In this week’s episode of Child Safety Source, we’re talking to Jenny Bennett. In each episode, Life Saver Pool Fence’s president, Eric Lupton, speaks with a person who has dedicated their life to helping keep children stay safe. Today’s guest is no exception!
Jenny Bennett is an ER nurse, an Emergency Nurse Pediatric Course instructor, and a member of Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning (PPCD). She has been a nurse since 2006 and has worked in Emergency Departments in Texas and Colorado.
In her capacity as an instructor, Jenny teaches other nurses about pediatric illnesses, injuries and risk factors of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, such as bed sharing.
In addition to all of the above, Jenny Bennett is a mother to four children. Just a few short years ago, she lost a son to a fatal drowning incident. Since that time, Jenny has learned of several common mistakes that could have been avoided, including the lack of a pool fence and pool alarms, as well as the use of an unsecured dog door.
Today, Jenny Bennett works closely with the trauma departments of Texas gulf coast area hospitals to improve their drowning prevention strategies. Through her work, she aims to educate others of drowning dangers. It is her goal to prevent the devastation of childhood drownings from happening to any other family.
Here is her full video Child Safety Source Interview with Jenny Bennet:
Jenny Bennett and Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning
As you heard in the video, Jenny works closely with Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning (PPCD). This organization was formed by several existing nonprofits and individuals. PPCD consists of many dedicated parents, aunts, uncles, other family members, and friends who are driven to a shared mission of preventing childhood drowning through education and awareness.
You can learn all about PPCD at its official website.
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Below is a direct transcript of the Child Safety Source interview with Jenny Bennett from October 29th, 2018:
Episode 49 – Jenny Bennett
Eric Lupton: And, that’s it, like magic we are live on the Internet. It’s just like before, how are you doing?
Jenny Bennett: Good. How are you?
Eric: I am awesome, thank you so much. Thank you for doing this. We haven’t done one of these in a minute cuz we took a little break, but I’m glad to be back doing it again, and I’m glad that you’re the person that we’re back doing it with, because you do a lot of cool stuff and I was excited when you said you would talk to me. So, thank you for that.
Jenny: Well, thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Eric: And so, you have a background in pediatric nursing, right?
Jenny: I’m an emergency room nurse and we take care of a lot of pediatric patients, yes.
Eric: That’s better, thank you.
Jenny: Yeah, you’re welcome.
Eric: And, you also do nurse training right?
Jenny: I am an instructor for ENPC, it stands for emergency nurse pediatric course, and we have a two-day course through the ENA that teaches other nurses about pediatric care in pediatric emergencies, that’s it.
Eric: So, that’s kind of an ongoing education thing for nurses?
Jenny: Oh yes, it’s been going on for years. It’s a certification that most emergency rooms require their nurses to have.
Eric: Very cool, and are they required to get it if they’re become a nurse, or is there a certain amount of time they have, like a window, or
Jenny: If they’re an emergency room nurse
Eric: Okay, so it’s a qualification?
Jenny: Yes, qualification.
Eric: And you also do a lot with water safety which is how I know you.
Eric: And …we haven’t met any of the NDP or anything right?
Jenny: No, we haven’t met. I really just started.
Eric: That’s right, yeah. Will you be going to this one coming up?
Jenny: No. in November.
Eric: I know in April…it is Northeast?
Jenny: Maybe. I’m about eight hours from there so I could probably drive down that way
Eric: They have their annual conference. It’s um, you know, especially for you, it might be a bit rough but it’s uh, eventually it might be a good idea. It’s a cool thing, yeah. They have** folks that are there which is something which is neat, they’re good people and you might find that if you talk to them.
Jenny: I’ve recently spoken with them and joined up with them so that,
Eric: Yeah, they’re awesome.
