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An Unsuspecting but Deadly Mistake

child-left-alone-in-carby Janet Black Brooks
Child Advocacy Manager

Today, I join three communities and three families in mourning their loss of three beautiful children. Each child died this week of heatstroke after being left alone or from climbing into an unattended vehicle.

Never Leave Children Alone in the Car

Unfortunately, no one is immune to this kind of tragedy. Parents and caregivers can cut down the number of deaths and near misses by remembering to ACT.

  • A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so that kids don’t get in on their own.
  • C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
  • T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:   What is heatstroke?

A: Heatstroke, also known as hyperthermia, is a condition that occurs when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels.

Q:   What are symptoms of heatstroke?

A:   Symptoms may include dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot or dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat or hallucinations.

Q: Why are children at such great risk in cars?    

A: Children are at great risk for heatstroke because a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s. When the body’s temperature reaches 104 degrees, the internal organs start to shut down. When it reaches 107 degrees, the child can die.

Q:   Why are we hearing so much about this now?

A: Our hospital is working with partners around the country to raise awareness about this preventable tragedy. When the sun is out, and even on cloudy days, the inside of a car can become much hotter than the temperature outside. In just 10 minutes a car can heat up 19 degrees. On an 80 degree day, the inside of a closed car can quickly exceed 100 degrees. Cracking a window does not help keep the inside of a car cool.

Q: In what ways are children dying?    

A: Children die as a result of being left unattended in a vehicle in one of three ways:

  • 53% – child was “forgotten” by caregiver
  • 29% – child was playing in an unattended vehicle and became trapped
  • 17% – child was intentionally left alone when a parent runs a quick errand.

Q: How many children die from heatstroke?    

A: Since 1998, more than 635 children across the United States have died from being trapped in a hot car. An average of 37 children die every year, and for every child who dies, hundreds more are rescued. It does not have to be hot outside for the car to heat up to a dangerous level. Light pouring through the windows of the car stays within the car and raises its temperature.

Q:   How can a driver be sure not to “forget” a child in a back seat?

A: The best way to remember a child is to leave something you will need at your next destination in the back seat. This could be a purse, briefcase, gym bag, cell phone or something else you always carry. You can set the alarm on your cell phone or computer calendar as a reminder to drop your child off at childcare.

Q: What should parents and caregivers do to protect kids from heatstroke?

A: The best thing to do is NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD ALONE IN A CAR – not even for a minute. Take your child with you when you leave the vehicle. People have been known to run into a store and lose track of time. It takes very little time for a child to be at great risk of death or injury when alone in a car. Make sure you make it clear to your babysitter that it is never okay to leave your child alone in a car.

Q: Are there laws about this?  

A: Yes, 20 states have laws, but each state law is different. Some states may consider this action to be felony child neglect if a child is injured or killed. In Utah, it is a Class C misdemeanor to leave a child younger than 9 alone in the car. It is never safe for a child to be alone in a car.

Q: What should I do if I see a child alone in a car?

A: If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

Q: How do young children gain entry to a car?

A: Many kids gain entry into a car because the trunk or the doors are open. Parents should keep key fobs out of children’s reach. Once children get inside, they can be quickly overcome by heat and not know how to problem-solve and climb out. People with kids should check to be sure everyone is out of the car before they lock it and make sure the car is locked each and every time. People without kids should also lock their doors and trunks to keep neighborhood kids from climbing into their vehicles.

Q: What can I do to help?

A: First, you can make a personal commitment to never leave your child alone in the car. Second, urge your community to do the same. You can share information by posting flyers at your child’s nursery, school, and local grocery or anywhere you can think of.

Primary Children’s Hospital can provide free Never Leave Your Child Alone in the Car safety flyers by contacting us at 801.662.6580, or from our website.

You can also help spread the word by sharing information on your Facebook, Twitter or any other social media profiles. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. One call could save a life.


