Dear Laura and John,
I read an article about your philanthropy efforts and although I don’t have a business or a world changing idea, I thought I would write to you about something that could make a huge difference in hundreds of thousands of lives… nearly 800,000 lives in the United States. The program I am talking about is Project Lifesaver.
July 7, 2005, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and named him Mason Allen Medlam. I noticed fairly quickly that Mason wasn’t reaching milestones on time. He was listless and never slept. He had a difficult time holding his head up, rolling over, sitting, crawling. I took him in for tests and the ultimate result was that he was severely autistic.
Mason was an incredible child. It took him three years to understand how to walk. He received assistance from Rainbows United and they put him on a treadmill and moved his feet. You could see the second that he figured out what they were doing. All of the sudden, his eyes lit up and he began to move his feet independently. From that moment on, he never walked when he could run.
Mason was completely nonverbal, yet that never seemed to stop him from telling us how much he loved life. He laughed like the Pillsbury dough boy, he cried if Spongebob cried, he wouldn’t give you a regular kiss, but he would grind his chin against you in his version of a kiss. He would take you by the hand to show you what he wanted. He climbed everything. The higher we put things, the higher he climbed. He was completely fearless, and that scared me. I knew he was completely unaware that anything in the world could hurt him. In five years and 22 days, I never slept more than a foot from him. I was absolutely terrified that he would somehow get away and get hurt. I was right.
One night in July, our air conditioner broke down. It was so hot. I went to the store and bought fans and we slept in the sun room because it had a window ac unit. I put fans in several windows, opening them about eight inches. I fell asleep that night holding Mason’s hand. The next morning I went to work. I almost stayed home because I was worried about the kids, but my oldest daughter, who was 22, was home and I figured if it got really hot I would come home around noon and take them swimming. I never made it to noon. At 10 am I got a call that Mason was missing. He had pushed a fan and the screen out of a bedroom window. I called 911 while I rushed home. When I arrived, there were about thirty first responders looking for Mason, but there was no sense of urgency. I had repeatedly asked 911 to relay to the first responders that there was a pond across the street. I wanted them to go there and rule it out because it was the only real hazard near our home.
When I arrived, I immediately noticed no one was at the pond searching. I drove straight there, got out of my car and saw something pink in the water. At first I thought it was a piece of paper, but then I knew it was my son. I began screaming his name. I plunged into the water and pulled him out. His nose and mouth were blue. I started CPR and all I could think is, “How am I going to get all this water out of him?”
First responders took over CPR minutes after I started. They were able to get Mason’s heart to beat again, but it stopped for the final time two days later. My darling boy, who only lived 5 years and 22 days had died.
Mason was missing for seventeen minutes. The doctors told me that he had probably been drowned for about two minutes before I pulled him from the water. First responders were on the scene for fifteen minutes while my son was splashing, moving deeper and finally drowning in that dirty pond water.
Autism has become an epidemic. 1 out of every 88 children is placed on some level of the spectrum. Nearly 92% of autistic children are prone to wandering. The leading cause of death among autistic children that wander is drowning. Since Mason died, there have been close to seventy other autistic children that I know about (there may be more not reported by the media) that have wandered and died. Mason’s face is just one of many I see when I close my eyes at night. I carry each loss with me every day.
Project lifesaver is a program that utilizes a small, waterproof, personal transmitter that emits a radio frequency. First responders are able to track that frequency with pinpoint accuracy to whomever is wearing the transmitter. The transmitter can not be removed. The battery life is about forty days and first responders change the batteries once a month, familiarizing themselves with the recipients and the recipients with first responders. They have had nearly 3000 rescues and a perfect success rate.
The reason I am writing you is this program costs money to be implemented. They offer so much. The bracelets work. Project Lifesaver also trains all the first responders that are in the counties that have the program. This is so essential. My son died literally surrounded by helping hands. There were thirty first responders within 100 feet of him and that overgrown pond. They were using traditional means to search for my nonverbal, autistic son… yelling his name, scanning the horizon. They didn’t understand HOW to look for a nonverbal autistic child, and that cost Mason his life.
I don’t have the funds to realize my dream of seeing this program utilized nationwide. I wish I did. If I had the money, I would put it in every town, every county, every state and consider my money well spent if it saved the life of one autistic child, because I know what a horrific, disgusting, awful tragedy it is to know that you will have to live the rest of your life without your beautiful child beside you.
I have only asked one thing in all this time since Mason died. I have asked for people to be aware, to understand autism, to know that wandering or elopement is an actual symptom of autism and that most autistic children, no matter where they are on the spectrum, lack any danger awareness whatsoever. Now I am asking for a second thing. I am asking you to consider this lifesaving program for your philanthropy work. It is the only piece of technology that could have lead first responders directly to my son. I wish I would have known about it before Mason paid the ultimate price, but I didn’t. I do now, and I’ve made it my goal and mission to see it utilized by all those beautiful souls who cannot see the dangers and darkness in the world.
Thank you for your time,
4260 N 183rd St W
Colwich, KS 67030
By the way, Mikaela Lynch, a nine year old autistic girl, wandered on Mother’s day. Her body was found three days later in a nearby creek. Owen Black went missing yesterday in Florida. He has not been found yet, but we are praying he’s not in the water.