Jenny: Yes, just recently
Eric: I was on the board of directors there. One of… when I was on the board of directors at the NDPA, one of the… I want to say best, but the most powerful things that I did every year was, they would always take out a suite in one of the… in the rooms for parents to go to if it was getting too intense in the conference room and someone needed a break and wanted to go hang out and kind of be in their space. So, they would rent this room for that purpose and they would have invite the board up there one night every year for like a cocktail hour kind of thing, and then **, and people hang out and part of that session was people would sit in a circle and they each person would go around and tell the story of how they lost their child and kind of what they’re doing and where they’re at. And, it was probably 15 of them, you know, and so by the end, it was both inspiring and draining simultaneously, you know, it was, you know, just one after another
Jenny: But, I feel like… Yeah, I feel like that’s how we reach a lot of people is by sharing our story and showing them that it can’t happen to them, you know. I was one of those people too thinking that this would never happen to me and it did. I lost my son to drowning two summers ago… sorry if you hear some background noise, my daughter’s heading out for the bus; first school. So, you know, people who teach ISR or ** pool. I mean, you can preach and preach and preach all you want, and people maybe won’t listen, as well as they went to some a parent who maybe lost their child as well as you is you preach and you do a great job…
Eric: Thank you, you’re right, there’s no substitute for, you know, the experience you offer and when people can see that obviously you’re smart; you’re team player, you’re not, you know, you’re not a bad mom. All those things, I think.
Jenny: I thought I was doing everything safe. I was, you know, what my pediatrician recommended and what I need to do, my car seats were all appropriate and checked, kept my kids rare facing as long as possible, I had a safe sleeping space for them, my outlets are covered, my chemicals are hidden. But, I have a pool in my backyard and I’m originally from Colorado and it’s really not a thing to have a pool in your backyard there so the ones that are there, they have laws where you have to have a fence fully enclosed. And in Texas, you don’t. So, part of me…we made a lot of mistakes with our backyard in our pool and our toddler.
Eric: So, what happened with Jackson?
Jenny: So, Jackson was 18 months old and he was very busy, busy boy and he loved the water. We actually took parent-child swimming lessons, but water reclamation lessons and he loved the water, loved jumping into it. We would put him in a puddle jumper floaties and let him just swim around the pool and I had two other kids so, you know, I was one of those moms where I put him in the puddle jumper and I let the puddle jumper babysit him and he floated around kicked around, had a great time. So, I feel like we set him up for failure. We’re thinking letting him think that the water was a safe fun place for him to be and we have a pool in our backyard and we had a dog door because when my husband and I would both leave for work, I work 12-hour shifts as a nurse and he works all day. We had to have a way for the dogs to get outside, so we would unlock it during the day when we would be gone from the house and when we would return, and Jackson would be around, we would lock it. I thought that was good enough. Keeping it locked was going to be good enough, but we all left for the house, left the house to go pick up my husband from work because his truck had broken down and I was just too impatient to let the dogs out and use the restroom and come back inside. I figured we were going to be gone for about an hour, so I unlocked the dog door, I opened it up. We left the house, when we came back in, I needed a break. My husband and I work opposite each other, it’s just how it goes. So, when he’s at work, I’m a single mom with the three kids and I was tired, and I felt like this was a chance that I could get five minutes of rest before we started getting everyone to bed, which can be hectic sometimes, right. So, I went into the bedroom, I asked him to watch Jackson. He thought Jackson went upstairs to play with his sisters and our stairs are gated off and we have a big game room for them to play in. and, it’s very safe up there but it turns out that he found this opportunity with a dog door which I’d never seen him even mess with before. He never even threw anything outside of it, never really paid attention to it. He must have snuck out there because when I came out of the room and asked my husband where Jackson was, he said he was upstairs with his sisters, and we called up to them and they said he wasn’t. So, my immediate fear was that he had gotten outside and got into the pool and I found him floating face down, I pulled him out and I started CPR, yelled for my husband to call 9-1-1 and we ended up getting his heart rate back and got him intubated for breathing and took him to the hospital that I work at… which is like my second home, it’s my second family… and stabilized him as well we could. And then flew him down to the Medical Center in Houston where he spent four days and he was declared brain-dead. But then, a few days after that, he donated his heart, liver and kidneys. So, that helped for us to have a week to grieve with him and to still be with him. I know that a lot of drownings that happen suddenly, they don’t get that time and that sudden loss can be much more difficult on the parents. So, I’m really thankful that we had that extra time with him and we’ve actually been connected with his heart recipient who is about a year younger than Jackson and he lives in Anchorage, Alaska. So, someday we hope to be able to travel up there and meet this little boy and I want to listen to his heart and give him a big hug, you know, that part of my son lives on with him.
