Those were the words I finally uttered in frustration in the waiting room of my vet's office.
I was bringing my pet cockatiel in for a visit when I spied a young child alone in a closed car on a hot Baltimore afternoon in the parking lot. The mother of the child was in the vet's office collecting her very large dog (I have no idea what kind) with the help of an older man (who I later discovered was the child's grandfather). They both looked at me like I was crazy when I first inquired about who might have left the infant in the car, and why. The receptionist was a bit confused; being all of about 19 years old, she was not accustomed to clients arguing in the waiting area. I knew she was thinking she just wanted to be rid of all of us, but you see, the dog was not being cooperative.
The baby's mother looked at me and said, "you can see how it requires two of us to move him (the dog) and keep him under control. Don't worry it will just be another 5-10 minutes."
"FIVE TO TEN MINUTES!! YOUR BABY COULD DIE OR BE SERIOUSLY INJURED FROM THE HEAT INSIDE YOUR CAR IN THAT AMOUNT OF TIME. I will have to call child protective services and let them know you have placed your child in a dangerous situation. At the very least, they will investigate you for neglect or failure to supervise your baby properly."
Now the receptionist was really upset. I could see her brain waves revolving. How much trouble would she be in if one of her clients called to report the other? This could be really messy.
They all tried to ignore me, which is when I uttered the words in the headline, and reached for my cell phone. Finally, that got action, and the woman huffed, and reluctantly went outside to open the BMW and check on the infant.
She finally got the baby out of the car, brought her into the vet's office, where the receptionist volunteered to hold the baby while the two adults wrestled with the dog and finally got him calmed enough to put him in his crate in the car. Then they left, giving me dirty looks while they pulled out of the parking lot.
It didn't seem to matter to them that I was a doctor, a pediatrician, an intensivist.
It didn't seem to matter when I explained to them that I had seen infants suffer irreparable brain damage or death from being in a closed hot car for as little as 15 minutes. The mom, you see, had left other babies in parked cars, and nothing had happened to them, so she decided I must be crazy. But I am not crazy. It does happen. And, yes I would have called the police in the next instant if they hadn't eventually responded.
I am funny like that. I may be in big trouble some day, when some one doesn't like my attitude, such as when I see unsecured children riding in a motor vehicle that stops at a light. I usually tell the adults (if I can get their attention) they are putting their child's life at risk. I stop children from doing dangerous things when I see them in the mall, while the parents are not paying attention. I can't help it. I love children so much, and have spent so much of my life treating critical illness, and watching children die, that I just can't stand by quietly and allow "accidents" to happen.
I have relayed this story here because of the recent death in Roanoke of a child from Danville (http://ggweather.com/heat/16_2011.htm ) who was left in a car, and died from complications of heat injury several days later. This death has been weighing on my mind, as a senseless and totally preventable death. I have been sad, and I have been angry. I am happy that a bystander called the police, because at least the other 2 passengers recovered.
I just want everyone to know about how dangerous it is for young children, the elderly or pets to be left in a (hot) car for any amount of time. Your thought of "just five minutes" can easily turn into 15 or 20 unexpectedly. Just commit to NEVER, NEVER do it. No matter what. No matter how hard it is to cart your kids in and out of their carseats. No matter how urgently you need to get something done.
There, now I feel better. I hope you will join me in trying to save children's lives from this and any other risky situation you may find. Thanks.