MOON LAKE — When Joan Anderson began babysitting her grandsons, she and her husband, Arden, worked to childproof their home.
They covered electrical outlets, wrapped cords, raised knickknacks out of reach. Joan organized the toys for age-appropriateness — the youngest, Parker, was 11 months — and Arden built at 7-foot gate of PVC pipe to keep Parker from toddling out of view.
"My world revolves around these children. My house looks more like a nursery than an adult's home," Joan Anderson, 54, said this week. "We thought we were doing everything right."
But last week, as she tucked Parker into his crib after lunch, Anderson panicked. More than a dozen pills lay scattered around his crib. Under his blanket lay a 300-mg Soma muscle relaxant, moist and half dissolved.
Anderson realized that earlier in the day, as she was making him a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, Parker had rocked his crib a few inches to a file cabinet, shaken a drawer open and reached inside for her prescription pain medication.
Doctors had prescribed the pills to Anderson, who suffers from fibromyalgia and arthritis, after neck surgery in October. She kept the pills in small Tupperware bowls that were easier for her to open, locked in a file cabinet in a corner of her home office — the quiet room that houses Parker's crib.
Anderson called her son, James, and 911. Rescue workers flew Parker, awake and alert, to All Children's Hospital, where he was evaluated and released that evening. Doctors determined Parker hadn't actually swallowed any pills.
Social workers and sheriff's deputies went to investigate. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office determined it was a "tragic accident" and filed no charges. A deputy who inspected the home said he "found nothing to indicate the child's welfare was in jeopardy."
But as news accounts appeared online about a toddler in Moon Lake ingesting prescription drugs, some readers posting anonymous comments jumped to different conclusions.
Anderson, they said, was a "stupid redneck" and "pillhead." They likened her to a "strung-out" addict, neglectful of her own family. One reader commended the Tampa Tribune for printing her home address, "so the other pill heads know who to rob next."
"I understand that 90 percent of these (cases) are not accidents," Anderson said. "But when they are accidents. . . . No one even heard my side of this."
Days after the Jan. 4 scare, Anderson typed a letter to the St. Petersburg Times. She said the comments had "cut deep," that she had locked up her home "like Fort Knox," and that she now feared addicts might target her home to rob. She also issued a plea.
"I hope that other caretakers will take a closer look at what's in places they thought were safe," Anderson said. "Get down on the floor and look at it from a toddler's point of view."
On Monday, Parker was back at Anderson's home, playing with a train set. It was one of several "Oh-my-gosh-I-love-you-so-much gifts" Anderson had bought him in recent days. The next day marked a week since the accident, but also something else:
Parker's first birthday.
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 869-6244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.