Our son Camden was nearly 2 years old when his life was taken in a horrific incident. And it didn’t have to happen.
June 11, 2014, should have been a wonderful and busy day. We had a new baby, had just moved into a new home and were getting ready for a birthday party for our son that weekend.
We had gotten Camden a big-boy bed. It was his second night sleeping there. That morning, however, quickly turned into a nightmare that has never ended for our family.
When Camden’s father, Charlie, went to wake him up for breakfast, he found that his dresser had tipped over and pinned Camden to the floor and cut off his oxygen.
My husband screamed for me and, as I ran into Camden’s room, I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing.
My beautiful, blue-eyed baby boy was still.
I began CPR while my husband called 911. The paramedics were able to restart his heart, and he was eventually transported to Seattle Children’s Hospital.
For the next four days, as Camden lay in a coma, we prayed and cried and wondered how this had happened to our firstborn baby. We celebrated his second birthday on June 13 in the pediatric intensive care unit, surrounded by balloons and cards and carefully wrapped presents that he would never be able to open.
And, then, we had to come to terms with the reality that he would never recover. I thought I was having a heart attack as the doctors told us that Camden was gone. We made the heartbreaking decision to remove him from life support and release his organs to help others.
We had to say goodbye on Father’s Day, June 15, 2014. Our lives will never be the same.
We chose Camden’s dresser for its small size — three drawers, just under 31 inches — for easier access so our son could dress himself. But we learned the dresser was poorly designed. It easily tipped when the drawers were opened. We had never heard of people bolting dressers to the wall. I’d never imagined that such a small piece of furniture would be dangerous. We had cabinet locks and baby gates and outlet covers and blind string covers and safe-door latches. We even had our car seats professionally installed. But no one mentioned that we should bolt this small dresser to the wall so it wouldn’t kill our son.
Our son was an overly cautious child. He would turn around and climb down backward off the two-inch tall patio slab off our slider after he tripped once and skinned his knee. We kept nothing on top of his dresser or above it. He was taller than this dresser. He was simply opening the drawer to get to his clothing inside, and this killed him. We did not hear the dresser fall, as his small body muffled the sounds. He could not scream or cry for help.
This is a problem with many dressers and chests, which has not been fixed by the furniture manufacturers. There is only a voluntary standard that they know does not adequately protect children.
In 2018, I formed a group with other parents who have lost children to tip-overs called Parents Against Tip-Overs (PAT). We have tried to work with the industry without success, so we helped develop legislation called the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act — or STURDY Act — to create a tough, mandatory standard for clothing-storage furniture, including dressers, that considers real-world use by families. The U.S. House of Representatives passed it unanimously in September 2019 after I testified before Congress on Camden’s seventh birthday. The bill has the support of the National PTA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumer Reports and other consumer-advocacy groups.
The STURDY Act has stalled in the Senate.
To everyone who reads this: We need your help. Please let our Washington state U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray know this issue is important to you. This tragedy can happen and does happen — killing one child about every two weeks in the United States and injuring a child, resulting in a visit to the ER, every 56 minutes.
The STURDY Act won’t bring Camden back, but it might save a child you love.