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March 2nd, 2009
03:29 PM ET

Booster seat battles when she’s not a baby any more

By Jo Parker
CNN.com producer video/news

“Keep your kids in booster seats until they are 4-foot-9 and 60 pounds.”

Finally, vindication in the form of a public service announcement. I’ll take support anyplace I can get it!

As my daughter got closer to 8 years old, I’d felt increasing pressure from other parents to ditch her booster seat and let her ride with just an adult seat belt. “None of her friends will be in a booster seat,” they warned. “Will she be using a booster seat on dates?”

Is it just me, or does that sound an awful lot like, “C’mon! All the kids are doing it!”?

We’ve faced the pressure before. First to give her solids before she was 6 months old. (“Will she be breastfeeding in kindergarten?”) Then to turn her car seat to face forward before she was 20 pounds. (“How can she enjoy the ride if she can’t SEE?”) Then to let her play outside without a parent. (“But she’ll be with other kids – they can watch each other!”)

Now that she’s 8, state laws no longer protect her in the car seat department. No state insists that a parent measure an 8-year-old to ensure an adult belt fits properly (over the hips, not tummy and across the shoulder, not neck).

However, many of those states don’t even mandate that children ride in the back seat, even though the risks of that are well documented – and automakers post warnings about the dangers of children riding in the front seat right on the sun visors of vehicles.

Don't get me wrong - I know that adults around today survived without car seats. My childhood trips were spent sandwiched between brothers Roger and Mike trying desperately not to vomit while breathing in cigarette fumes. The one trip I didn't spend vomiting was when four of us rode from Illinois to Florida in the back of a pickup truck.

I’d looked at research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that showed kids in booster seats had 59 percent fewer injuries than children using just seat belts.

And my daughter is on the small side, just under 50 inches tall and 45 pounds. She’ll be in that booster seat for a long time to come.

During those years, I guess we’ll be wrestling with when it’s OK to drop her off at a movie, leave the building when she’s at ballet practice and let her go to a boy-girl party. And don’t get me started on dating.

I’ll try really hard to not criticize parents who aren’t as conservative on these issues as I am, and I hope they’ll give me the same latitude (and, maybe, a bit less attitude?) as I keep her a bit closer to the nest.

What about your kids? Do you think it’s worth risking social stigma to keep them in booster seats until seat belts fit properly? Or are parents like me just being too overprotective?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


January 12th, 2009
12:04 PM ET

Getting the call to donate marrow

By Jo Parker
CNN.com producer video/news

The outside of the envelope carried an urgent message: "You're a preliminary bone marrow match."

It'd been about 13 years since I'd joined the National Bone Marrow Registry (www.marrow.org). I'd given a few vials of my blood for testing and then eagerly waited to be called. For a while, I wondered each day whether that would be The Day that I'd get the chance to give my marrow to a stranger in need.

I wanted to do it for Crystal Bradshaw, a bright-eyed South Carolina toddler I met as a reporting intern back in 1985. The 3-year-old had leukemia, and I was assigned to write a story about her family's attempts to raise money for a bone-marrow transplant. As a reporter, I was supposed to maintain an objective distance, but Crystal and her parents and grandparents touched my heart. Before leaving the state for graduate school, I wrote about Crystal's plane trip to her transplant and a possible new life.

I threw myself into school and tried to forget about Crystal. But every so often, I would wonder: Did the transplant work? Is she cancer-free? Did her bouncing curls grow back as beautiful? But I deliberately did not find out what happened to her. I was afraid I would hear things I didn't want to hear.

In 1992, I signed up to become a bone marrow donor. As the technician took my blood, I thought of Crystal and once again wished her well in my heart. If I could just help someone like her, I thought, I would do anything.

As the months passed, the excitement of volunteering faded. I began to feel that my blood must be the most common out there. Why else wouldn't they call?

But each time I moved, I remembered to update my contact information. After all, they still had vials of my blood and might still make a match.

Months turned into years. I married and started a family. I gave birth to my own bright-eyed little girl and banked her cord blood on the off-chance she would one day need it for a lifesaving transplant. Three years after that, a baby boy completed our family. Teddy had his own health issues – allergies to eggs, milk, wheat and nuts – but I was thankful that I hadn't had to face a serious illness like leukemia.

When my youngest was 8 months old, the call came asking me to follow through on the promise I’d made, to consider helping someone in need.

All the donor coordinator could tell me was that I was a preliminary match for a 14-year-old girl with leukemia. Would I be willing to have additional testing to see if I matched in two additional ways?

"Absolutely," I said. "How could someone refuse?"

She said that people often change their minds. Their lives change and they are no longer willing. Some are no longer able because of disability or pregnancy. That’s why the patient isn’t told about a potential match until the donor passes all tests and agrees once again to donate.

I could barely contain my excitement as I had additional blood drawn. I’d already matched on four "markers," and they would be testing two more. I prayed they would match. I prayed for the 14-year-old stranger. And I prayed for Crystal.

The results of the tests were mixed. I matched on one marker, but not the other. The teenager would not get my marrow. I was crushed.

The donor coordinator told me that the additional testing will help things progress more quickly if I’m called again. She thanked me for being willing and said it was possible the girl would find another donor.

And so I settled in to wait for another call. Remembering Crystal’s curls, I bided my time by growing my hair long and donating 10 inches to Locks of Love, which makes free wigs for children who lose their hair after chemotherapy. Maybe it will help another little girl get over the loss of her bouncing curls.

Today Crystal Bradshaw would be in her 20s. Regardless of her fate, her life has had an impact. If I’m ever a final match for someone, that person will owe it all to Crystal.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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