Eric: That’s really cool about the heart recipient. I know Paul Novello has really enjoyed meeting the woman that kind of…I believes the kidney of his son, and she just had a baby of her own and oh yeah, why she would never be able to have children and shouldn’t be able to have a kid and so now, he’s met the son that his kids kidney helped create and it’s kind of a cool thing.
Jenny: Yeah, knowing that your child helps somebody that, you know, maybe wouldn’t have had a chance. I think this baby was waiting all seven months of his life in a hospital had multiple surgeries to his heart and, you know, they were waiting for a transplant that’s awesome, you know, it was a 99% match I believe and, you know, they the way they do transplants and donations as they kind of work, you know, more central. So, they would check the Houston area first and then they would kind of branch out and branch out and we had nobody else in where he was a Texas Children’s Hospital in Seattle. So, I think it was pretty meant to be that this little boy got his heart.
Eric: Yeah, and if it was in Alaska, that means, you know, yes it’s a rare match which is cool. My mom was a double lung transplant, she got two lungs back in 2010 and yeah, I was an ordeal obviously, but yeah. So, I’m a favor the transplant thing. I knew that there was he ate a year down in Florida. I mean it was a pretty, pretty rare thing so yeah, it’s awesome that, you know, he did that, and a heart is hard to come by too. Also… but, you know, since then you’ve… I know you’ve been doing a lot of work in the water safety space which is how you and I have been in contact, and you… I know you started a, I think I’m gonna say two nonprofits, but I could be wrong.
Jenny: Oh no, I haven’t started a nonprofit.
Eric: I know you’ve done the…
Jenny: PPCD parents preventing childhood drowning. Yeah. When one of the founding members along with Darlene that you interviewed and Carrie Morrison and, you know, it’s kind of fate how I got connected with them as well. Because, I was just on the drowning support network on Facebook talking about, you know, there’s so many nonprofits out there that are named… usually, they’re named after a child who’s lost their life to drowning and, you know, what do we have out there that combines all of these. I know family is united is a lot of those nonprofits as well, but we need to make our voice bigger. Because, I didn’t even know about them until I started researching them as my selves. I hadn’t seen anybody out in the community and since then, I’ve seen a lot of Judah Brown project because they’re there in our area and they’re great. I love them, we just did a baby fair on Saturday and we were both there. So… and I actually represented the hospital during that baby fair to spread awareness and educate. Yeah so, you know, after I lost Jackson, I was very quiet about the way that I lost him. People would, you know, in the emergency room when you’re a nurse, especially older people, they want to talk with you and connect with you on a personal level and they’d ask me how many kids I have, and I I’d always include Jackson. I’d always say, you know, we have four kids, because I had a son since then… and they want to know they’re or they, boys or girls, and their ages and they always want to know all these details, and it’s really difficult for me to bring up now, because I lost Jackson and I feel like I can’t leave him out when I speak about my family so I do share that I had him and I lost him. And, I used to tell people that I lost him in an accident because I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I lost him to something as preventable as drowning, and that it wasn’t an accident; that I could save him from. I mean, that you know, it wasn’t a car accident, it wasn’t something that I didn’t have any control over. I had control over the situation, I felt like people would judge me for being a bad parent for being neglectful and I still didn’t know that it was the leading cause of death and children under 4. So, since I’ve heard that statistic, it helps me to be able to speak about it more because I’m not alone; this happens to a lot of people and I feel like we need to talk about it and we need to share, it happens to good people. And, I thought I was a helicopter mom not even letting my kids go on the playground slide without me sliding down with them on my, you know, them on my lap. I was always very careful with my children and I still am, but it wasn’t until I had my son Asher, and the beginning of this spring where I started getting very anxious about having the pool and having this toddler now who can walk and who’s very curious and even busier than my son, Jackson. So, I started getting very anxious about it started to look into things that I could do for him and I found ISR. And so, I started asking people about ISR and that’s how I got in touch with Carrie from Live Like Jake and they helped get me lesson setup with Teresa Rising and now, I have a forever friendship with her and we want to just, you know, spread the word about survival swimming. I mean, I was ready to get ashore back into a parent child so in lesson and put him in his puddle jumper for the summer. Because, I still didn’t know any better, I didn’t know that those were dangerous things. They could, they could potentially be dangerous things actually.
