries, because that’s what we all want for our kids. It is wonderful to work for a Catholic, faith-based organization because we think about our families and patients first. We all do have that common shared value. In the emergency department, our nurses have a really hard job to do, and they’re talented, caring, kind and compassionate.”
The emergency room at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon sees 52,000 children a year. Last year, 516 were trauma-related occurrences, and half were preventable.