How Furniture Can Kill Kids — and How You Can Prevent It

Beth Greenfield
Senior Editor

When Kim Amato awoke on a December morning in 2004, nothing could have prepared her for what awaited her in her daughter Meghan’s room.

She ran to the bedroom when she heard her husband screaming in “a voice where you just know something terrible has happened.” He had found their daughter, 3, pinned under her heavy dresser, suffocated. “She looked black-and-blue, so she had been there a while,” Amato, 46, a physical therapist in Massachusetts, tells Yahoo Parenting. She began performing CPR on Meghan right away.

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“Both of her brothers were in the room when she died,” Amato says, referring to an older son, just 6 at the time, as well as Meghan’s twin. “I remember it very distinctly, her older brother yelling ‘Mommy, wake her up, wake her up!’” But her daughter was gone.

Despite Amato being more aware than average about safety in the home — she taught childbirth classes at the time and was a trained doula who knew much about infant safety — she had not thought to anchor her child’s 150-pound dresser to the bedroom wall.

Meghan (Photo: Kim Amato)

“I didn’t really have an awareness,” she says. “I had secured some wobbly shelving units to a wall, but I really had never seen an anchoring device anywhere.” She and her husband were never certain just how the accident happened but figured that Meghan must have stood in her bottom drawer to get something from the top. “It never occurred to me that it could tip over,” says Amato.

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Now the bereaved mom — who has become an activist about furniture safety through her organization, Meghan’s Hope, and has written a book about grief over child loss, Out of the Darkness — is speaking out in a new video, above, from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s “AnchorIt!” campaign, which aims to prevent furniture and TV tip-over accidents by spreading national awareness. According to the campaign, a child goes to the ER every 24 minutes — and one dies every two weeks — from such tip-over incidents. Eighty-one percent of these fatalities occur in the home, and two-thirds involve toddlers.

“Furniture and TV tip-overs are a tragic and hidden hazard that can impact any family, no matter where they live,” note CPSC commissioners Marietta Robinson and Joseph Mohorovic in a statement provided to Yahoo Parenting. “Our new public service announcement shows that children in all different parts of the country have been taken far too soon from their loving parents. Our AnchorIt! campaign is all about preventing future tragedies. The solution is simple: Anchor all pieces of furniture and all TVs to the wall. It just takes a few minutes, and it will give you peace of mind that you have added a layer of protection to your home.”

Shane (Photo: Lisa Seifert)

The campaign offers tips on securing furniture and TVs on its “How to Anchor It” page. Anchoring kits, available at furniture stores and online, typically cost between $5 and $20.

“It’s such a hidden danger in the home, but it’s an easy, cheap fix,” notes another mother in the new video, Lisa Siefert, 46, of the Chicago area, who lost her son Shane in 2011. When she went to wake him from a nap in his toddler bed, she tells Yahoo Parenting, she instead found her 2-year-old under his dresser.

“I screamed, my husband came, and we tried CPR, all while my 4-year-old daughter was screaming ‘Don’t hurt him! Don’t hurt him!’” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “What a nightmare.”

She too now dedicates much of her life to getting the word out to parents about furniture safety, both through her organization, Shane’s Foundation, and through her work as a member of an ASTM furniture-safety subcommittee.

Sydney Chance with her mom, Keisha Bowles (Photo: Keisha Bowles)

“There is no getting over the loss of your child; there’s no moving on. It’s moment to moment,” Siefert adds, through tears. “Four and a half years hasn’t softened the pain.” She and her husband now strive to keep Shane as present as possible in their lives and in the life of their daughter, now 9, who is living with a heart condition. “We openly share stories of Shane all the time,” she says, “and we keep him part of our family.”

Keisha Bowles, whose 2-year-old daughter Sydney Chance died of brain trauma after being hit by a falling TV and the dresser it sat upon in 2012, says she does the same with her daughter’s memory — especially for the sake of her 10-year-old son, Brandon. “It was hard for him,” Bowles, who appears in the CPSC video who has started a non-profit, Another Day, Another “Chance,” tells Yahoo Parenting. “When we left in the ambulance, he never saw her again. Now, almost four years later, he talks about her every day. And he’s not the same anymore.”

As for Bowles, 34, a single mom living in Arkansas, “I carry around a guilt every day. And I don’t want anyone else to go through that,” she says. “When it happened, I had never heard of this. I thought, TVs don’t just fall on kids.” Now that she knows the reality, Bowles is dedicated to getting the word out to other parents. “Please,” she says, “don’t let my baby’s life have been in vain.”

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