Janet has worked as the Child Advocacy Manager at Primary Children’s for 17 years. She manages the Hold On To Dear Life® educational and advocacy campaign. Janet is a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor and an instructor in transporting children with special health care needs. She enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, five children, three in-laws, and six beautiful grandchildren.
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Primary Children’s Hospital Ranked Nationally in Seven Pediatric Specialties

best-childrens-hospitals-7specsPrimary Children’s Hospital recently received national recognition in seven pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report in the 2015-16 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings. The specialties included:

  • Orthopedics (10th)
  • Cardiology and Heart Surgery (20th)
  • Neurology & Neurosurgery (21st)
  • Urology (31st)
  • Cancer (33rd)
  • Nephrology (44th)
  • Neonatology (45th)

“We are humbled and honored to once again be recognized by U.S. News & World Report ,” says Katy Welkie, CEO of Primary Children’s. “It takes a strong team effort from physicians, nurses, and other staff members, and countless hours of hard work, to be among the best in the nation. These rankings reflect a continual dedication from our staff, a focus on patient care and safety, and a desire to live the philosophy of ‘The Child First and Always.’”

The rankings highlight the top 50 U.S. children’s hospitals in 10 pediatric specialties: Cancer, Cardiology & Heart Surgery, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Neonatology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology, and Urology. U.S. News evaluated 184 pediatric hospitals this year. Eighty-three hospitals ranked in at least one specialty.

Five-sixths of the hospital’s score is based on patient outcomes and care-related resources. Another sixth of the score comes from the hospital’s reputation among physicians. The pediatric specialists and sub-specialists were asked where they would send the sickest children in their specialty, setting aside considerations of location and expense.

“These rankings acknowledge the extraordinary care provided by our physicians and staff, and a collaborative effort between Primary Children’s and the University of Utah School of Medicine,” says Ed Clark, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Primary Children’s. “To have seven specialties recognized this year showcases our hard work in providing exceptional care for every child, our dedication to research, and desire to continue advancing in the field of medicine.”

Three of our specialties were ranked higher than last year and orthopedics was ranked in the top 10! This is also the first year that our Neonatology specialty has been ranked by U.S. News.

  • Cardiology and Heart Surgery – up 1
  • Nephrology – up 3
  • Orthopedics – up 2

U.S. News introduced the Best Children’s Hospitals rankings in 2007 to help families of children with rare or life-threatening illnesses find the best medical care available. The rankings open the door to an array of detailed information about each hospital’s performance.

See the full list of this year’s Best Children’s Hospital Rankings.

best-childrens-hospitals-cardiobest-childrens-hospitals-cardiologybest-childrens-hospitals-diabetesbest-childrens-hospitals-gastroenterology

best-childrens-hospitals-nephrologybest-childrens-hospitals-neurologybest-childrens-hospitals-orthopedics

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Get Hooked on Safety

fishingby Janet Brooks Child Advocacy Manager

On a warm summer day, my twin brother came scurrying into our home seeking permission from our mother to go fishing at Murray Park. He and his friends each had their own fishing pole and had planned an exciting excursion. Since my brother and I did almost everything together, I instantly begged for permission to go as well. “But you don’t even have a fishing pole,” my brother said. Mom readily chimed in that we could make a fishing pole and the decision was made. I would join the festivities.

We hastily found a willow, attached a piece of kite string and tied a safety pin (hook) on the end. Voilà, I had a pole and was hopping on my bike with “the gang.” As we rode off into the lazy days of summer, the admonition of my mother was to ‘Have Fun.’

Now don’t get me wrong— I had a fabulous mom. She raised seven children and we all survived to adulthood. However, she, like most parents in that era, was not as aware of the safety precautions that we know about today. She did not realize that unintentional injury is the leading cause of death to children. She did not include in her farewell adieu to “wear your bike helmet, don’t get too close to the water, put sunscreen on, and don’t go near strangers!” She did exclaim, “I love you!”

In my child advocacy work at Primary Children’s Hospital, I commonly hear the joking phrase, “We are lucky we survived!” As I constantly promote safety topics such as car seat use, wearing a helmet, supervision and life jackets around water, and a multitude of other safety memorandums, my only reply is “Yes, you are lucky that you survived.” We know so much more about precautions and safety these days. I hope that each of us has moved on from the past and embraced all of the new knowledge and technology we have today to keep us safe.

