As 2-year-old Eman Mageed clung to life yesterday at Inova Fairfax Hospital, area doctors expressed amazement that the little girl thus far has survived her 14-story fall from a window in her family's condominium.
Eman, who suffered massive internal injuries, was still listed in critical condition yesterday, more than 48 hours after Saturday's accident, hospital officials said.
"Fourteen stories," marveled Terry Adirim, an emergency room physician at Children's Hospital in the District, who said that falls from above five stories are usually fatal to children. "That's amazing if she does survive."
Fairfax County police say Eman leaned backward against a bedroom window screen in her family's apartment in the Skyline House Condominiums in Baileys Crossroads and plummeted 150 feet to the ground. Her mother, who was in the room, couldn't grab her in time, and Eman landed in a small patch of damp grass. Police are calling the child's fall accidental; no charges have been filed.
Hospital officials say that so far, they have seen no indication of spinal or brain damage to the child. "It is essentially a miracle in many ways that she's alive," said Troy Petenbrink, a hospital spokesman.
Neighbors say Eman landed in the grass between the apartment building and a small stand of trees, narrowly missing a swath of five- to 10-pound rocks set up as an erosion barrier.
Marie Beatty, 73, has lived in the building for 20 years, and heard the screams that followed Eman's fall.
"I thought it was children outside playing, and then I heard someone yelling, 'Should I call 911?' " Beatty recalled. "I thought someone was hit by a car. Then I saw her lying there. I'm on the fifth floor, and I thought, 'Oh God. I can't do anything for her.' "
Child-safety experts say parents wrongly assume that window screens will protect a child from falling, even though manufacturers make no such claim.
So far this year, Fairfax Hospital has treated 13 children younger than 5 who fell from windows, including one child who died as a result, Petenbrink said.
The National Safe Kids campaign said that an average of 18 children 10 and younger die annually in the United States after falling from windows and that about 4,700 children younger than 15 are treated in emergency rooms.
In 1988, a 4-year-old Arlington boy survived a fall from an 11th-floor apartment window in the Skyline Square apartment tower after apparently landing feet-first in shrubs.
Last year, a Herndon couple was awarded $15 million after their 13-month-old son suffered severe brain injuries when he fell through a window screen on their home's second floor. However, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the award against the screen manufacturer, ruling that it was not required to make the device a "childproof restraint."
Residents of the 17-story condominium building where the Mageeds live say its sliding, screened windows have long concerned them.
Ihab Asal said he moved out of the condominium two months ago because he thought his bedroom window and balcony were not safe. When the window was open, there was a large area that a child could fall through, he said, and the screens often would fall out during storms.
"It is very dangerous," he said. "It's not secure or strong enough. . . . I talked to the condominium people a long time ago, and no one listened to me."
Charles Roberts, president of the condominium owners association, said that he was not aware of Asal's complaint but that the association will look into ways of preventing such accidents.
"We've had a number of children grow up in this building," Roberts said. "We've had children raised here since infancy. I'd reject any assertion that this [building] is not safe for children or families with small children."
Staff writer Eric Wee contributed to this report.