Oregon Poison Center Helps Save Southern Oregon Toddler From Near Fatal Dose of Medicine

01/17/01  SELMA, Ore.

Editor's Note: Benjamin Rapley, 5, turned 6, Jan. 1. The family recently moved to Grants Pass.

 It's many parents' worst nightmare. You look away from your child for one second. You look back and see your child drinking a whole bottle of potentially fatal medicine.

This is exactly what happened to Bishara Rapley, 24, of Selma, the mother of three young children.

"I went to answer the phone or something. They got into the Tylenol. The bottle was empty. I was terrified." Rapley said.

They just had returned from the pediatrician's office where her youngest, six-month-old Gabriela, had some vaccinations. Rapley had taken a small bottle of bubble gum flavored children's Tylenol with her in the baby bag. Noel, 3, had swallowed most of the bottle.

Benjamin, 5, had only a sip of the medicine.

Rapley quickly phoned her pediatrician's office and was told to call the Poison Center at Oregon Health Sciences University.

A poison center registered nurse promptly answered the call and evaluated the potential risks for each of the children.

"They told us to get Noel to the hospital," Rapley said. Benjamin could be monitored at home.

Rapley's husband, Chris, 31, had just returned home. He rushed their daughter to the emergency room of Three Rivers Community Hospital, Dimmick Campus, in Grants Pass -- about 30 miles and at least 30 minutes away.

The poison center nurse called the emergency department ahead of the Rapleys' arrival to give information and treatment recommendations for Noel.

At the hospital, the Rapleys were told that if Noel weighed five pounds less, their daughter could have died.

"They said they had just had a child die because of this. I was pretty shaken up," Bishara Rapley said.

After being treated in the emergency department, Noel was allowed to go home. The Oregon Poison Center later followed up with a phone call to the Rapley home to check on Noel and Benjamin.

Both children have recovered, but the Rapleys still remember the scare they had, and also the help they received from the Oregon Poison Center.

"What a valuable resource that is. I never knew the poison center existed. I never thought we'd need it. When we called, they were so professional. They were right there with the answers," Chris Rapley said.

Although many families like the Rapleys have poison-proofed their homes, it only takes a second for a crisis to happen.

"They know not to get into medicines. We keep them up high. But, this time the Tylenol was down low. I know a lot of kids get into this stuff. They're curious. It's just the age," Bishara Rapley said.

Her call was one of almost 55,000 calls a year, or 150 calls a day, to the Oregon Poison Center. Of those, 57 percent involve children, said Oregon Poison Center director Sandy Giffin, R.N., B.S.N., M.S. Children age six or younger, like the Rapley children, most often are the victims of poisonings. Medicine is the number one poisoning agent.

About 80 percent of their calls are home-managed, which helps keep health care costs down, Giffin said.

In addition to responding to crisis calls, the poison center also is involved in poison prevention programs.

The poison center is staffed 24 hours a day, every day. There are 18 specially trained registered nurses and eight physicians who support the center. It operates on a budget of $1,095,956 in 1998-99, the bulk of which is paid for by OHSU, Giffin said. The center provides poison response, education and information throughout Oregon and northern Nevada.

If you suspect a poisoning immediately call, 503 494 8968; outside of Portland at 800 452-7165. For more information, visit the OPC Web site: http://www.ohsu.edu/poison