Nairmeen Haller remembers the long days in Akron Children’s critical care unit and the uncertainty of knowing the long-term health of her then 2-year-old son, David, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2006.
She would do anything to prevent another family from going through this experience and knows the value of the work ahead for Akron Children’s Hospital.
With the support of a 5-year, $400,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Health, Akron Children’s will launch an injury prevention program to prevent traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Summit County children.
The cause of TBI in childhood tends to vary based on age, and the program will address several of the most common causes, such as falls and unsafe sleeping environments for babies and toddlers, bicycle and pedestrian accidents for adolescents, and sports-related head injuries for teens.
“This grant truly gives us the opportunity to save kids from injury and even save lives,” said Heather Wuensch, director of Community Benefit, Advocacy and Outreach for Akron Children’s. “Summit County has a number of resources addressing child safety and injury prevention, but now we will have the funding to bring all of these experts and resources together in a meaningful way to focus on education and the prevention of childhood traumatic brain injury.”
The grant proposal calls for:
- The establishment of a multi-disciplinary injury prevention coalition with Safe Kids Summit County and other community stakeholders focused on the prevention of TBI injuries among children birth through age 18. This coalition will be responsible for the oversight of all grant activities.
- The completion of a community needs assessment in collaboration with the coalition, specifically identifying community readiness and gaps in service for injury prevention.
- The implementation of The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP) of the American Academy of Pediatrics as part of well-child visits throughout 8 Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics offices and the hospital’s Locust Pediatric Care Group, specifically targeting low-income families.
- Collaboration with local government officials to pass a bicycle helmet ordinance in one community in Summit County.
- Implementation of a social media and marketing campaign to increase awareness of TBI as a result of bike accidents and to increase the use of bike helmets by children. This campaign will be combined with a bike helmet give-way in collaboration with Safe Kids Summit County.
Using her tragic experience to help others
Eight years ago, on a late summer day, David Haller was hit by his mom’s SUV as she was backing out of the garage so David and his 2 older sisters could get to their outdoor toys.
Before she knew it, David, affectionately known as Peepers, had darted near the vehicle and was caught by front passenger tire.
“I will never forget the pain and uncertainty of that time,” said Nairmeen.
David, who just turned 10 last Sunday, has made a remarkable recovery and Nairmeen has tried to use her experience to bring about some good. She has served as a mentor to 4 families who also have had children struggling to recover from brain injuries.
“You always look for something to cling to,” she said. “There is no way to predict your child’s outcome with a TBI. Doctors will say, ‘time will tell,’ and you don’t really want to hear that, but truly only time will provide you with the answer.”
Grant plans driven by data
An assessment of Ohio Trauma Registry and Summit County ER data provided rich information used to determine the grant focus.
From 2008-2012, Akron Children’s provided care to more than 1,800 children under the age of 18 diagnosed with TBI. The data showed the highest rates of injury were caused by:
- Falls, 38 percent
- Motor vehicle accidents, 13 percent
- Sports, 10 percent
- Bike accidents, 9 percent
- Assault, 8 percent
While 31 percent of the falls were simple falls, such as children running and tripping, others occurred in ways that could be prevented as a result of education or other interventions. These include the falls caused by children falling down stairs (18 percent); off a couch or bed (12 percent); out of a car or bouncy seat (8 percent); out of a shopping cart, wagon, walker or stroller (7 percent); off a counter or changing table (9 percent); or out of a second-story window (6 percent).
“Akron Children’s and Summit County are well suited to make a difference in preventing TBI,” said Wuensch. “We have the clinicians to help kids heal, but also have a wide spectrum of support services and advocacy programs that address the developmental, social, and emotional needs of children who suffer brain injuries. As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village’ and our village is just getting started.”