Eric: Yeah, and you know, and I asked this question. I’ve been doing this over 20 years now and, you know, the question I always ask myself and maybe I can ask you to is, why do you think it doesn’t get the coverage it clearly deserves, right? Drowning is like you said, the number one accidental cause of death for kids between 1 and 4; when I first started was number two, and it’s become number one. Since then, which makes me wonder about the efficacy of what I’m doing, but yeah, you know, I think car accident came down. Actually, what happened to think Johnny said the same.
Jenny: I was just gonna say I think accidents came down because of seatbelts, click it or ticket came along, airbags, air bags since cars, you know, car seat regulations, seatbelts you know, people getting tickets for not having a seatbelt, you know, it was enforced. I don’t know if all these laws that are in place; property laws across the nation about pools and pool fencing and stuff like that are actually enforced. So, first right, you know, you need a …and the laws are getting… at least in Florida, they’re getting worse. California’s passed a great law; California is the best of all the country, their laws amazing. It requires multiple layers of protection, so you have to pick. They give you a list of seven items, you know, alarms, removable pool fence, cover, etc. you have to pick two. I t’s not all the kind like that, it’s really coo. But in Florida, you know, the law was first offense with a gate, sometimes a gate. Then we took the stuff closing gate out, then they said you could have, you know, really specific hardwired alarms and all the courts of windows. Then they became battery operated and then they said they could be a different kind of battery operated alarm. And now, they recently added that a floating alarm in the pool also works in substitute. I hear those aren’t as effective. When I started looking into options for Asher,
Eric: I wouldn’t recommend it. The alarm I would say is the… it’s called the safety turtle. Yes, ** child, it’s really cool. A big nice turtle, and Bob Lyons who made it, hes a…
Jenny: Yeah, I think those are great for, you know, if you go on a vacation, you have a vacation house or something like that because you can’t control them having a fence at the vacation home. You can’t control them having a door alarm things like that, but you can put that on your child…
Eric: Yeah, on a boat even, you know, any kind of [you’re right] uncontrolled water environment. But, they work, you know, at home too, you know, if you put it on all the time like you do their pants or a diaper, any other things they were. Then, you know, then it can work there too but um, but yeah, so a lot of these laws, at least in Florida, like I said, I’ve gotten a weaker since they started, and they’re enforced at the time of the home being built or when the pools being built, but then that’s it. So, I know in our case, a lot of times, people would put the pool fence up get passed and then take it down which destroys me. I mean, it’s terrible we spend a lot of time trying to make sure we make a really nice pool fence and to know people are putting in their garage and never use it again. It sucks, you know. But yeah, so why do you think drowning, unlike you know, car accidents, unlike, you know, we’ll say, we’re in breast cancer awareness month, and you know, obviously everybody there,
Jenny: It’s not getting the attention that maybe it deserves right.
Eric: It’s the number one killer…
Jenny: Well, I have a couple theories on that. I feel like I had mentioned before, people are ashamed to talk about it if it’s happened to them. Also, you know, maybe pediatricians aren’t spreading the word about it as much as they should be. My own pediatrician hadn’t mentioned it and I know what we’re working on that with the AAP bringing that into more awareness, but I mean, they have so many things that they need to talk about and maybe here in Texas there are a lot of pools. So, it would be a good place to mention it but you don’t necessarily have to have a pool of your own in order for your child to be at risk for drowning.
Eric: Yeah, I couldn’t believe the results from Kerry study. I feel like I thought about every time but, you know, the fact that eighty-five percent of parents aren’t given any kind of water safety information from their pediatrician, that’s amazing.
