I want to start this post by saying that I am okay! I realize that my entire head is bandaged, but I actually just had a small cut on the back of my scalp. The bandage goes around my entire head so that the gauze on my wound would stay there without someone holding it. I went ice skating with friends this past weekend and took a little spill about ten minutes into the afternoon. My feet went out from under me, my butt hit the ice and then my head. My first thought was, naturally, “darn, that’s embarrassing!” I wanted to get back up brush it off, but I quickly realized that was not possible. Although I did not pass out or become dizzy, I was very light headed. My friends dragged me over to the side of the rink, but I was able to walk off the ice and later walk to the car and into the hospital. So that definitely felt like an accomplishment! A nurse and a surgeon’s PA both came over after my fall and were very helpful in stopping the bleeding and taking care of me before the medics got there. While I was sitting on the ice withe everyone taking such good care of me, I quickly realized that you can’t turn off the child life specialist within you. I might not be certified yet, but I believe that I think and act like a child life specialist. I noticed that there were some kids in the group standing very close and trying to see. In my head, I wished that someone would engage them in interactive play away from here so they wouldn’t see all the blood. Since I couldn’t easily convey that to those around me, I tried to use an enthusiastic voice and suggest that they go ice skating some more. I might have been bleeding from my head, but I sure wasn’t going to let those children see the blood and get scared.
After the medics at the ice rink wrapped my head, our next stop was the emergency room. Now one of my strengths is communication and I talk A LOT when I’m nervous or when my adrenaline is rushing. I’ll let you imagine what the car ride was like…. One of the things that I later realized I did was prepared the others in the car for what might happen when we got there. But I think that I was actually trying to calm myself by walking everyone through the procedure. One of my practicum supervisors from this summer was an ER Child Life Specialist, so we spent a lot of time working with kids with lacerations. I knew the steps; numbing medication (probably EMLA cream since it was an open wound and a J-tip wouldn’t be practical), irrigation (the big syringe that washed your wound) and then the sutures. My friends must have thought I was crazy as I told them what each step would be and the associated sensations. Lucky for me, they are great friends and just listened as I blabbered on!
After the drive to the hospital came the fun part of waiting. The registration and triage went very quickly, but then we were sent back to the waiting room for what would be a four hour wait. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t turn off the child life specialist in me so I had Play-Doh in my purse that was nice to squeeze while waiting. As we were waiting, I tried to look around and imagine how it might look to an injured child. The hospital we went to was next door to a large Children’s Hospital, so this emergency department didn’t have anything for children as kids would be brought next door. But regardless of whether the hospital is a children’s hospital or not, there is always a wait time. And this wait time is a time of the unknown, a time to imagine what might be going on behind closed doors in the ER and also about how the doctor might decide to treat the wound.
After those four hours, I was admitted to an ER room and the doctor came in shortly after. He looked at the wound on the back of my head and then left to talk to his supervisor before they both returned to start fixing my head. While they were gone, the nurse brought in the supplies that they would be using. I had been wrong about how the doctor would take care of my head wound, and they actually used a numbing agent that is injected into the skin and they stapled my wound instead of doing stitches. But when the nurse brought in the supplies, I was able to identify them. I knew what the sterile water was for (irrigation), I recognized the irrigation kit and the large syringe, I knew that the small vial of medication was the numbing agent that would be injected and I could easily figure out which device was the stapler. But what if I hadn’t spent my summer in the hospital? What if I was a scared child who just saw a nurse bring in the supplies? As I named the items, I realized how important it is to properly prepare kids before procedures. Before my accident, I did know that preparation was important. But the experience of being the patient let me realize it’s importance from another point of view, the point of view of the child instead of the student who has studied stress, trauma and child development.
In the end, I only needed two staples for the one centimeter cut on the back of my head. While I’m glad I didn’t have a concussion and that it’s wasn’t more serious, a larger wound might have made a more dramatic story! But I can’t complain about how things worked out. 🙂 I’ve never been seriously hurt before this (and I realize that this injury wasn’t very serious either) but it did allow me to experience the hospital in a way that many children do each day. It allowed me an opportunity to grow in empathy towards those who are in the hospital, to those children that I hope to one day serve as a Certified Child Life Specialist.