With summer here and our own children home from school to roam the neighborhood and seek our permission to “go fishing,” I hope you will include in your farewell adieu that you would be happy to supervise your kids on their outing, that they must put on a helmet before riding their bike, that they should not go near open bodies of water without supervision, and that their good old mom loves them more than anything else in the whole world.

Please, help make this a fun and safe summer. Oh, by the way, I was the only one that caught a fish those many years ago with my sophisticated willow fishing pole!


Janet has worked as the Child Advocacy Manager at Primary Children’s for 17 years. She manages the Hold On To Dear Life® educational and advocacy campaign. Janet is a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor and an instructor in transporting children with special health care needs. She enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, five children, three in-laws, and six beautiful grandchildren.
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Four Tips to Make Four Wheeling Fun and Safe for the Whole Family

_EBL8553-03By Janet Brooks
Child Advocacy Manager

Four wheels on the ground, roaring engines, and the feeling of power at your fingertips. There is something truly incredible about heading down a trail or through a mud hole on an ATV. It only gets better when your family joins you for the ride. These tips will help everyone have a blast and stay safe – ride after ride.

1) Wear a helmet, goggles and other safety gear

You may be surprised by just how much you use your brain while riding an ATV. In fact, if you don’t keep your head safe, you won’t be having any fun. Before you and your family hit the trails, make sure everyone wears a helmet – every time, no matter what.

“It’s just a short ride” is no excuse. Utah has more traumatic brain injuries among children than almost any other state in the country, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control. Sadly, ATV crashes play a major role in that statistic. Simply wearing a helmet goes a long way in keeping your family safe.

Don’t forget there is more to protective gear than just a helmet. Goggles, over-the-ankle boots, gloves, sturdy full-length pants and a long-sleeved shirt are all great at taking the punishment if you hit the ground. Make sure you are prepared. Check out the full list of protective gear before you ride.

2) Follow the rules

Contrary to popular belief, rules weren’t actually meant to be broken; they were meant to prevent injury. When riding an ATV:

  • Stay off paved roads.
  • Never allow more riders than the ATV is designed for.
  • Make sure children don’t ride adult vehicles – provide an ATV sized for the child.

Utah Department of Health data shows that a child is 1,000 times more likely to be injured riding an ATV than riding in a car, and the risk increases the more you push the envelope. Rules are designed to keep your family safe so you can continue to have fun on the trails.

3) Know the terrain

Know where you are going and what to expect when you get there. This includes paying attention to the weather conditions and understanding the technical level of the trail. Anticipating the terrain will help riders know how to react, which will keep them safe and help them to enjoy the ride.

4) Get ATV training online

Training and ATV certification isn’t just a good idea – it’s required for anyone younger than age 16 before riding an ATV on Utah public lands. The good news is you can get rider certification from the comfort of your own home through a Utah state-approved online training course.

And for everyone, even those 16 and older, completing the certification will help you stay safe on the trail and out of the hospital. Get certified and ride responsibly. Serious fun is sure to follow!

Additional Resources:


Janet has worked as the Child Advocacy Manager at Primary Children’s for 17 years. She manages the Hold On To Dear Life® educational and advocacy campaign. Janet is a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor and an instructor in transporting children with special health care needs. She enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, five children, three in-laws, and six beautiful grandchildren.
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Six Ideas for Helping Kids Cope With Stress

stressby Sara Bybee, LCSW
Center for Safe & Healthy Families

You might catch a glimpse of your kids playing outside, seemingly without a care in the world and wonder what could children possibly stress about? While we may think that kids only worry about what to play at recess or what after-school snack to choose, kids often feel stress just as adults do. In a poll by KidsHealth, kids stated that they were most stressed about grades, school and homework (36%), family (32%), and friends, peers, gossip and teasing (21%).

The poll also revealed important news for parents. More than 75% of the kids surveyed said they want and need their parents’ help in times of trouble. When they’re stressed, they’d like their parents to talk with them, help them solve the problem, try to cheer them up, or just spend time together.