Jenny: It can be as simple as a 30-second conversation. Like, I had written an article on PP CD about, I mean, you don’t even have to go into detail, you can, you know, do you have, you know, this is um toddlers are very busy and curious and they were drawn to the water, do you have a pool in your backyard or have a family member that does? And okay, what do you have in place? Do you have a fence? Do you have secure doors? What measures have you taken? And, maybe they’ll, you know, start a conversation and then you could just hand them a pamphlet; this is one that I made for the hospital that just has barriers listed in it, so you might get you thinking. I also shared my story on the back of it to show that it can happen to you; it happened to me and this is my son Jackson. Very cute, he looks a lot like my son Asher. They look very similar but… so that being said maybe it’s… feel like drowning is not as preventable as it really is; that it’s kind of out of our control, but we do have control over it. There are things we can do, we can teach them how to save themselves if they fall into the pool fully dressed, and that’s what is another survival based on lessons we’ll do.
Eric: Yeah, and then obviously, all the things we can do to make sure they don’t get to the pool in the first place.
Jenny: Oh yes, of course of course.
Eric: And, I …but I think we’re hopefully making some headway. I think the Internet’s helping, you know, I think that the work that we’re doing, that you’re doing in particular, towards reaching pediatricians is making it gonna make a big difference, you know, maybe in the next few years and I think results like the study from Kerry is kind of maybe open people’s eyes on, you know, just how little is being discussed in a professional setting. So, does PPCD have anything coming up event wise, or I know you guys are just getting started.
Jenny: We just started yes, we, you know, we have the AAP conference and that’s a big thing. We’re working on a brochure and it’s going to be standardized and we know that every nonprofit has one, but we felt like it was important for us to make one as well, just to represent who we are and then we want to fill the gaps that maybe don’t have a non-profit that speak out. I have a lot of friends in Colorado, a family in California, Ohio. So, I feel like they don’t have to go through all the work of becoming a non-profit, but they can still represent PPCD because we’re parents and we’re, you know, we don’t have to be a non-profit to be involved it’s just about getting the information out there, maybe dropping off the pamphlets at a pediatrician office, at a hospital, you could speak at an event or host a booth at a community event if needed. But it’s just about bringing people together and I, you know, I started looking into when I started looking into what is out there for drowning prevention, bringing people together that’s not so corporate. I wanted to find something that was like a Mothers Against Drunk Driving for drowning, you know, these… those moms got gotten mad and they were in the legislature, you know, they lost a child somebody drinking and driving and everything they got laws changed, major laws and people listened to them. So, I felt like we needed to band together and become a big voice and get out there with more public service announcements and things like that as well. So, that’s kind of on my radar to maybe do ads online or some sort of PSA commercial.
Eric: Well, I think it’s great and, you know, I think the more voices we have you know, talking about it, the better right. I mean, I wish towards a billion organizations, you know, is the more I have going on. Then, obviously, the more is getting out there, the more people involved you know, that the better it is. And, I love your website by the way, it’s awesome. It’s really well done, I was impressed. I went down and checked out who made it so I could…
Jenny: Yeah, oh it’s Sarah.
Eric: Yes, she’s good. No, they came out really nice. But in addition to the water safety, I told you I wanted to talk a little bit about the other things that you encounter in the ER, especially dealing with Pediatrics because, you know, we talk a lot about water safety in general but I don’t usually get a chance to talk about, you know, other areas and you had mentioned in your email to me about SIDS that you have seen a lot of since cases this summer. I have the summer has been pretty hard in our emergency room with babies and, you know,
Jenny: It would…we hear quite a bit about SIDS properly more about than… about drowning.
