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Award Recipients

Brynn Duncan and Family Selected as the 2009 MN-AAP Child Advocacy Award Recipients

Brynn Duncan and Family were awarded the Child Advocacy Award with a presentation Speech by Dr. Megan Jennings, June 11th, 2009.

In August 2008, the Duncan family's life changed when their daughter Brynn was involved in a serious car accident with her grandmother in Fergus Falls, MN. Her injuries warranted a transfer from the Merit Care hospital in Fargo to Hennepin County Medical Center where her team of doctors and nurses saw the family through ICU, surgeries and rehab. The severe injuries caused by the lapbelt of her seatbelt included: damage to her kidney and small intestine, and a dislocated backbone that left her paralyzed waist down. "If there are barriers, I know Brynn will fight to break those barriers," said Cody Duncan, Brynn's father. "That's her spirit." It is also the Duncan family spirit.

The Duncan family had to sell their home in Moorhead for one to fit Brynn's wheelchair. Her older sisters helped make the transition smoother and were also legislative champions. They mobilized letter writing campaigns in their school so that legislators heard from greater Minnesota kids who were concerned about this law and its impact on their siblings. They asked why legislators did not support the bill. The Moorhead community and northwest region of the state became aware of this legislation due to their local heroes- the Duncan girls and others who were championing the cause. Dixie Duncan and Brynn's grandmother were active in providing testimony in both the Senate and House to carry the message to legislators.

Dixie Duncan sat next to her eight-year-old daughter, now confined to a wheelchair, and offered the House committee a mother's plea. "Pass this law for Brynn," Dixie Duncan pleaded to a Senate committee of the booster seat legislation. Brynn's mother, Dixie, told House and Senate committees that the law could save lives and serious injury. The bill passed both House and Senate committees and the full House and Senate.

Brynn's parents do not want other young children to endure what Brynn had to experience. Minnesota's current child restraint law states children ages four and older can be restrained in a seat belt. By following the law, Brynn's grandmother thought she was doing what was safest. Forty-three (43) other states have the stronger booster seat requirement, not a law that was crafted 26 years ago before booster seats were developed. Had Brynn been in a booster seat with the adult seat belt in its proper place on her body this excruciating ordeal could have been prevented. They believed that our Minnesota kids deserved an improved child passenger safety law with the protections offered by other states. They championed this legislation in 2009. Brynn Duncan will not benefit, but her family hopes this new law will prevent what happened to the Moorhead girl from happening to others.

Governor Pawlenty signed the bill into law on May 15th requiring children up to 8 years old and 4 foot 9 inches tall use proper child restraint systems, such as booster seats. Current law requires child restraints for children younger than 4.

Each year the MN chapter of the AAP chooses an individual or individuals in Minnesota who go above and beyond their everyday routine to advocate for the health and welfare of children in the state of Minnesota. For this remarkable family, who have provided inspiration to children, families and health care providers statewide, we say thank you. We present you with the 2009 Child Advocacy Award from Minnesota Pediatricians.

     
     
 

Booster Seat- Community letter

AAA Minnesota/Iowa & Safe Kids Minnesota
Support Enhanced Child Restraint Legislation
"The Brynn Duncan law" 

Op-Ed by:

Randy Williams, president of AAA Minnesota/Iowa
Erin Petersen, coordinator of Safe Kids Minnesota 

Burnsville, Minn. – (Jan. 6, 2009) – Minnesota's legislature soon will have the opportunity to follow the example of 43 other states and strengthen our state's child restraint law. We hope the legislature will capitalize on this opportunity because traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children over the age of one in Minnesota. In addition, 624 Minnesota children suffered crash-related injuries requiring medical attention in 2006.

This past summer, seven-year-old Brynn Duncan from Moorhead became the definitive illustration of a child who would have benefited from a stronger child restraint law in Minnesota. On Aug. 18, 2008, Brynn was restrained with only a seat belt, since that's all the law requires, while riding with her grandmother. Because the adult seat belt did not fit properly, the lap portion rode up above her hips and onto her stomach. Brynn had placed the shoulder portion of the adult seat belt behind her back as children of this age and size often do to prevent it from resting on their faces.

When the vehicle she was riding in was involved in a crash, the impact snapped Brynn's body in half. Because the top portion of the seat belt was not in place, her spinal cord was badly injured. Because the lap portion of the seat belt was not on her hips, her internal organs were catastrophically damaged.

The initial damage to Brynn's body was a torn spinal cord, a severed intestine, a bruised heart and a damaged kidney. While in surgery, Brynn's kidney, appendix and gall bladder were removed. In addition, Brynn suffered immense pain, depression, severe fevers and infections. Weeks went by as her survival lay in the balance. For 82 days, Brynn went from one hospital to the next, one surgery to the next, fighting to survive. Eventually, Brynn was sent home with substantial, life-long injuries.

Minnesota's current child restraint law states children ages four and older can be restrained in a seat belt. By following the law, Brynn's grandmother thought she was doing what was safest. Consistent with her assumption, a recent AAA study found that the majority of parents rely on their state's legislation to guide them on how to restrain their child in a vehicle. 

However, seat belt use at age four is not the best practice. Research conducted by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia indicates that appropriate child restraints (that is, booster seats) reduce the injury rate in car crashes by 59 percent over adult seat belts used alone.

AAA Minnesota/Iowa and Safe Kids Minnesota are calling for improved child passenger safety legislation to provide children ages four to eight with the proper protection. For most children in this age range, this means making use of a small and portable backless booster seat ranging in price from $13-$20. The function of a booster seat is simply to raise the child up enough so the lap belt rides low on the hips and the shoulder portion crosses the shoulder – where it should.

Brynn's parents do not want other young children to endure what Brynn had to experience. Our Minnesota kids deserve an improved child passenger safety law with the protections offered by 43 other states, not a law that was crafted 26 years ago before booster seats were developed. Had Brynn been in a booster seat with the adult seat belt in its proper place on her body this excruciating ordeal could have been prevented. 

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