Posts Tagged ‘ children’s hospital ’

Has Your Child Been to the Emergency Room Yet?

Monday, April 21st, 2014

There’s really nothing to shave a few hours off your life like a medical emergency with your child, is there?

In short, my 8-year-old is fine (thank goodness). She’s a healthy kid who’s avoided any catastrophes thus far. Her big brother, on the other hand, has stamped his emergency-room card three times.

So I was only mildly concerned when in the bathroom at a Cracker Barrel restaurant near our hotel—we were on a quick getaway—my girl suddenly wasn’t feeling well. As I steered her out of the restroom towards the exit for some air, she stumbled in the gift shop and collapsed, all dead weight, in my arms that fumbled to break her fall to the floor. Panicked, I went into Boss Mom mode, looking up to the nearest stranger and asking him to go get my husband, who was outside with my other two. We carried our girl outdoors and she lay on a bench, her brow sweating and her eyes rolling back in her head. While we had a quick discussion about getting her into our minivan and where the nearest hospital was, the kind staff at Cracker Barrel offered to call the medics for us. My daughter was just regaining her color and coming to when a squad car, a red fire truck, and an EMS vehicle all showed up, lights flashing and sirens wailing. I smoothed away the hair from her face as I cradled her head in my lap. “Can you believe this is all for you?” I whispered to her, mock wide-eyed, and she cracked a smile, to my relief.

Working at Parents I have exposure to so much helpful knowledge and am a pretty swift thinker in an emergency. But it can be hard to make smart decisions when it’s your kid if you’re scared and in an unfamiliar place. While we probably would have driven to the ER of the closest hospital, I’m glad the emergency medical technicians were there to guide us a few extra minutes away to the pediatric emergency room of Virtua Voorhees hospital, a New Jersey affiliate of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (CHOP was among Parents“10 Best Children’s Hospitals,” an excellent story by my colleague Karen Cicero.) Picking a child-friendly ER if possible is the number-one piece of advice in a story Parents previously published, “20 Things to Know Before Taking Your Child to the ER.” My big girl got a lift via stretcher into the ambulance, where I sat on a bench beside her. My husband followed with my 11-year-old, who worried quietly, and my 2-year-old, who cried because she of course wanted to ride in the ambulance, too. At the emergency room, we were seen quickly, received excellent care, and with a toddler up past her bedtime, I was grateful for even the small things that kept her occupied, like a wood puzzle on the wall. This visit—child-focused, efficient, attentive—was nothing like the five hours I once spent with my oldest years ago in the general emergency room of a large city hospital.

We have it lucky—our daughter’s OK. For that and the kindness of strangers who helped us, I’m extremely grateful. On the dark ride back to our hotel, we were even able to smile about it, remembering that Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, one of our favorite stories, is also a “fainter.”

Now we know if my daughter feels this way again, we should have her immediately lie down, or sit. (It’s like the first time your child needs stitches, your stomach twists helplessly in knots. The second time, you call the plastic surgeon, whose number you’ve conveniently saved in your contacts list.) I’ll be following up with our pediatrician, and remembering to inquire about where the closest pediatric emergency room is the next time we need to go. I’d like to think there won’t be a “next time,” but then again, we have children, so….

Have you been to the ER with your child? What was your experience like?

Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns

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Their First “Normal” School Year

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Emma Whitehead is 8. Alannah Shevenell is 11. And until this September, neither girl—whose families I interviewed for Parents 10 Best Children’s Hospitals story—ever had a “normal” school year. Or a normal much of anything. The summer before kindergarten, Emma was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It’s typically one of the easiest cancers to treat. But after months of chemo, she relapsed twice and ended up being the first child in the world to have her body’s own infection-fighting T Cells re-programmed to attack her leukemia cells—a treatment developed at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Read more about it here. Her ordeal caused her to missing a lot of kindergarten, all but six weeks of first grade, and much of the fall of second grade.

Alannah also had an uphill battle. When she was 4, a tumor began growing and eventually engulfed her entire abdomen. After trying to fight it with chemo and surgery, oncologists starting discussing end-of-life care with Alannah’s grandmother, Debi Skolas. Then a transplant surgeon suggested removing Alannah’s damaged organs and replacing them with donated ones. It took about a year to find a match, and Alannah underwent a 14-hour surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital. She didn’t begin school until third grade—and even then it was just part-time. In between setbacks, she made it to class for some of fourth grade.

This year, both girls started school with their classmates, and their families are happily getting a taste of what it’s like to have to worry more about math tests than medical ones.(Emma’s first-day-of-school pic is at the top, while, at right, that’s Alannah on her first day.) Emma’s mom, Kari, told me yesterday: “We appreciate the little things we missed out on in the first few years, like watching her walk into school everyday and asking her about how it went when she comes home. Her biggest problems now are figuring out how to talk us into buying her a pet hamster and having sleepovers with her friends every weekend!” I also learned that Emma joined Girl Scouts—her first after-school activity.

Fifth-grader Alannah is taking up the flute, loved shopping for school clothes (the more bling, the better in her opinion), and is doing very well academically. Debi, who was a warrior in her granddaughter’s care, has now turned her energies to her education: “I’m running for school-board president this spring,” she told me. “After years of fighting to save Alannah, we are unwilling to drop the ball when it comes to her education.”

And one final update: More children with leukemia, who haven’t responded well to standard treatments, have received the T Cell therapy that Emma had at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And the results are incredibly hopeful. Eighty percent of these kids are cancer-free 28 days after the treatment!

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