Eric: Actually, in the news and from Dockers, but if it’s still happening, why do you think it’s still buy that, why this summer, why in general,
Jenny: You know, I’m not sure why this summer, I feel like people are still making the same mistakes as far as sleeping or maybe falling asleep in a chair with their child when they fall asleep and their child’s asleep, then they’re, you know, they’re holding them in their arms. It can include their airway where they’re not getting any breathing and they can’t position themselves to open it back up. So, they can become asphyxiated or suffocate, also big fluffy blankets and the cribs with them sleeping with a parent in bed. So, it’s about teaching safe sleeping habits for these children having a firm mattress without anything else in there; just no pillows or blankets or anything. Yes, so I know that those things contribute to it, but sometimes it is something that’s, you know, you can’t prevent with the SIDS. As well, it could be a congenital heart defect that you don’t know about, or it could be a variety of things. But, the things that you can prevent are definitely important because I took care of a baby that was sleeping in a chair with a dad, one that was sleeping in a bed taking a nap with a grandpa and the grandpa rolled over on top of the baby. I’ve had one this summer that the babysitter had laid down the child on a bed of full-sized bed and let her take a nap there and then checked on her a half hour later and noticed that she was blue, when she was cold,and she was laying on top of a big fluffy comforter facedown. So, once they start rolling, it can create some more hazards as well. So, if they’re in bed, I’ve had babies that have rolled in off the bed and actually broken their leg by hitting a nightstand on the way down. It’s about, you know, keeping the baby safe and not letting them sleep on their car seat especially if you unbuckle that car seat. But, it’s great it’s a great way to get your baby to fall asleep sometimes. If you’ve got no other options driving around in the car right, but then, you need to take the baby out and put him somewhere safe. If you just, if you unbuckle it and they slide down, they get their neck cranked up in a position that they can’t breathe, it’s very dangerous.
Eric: Yeah, I know there was one of those recently and I saw this in the news and I shared it on Facebook, and you know, I know a lot of people that you know bring the car seat in Freeman’s, you know, from the car may be sleeping. They don’t wanna mess it up right, and I don’t think people quite appreciate the possibility there.
Jenny: Yeah, we have to make sure you know, when you take the car seat out of the car you have to make sure that the angles right – I mean, there’s a base that you can put it in and make sure it’s angles right. So, when you’re driving around, it’s a safe position but once you take it out and it’s not in that same angle, say it’s tilted one way more than the other, it could be dangerous.
Jenny: Even with the strap on.
Eric: Yeah, even with a strap on. Mm-hmm yeah, absolutely. Yeah, because the base does all the work in the car, you take it out then what are you relying on, just you’re grounded. So, you’d say that the main things for SIDS are sleeping related stuff.
Jenny: I mean, and that’s… and I think the research has shown, I mean, that’s when you find the child unresponsive. So, but it means like, I said it could be something medically wrong that you just didn’t know about until afterwards, but we get we get parents bringing in their child all the time and when they by the time they make it to the ER, they look fine but at home, maybe they had a period where they didn’t breathe or they turned blue. We call those apparent life-threatening events or all-ts and we still take those very seriously and do a workup on them to find out, you know, if they do have an underlying medical condition that could lead to accidents. But, it’s definitely about, you know, safe sleeping as well, making sure that they don’t, you know, put a heavy blanket over their head or roll on to something and suffocate. Could also be, you know, crib bumpers if you know a lot of parents let their child sleep in those rocking place that are inclined, if they slide down that a certain way and their neck secludes their airway, because their airway is only the size of their pinky finger right. So, if you look at the little baby and if you turn their head a certain way where it’s closed off and they can’t, they’re not strong enough to lift their head yet, it’s dangerous.
Eric: Parent don’t think about that quite as much as they should, probably, you know, uh-huh so besides SIDS, is there anything else that you see a lot of that, you know,
Jenny: Injuries, you know, toddlers on trampolines cause a lot of broken legs.
Eric: Thanks. Yeah,
Jenny: Kids on the monkey bars cause a lot of wrist fractures so when they fall down they’ll catch themselves with their wrists and they usually end up breaking both of them, you know, things like that. Just kids being kids. Swallowing things that they’re not supposed to…
Eric: Yeah, we just started a new website childTVstore.coms that we’re hoping to prevent a lot of those, you know, less serious but obviously preventable, you know, in-home accidents, you know. Yes, anyways well thing I know you wanted to do around this time, so we’re perfect. I know you’re on your way to work too, so we’ll let you do that okay.
Jenny: Well thank you,
Eric: I really appreciate it. The website for PPCD is what is it?
Jenny: We’re on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram, but I’m not the best at those social media yet. So, I’m still working on adding but we do want your support and I don’t… we don’t mean just money, we want people to be involved and to help us out donate your time via voice and share your stories about why drowning prevention is so important to you. So, please, please comment on our Facebook and reach out to us. You can email us at email@example.com.
Eric: Well, thank you so much, I really, really appreciate it!
Jenny: All right, thank you!