Family hopes poisoning tragedy helps prevent others

GRANTS PASS — Sometimes good can come from tragedy, and that's certainly the hope for pastor Eric Keefer and his family.

Keefer's 16-month-old grandson Steven Lukas-Dean Hart died two weeks ago after swallowing a lethal dose of antihistamines.

The boy's father, Keefer's adopted son Patrick Hart, left Steven briefly to tend to his laundry, and when he returned it was too late.

"Two or three minutes is all it took," said Keefer, who is not affiliated with a church and has started his own Living Ministries.

Now Keefer wants to spread the word about the hazards of poisons that can be found in everyday items.

"We want no other family to suffer this loss if there is a chance to prevent a tragedy," he said.

In fact, that has been the family's focus since the disaster happened, so much so that Keefer isn't sure if the grief has sunk in completely.

"Obviously, it's devastating," he said, adding that the enormity of the tragedy likely will be felt at a memorial service on Sunday.

Meanwhile, even as he prepares for the memorial service Keefer keeps pushing to get his message out.

He points out that while child-resistant caps are resistant to a child opening them, they are not child-proof.

He can recite statistics and information from the websites of the National Poison Control and Oregon Poison Control centers.

He'll tell you that every year there are more than 2 million accidental poisonings in the United States and that 95 percent involve medications. There are 23,000 deaths a year from accidental poisoning, overuse of medication or ingestion of medicine by children.

Keefer gladly provides safety tips such as keeping potentially poisonous products in their original containers, keeping them out of reach of children, immediately putting them away and using locks on cabinets. He reminds people to use cautionary stickers on containers and to safely store all types of medications, sprays and fertilizers, and to keep emergency phone numbers handy just in case.

And Keefer advises people they can call 800-222-1222 for poison emergencies or information and that there is plenty of information on the Oregon Poison Control Center website,

But mostly he wants people to understand accidental poisoning can happen in their homes.

"We all have gone to the laundry room for a couple minutes to change the loads, stepped out to grab the paper or the mail, and in this day, many smoke outside the home," Keefer said.

"A couple minutes is all it takes for the poisoning to happen while a few dollars and a few hours is all it takes to prevent it."

Jim Moore is a reporter for the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Contact him at 541-474-3721.

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