With all the recent media attention surrounding the death of Florida youth Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old teen who died while holding nothing more threatening than a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea, we are struck most by the heart-breaking notion that his death, like so many others, was completely preventable.
So in honor of the many young lives needlessly cut tragically short, we’ve compiled a list of the top eight recent incidents where death could have easily been avoided. We do this in the respectful memory of those who have passed, gone but not forgotten, and in the hope to raise awareness.
8. Trayvon Martin, 17-years-old was shot and killed by self proclaimed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman under questionable circumstances. While we may never know exactly what occurred between the two parties on the night of February 26, 2012, one part of this horrible tragedy is a fact: when Zimmerman called 911 operators to report what he deemed a suspicious individual and admitted he was followed the boy, the operator expressly told George that they did not need him to do that. If he had only followed the instructions of the 911 operator the entire series of events that followed would have been avoided and Trayvon would most likely still be alive today.
7. Samantha Penn, 20-months-old, an infant from Stillwater, Oklahoma, died last year from severe infections her body could not fight off due to SCID – severe combined immunodeficiency disorder – most commonly known as the “bubble boy” disease.
SCID is most notably marked by the absence of T cells in the immune system and the lack of the ability to make antibodies. Children with the disease usually die at an early age unless they receive a bone marrow transplant.
Early detection and treatment measures to protect a baby by treating them before infections set in greatly improve their chances of survival, and luckily enough, the disease can be diagnosed soon after birth with a simple screening test that only costs about $5-6. Such a simple measure could have saved Samantha’s life. Unfortunately the majority of states in the U.S. do not perform the test in their newborn screening, and of those that do, Oklahoma was not among them.
6. Lennon Baldwin, 15-years-old, was a teenager from New Jersey who hanged himself last week because he was being bullied online via Facebook. One of his friends, Danny Perez said he didn’t know who the bullies were, “but apparently there was a group of kids terrorizing him.”
That the bullying was so severe to cause the pain for this poor boy to commit suicide, and that no one seemed to notice that anything was bothering him is beyond tragic. Bullying and harassment may not always be completely avoidable from the part of the victim, but suicide is.
Parents need to become more aware of what their kids are doing online, talk to their children about online interactions – including trolls and bullies – teach them how to use privacy settings and features like the block button to ignore unwanted comments, and most importantly, let their children know they are always there for them so they never have to feel like suicide is the only way out of a problem in their life.
5. Stephan Arceneaux III, 24-years-old, died Sunday in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, from a choke hold he received while wrestling with his 14-year-old cousin. Both Arceneaux and his cousin had apparently been watching “Wrestlemania 28” on pay-per-view, and began wrestling themselves.
Despite being ten years older, four inches taller, and 110 pounds heavier than his younger cousin, the youth managed to put him in a “rear naked choke hold” and squeezed his neck with his arm for about 30-40 seconds before those present became alarmed when Arceneaux began turning blue. His girlfriend attempted CPR and they called 911, but Arceneaux was pronounced dead by the ambulance that took him.
The young boy responsible for the choke hold said Arceneaux wouldn’t acknowledge defeat when they were wrestling around by tapping out, which was all he would have had to have done for the boy to stop per wrestling tradition. One can only assume that it was his pride that prevented him from doing so, something that would have easily prevented his own death.
4. Jonathan Jewth, 9-years-old, choked December 5th, 2011 on two meatballs in his school cafeteria as staff, who not paying attention at first, were unable to help. He was eventually taken to the hospital where he later died after having fallen into a coma and suffering severe brain damage. Reportedly the lunch staff did not attempt to aid the child, but instead screamed at the already unconscious boy to stick his own fingers down his throat and save himself.
Considering the commotion of a school lunchroom, the short time with which students are given to eat, and the high-risk choking hazard many food items that are standard in many children’s meals pose, you would think school staff should be prepared for the possibility of such an event and given basic first aid training. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics approximately one child dies every 5 days in the U.S. from choking on food. The death of this boy would have been easily prevented if at least one adult present had known how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
3. Amaria Johnson, 7-years-old, died on January 2nd, 2012 in Chesterfield County, Virginia, after suffering from an allergic reaction at her elementary school to a peanut product – despite the fact that the school had an allergy action plan in place for the child and was authorized to treat her with Benadryl during just such a reaction.
Although it’s unclear exactly why school officials didn’t administer care, it’s possible that it was due to not having the medicine on hand, which the school says is the parents responsibility to provide. Amaria’s mother, Laura Pendleton, had tried to give the school an Epipen earlier in the year for just such an emergency, but the clinical aid at the school declined to accept it and instead told her to keep it at home. Pendleton is also baffled how and why her child was given a peanut product to begin with when the school knew she had an allergy.
The senseless death of this young girl was entirely preventable, and would make any parent of a child with allergies worried about the policies that are supposed to be in place at schools to protect their kids.
2. Joey Kramer, 11-years-old, was hit by a train in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin while walking to school with his head down and ear buds in his ears listening to music. Apparently his hood was pulled up as well, also blocking his peripheral vision. Due to the combination of factors, he didn’t see or hear the train coming, despite the desperate attempts of the train crew to warn the child with the whistle as they saw him approaching the tracks.
We need to warn young people of the dangers of being unaware of their surroundings. Every child is taught from a young age to look before crossing the street. If you live near a train track, or in an area where trains pass through, it should be second nature to at least look down the track before crossing. This was completely avoidable and should not have happened.
1. And finally, Jill Soderberg, 22-years-old, died January 20th of last year from breathing difficulties caused by muscle relaxers and anxiety medication while in her home in Timra, Sweden, after three calls to emergency operators requesting an ambulance.
SOS Alarm emergency service had followed procedures which connected her call to county nurses before considering her ambulance request, which the nurses denied on the grounds that they deemed she was not ill enough to need one – despite the fact she had chest pains and was gasping for air – because she was “still talking” even though her speech was slurred. Exactly how you can call for an ambulance if you’re not able to talk is unclear.
Not only was this final death on our list preventable had emergency operators sent the ambulance, it should have been, because the woman was, in fact, doing the very thing that is supposed to prevent such a tragedy to begin with: calling for the help she needed.