Project Lifesaver (2)

Four-year-old Jamie of Gardiner wears a personal transmitter bracelet as a part of Project Lifesaver. Photo provided by his mother Gabby.

Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare

For those few minutes I couldn’t breathe, the air wouldn’t move in my lungs, my heart beat wildly. The screams of my son’s name were so loud in my ears, I could barely register that it was me screaming. It’s every parent’s WORST nightmare. My son was lost at a very large county fair and he was only three.

Thankfully I found him safe and sound. It was however one of the single scariest moments of my life. Now imagine that these moments are not so few and far between. Imagine for a moment, the fear and dread of waking up each day not knowing if your child will wander away and get hurt, abducted or worse. This is the everyday reality for Gabby of Gardiner.

Finding Help For Individuals Who Wander

Her four-year-old son Jamie has Autism, which makes him prone to wandering away. “He takes off at any opportunity,” Gabby explains. He no longer tries to get out of the house, but he has tried to take off for the woods or for bodies of water like when we go to the beach. He’ll take off in a split second. He takes no notice of cars in parking lots. I have to hold his hand every second we’re out.”

Thankfully someone reached out to Gabby to tell her about Project Lifesaver, an ankle monitoring system for kids and adults with Down syndrome, Autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia or other cognitive conditions which make them likely to wander away from their homes. Immediately she started making calls and eventually got a hold of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office who was able to admit her son to the program.

It took a few months to set up. Though there is a cost associated with participating in the program, she received a grant and the Sheriff’s Office took care of the paperwork for her.

Her son wears an ankle bracelet that emits a unique frequency. They have transmitters in all the Sheriff’s cars and a file with her son’s photo and all of his information is kept with the dispatcher, ready to relay to all officers responding to the call if he goes missing. The officers shoot a transmitter gun to send a ping to his bracelet and it only pings in the direction that he is heading.

Peace of Mind Through Project Lifesaver

 An officer calls her once a month just to check in with her to see how the program is going. “It’s a great peace of mind for me because I know that if anything happens, I can call the Sheriff’s office right away and they know exactly what to do,” Gabby explains.

Gabby wants other moms to have the same peace of mind, which is why she reached out to me to write about this amazing program. It’s her hope that other parents who also live with this constant fear can finally breathe deeply or sleep soundly at night, knowing their child can be found quickly if he or she gets lost.

For more information about Project Lifesaver or to find out if the program exists in your area go to www.projectlifesaver.org.

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