So how can you help children cope with stress and learn healthy ways for dealing with stressful situations? Below are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Voice your observations: Tell kids when you notice how they might be feeling. For example, “it seems like you might feel angry about what happened.” Your observation will help your child know you’re interested in hearing more about what he/she is going through.
  2. Listen: Ask your children to talk to you about what’s bothering them and listen attentively and without judgment.
  3. Label feelings: Many kids do not know how to identify what they are feeling. Helping your child use words to identify emotions by name will help them communicate more easily and develop emotional awareness.
  4. Empathize with your child: Tell your child that you appreciate the stress he or she is dealing with. If he or she is working through a trauma, remind him/her that things will improve over time.
  5. Offer help: Let your child know that you would like to help whenever they are dealing with stress or are working through a trauma and that he/she can come to you anytime.
  6. Allow expression of feelings: Understand that anger or other difficult feelings may be part of a child’s reaction to stress or trauma. Try to allow your child to share how he/she is feeling while letting him/her know that abusive language and violence is not allowed

Helping children identify and cope with stress or deal with previous trauma can be extremely difficult. Try these tips for how to best support a child in his/her time of need. Some signs that you can look for to help decide if it’s time to seek professional help include: continued withdrawal from friends or family, school refusal for a long period of time, preoccupation with fear, grief or guilt to the point of not being able to think or talk about anything else, fear of leaving the house, marked decline in grades or talk about death or wanting to die. If you notice that your child seems to be getting worse instead of better over time, consider seeking out a counselor or therapist.

For more information, visit: Helping Kids Cope with Stress – Kid’s Health


Sara graduated with her Master’s in Social Work from Portland State University and moved to Salt Lake City in 2012. Since then, she has been working with Safe & Healthy Families and has been enjoying all that the Southwest has to offer. In her free time, she loves hiking, biking, running, taking her dogs to the park, speaking Spanish, learning about other cultures, cooking, and baking.
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Donation Stories: Two Boys in Need of Hearts are Best Friends

In honor of Donate Life Month this April, we’re sharing some of our favorite donation stories on the blog. This post was originally published on Fox 13 News in December, 2014.

Before he was five months old, Teagan Petitt needed two surgeries to deal with a congenital heart defect.

“We found out that Teagan was born with a very critical, congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and we would need to operate immediately,” said Brytten Pettit, Teagan’s mother.

Teagan, 6, had a third open heart surgery in July 2013. His mom said life became fairly normal until February.

“Teagan’s lungs basically fill up with fluid. There’s no cure for plastic bronchitis, but the best outcome would be a heart transplant and that’s his best chance at life,” Brytten Pettit said.

Teagan’s lifelong friend, Alex “Gator” Homer, also suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

“They’ve been friends since they were babies. Me and his mom met knowing that […] they were both born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome,” Brytten Pettit said.

Both boys wear oxygen masks and backpacks with life-saving medicine inside during their day-to-day activities. They don’t have the same amount of energy as other children, but they still spend hours playing together, in and out of the hospital.

Teagan said he wants to be a superhero when he grows up. His mom prays he’ll get the chance.

“We know we’re asking for a lot. We know that we’re asking another family on their worst day to give us the greatest gift they could give us, but it would be such an honor to have their child live on through ours,” Brytten Pettit said. “We don’t pray for anyone else to have to go through what we’re trying not to go through, which is the loss of a child. We’re just praying that someone will say yes to organ donation.”

To become an organ donor, say “Yes” on the form you fill out to get your driver’s license or state ID card. You can also sign up at yesutah.org. It is recommended that you tell your family if you’re an organ donor.

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Donate Life Stories: Lily Needs a Gift of Hope

In honor of Donate Life Month this April, we’re sharing some of our favorite donation stories on the blog. This post was originally published on Fox 13 News in October, 2014.

Lily is 4 years old and so full of energy that you might be surprised to learn she is unwell.

But despite her outward enthusiasm, Lily is in need of a kidney transplant. She and her family spoke to FOX 13 News’ Hope Woodside about the need for organ donors.

Watch the video below for Lily’s story and visit YesUtah.org to learn more about organ donation.

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