My first job out of college was with Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the largest government consulting firms in the US. Within a few months of joining I was placed at the Department of Homeland Security. Having just formed, my first few months were filled with lots of hard work, access to senior leadership, and a huge number of new experiences and exciting opportunities. Loving every minute of what I was doing, I decided to apply for a graduate program specializing in Crisis, Emergency and Risk Management. My coursework included classes on natural disasters, crisis communications, managing complex scenarios, and problem solving. I continued in this line of work for another five plus years covering areas such as information security, business continuity, and third party risk management.
With that level of education and work experience I bet you are thinking I could handle any crisis scenario right? Absolutely not! When it comes to family, specifically seeing them in pain, I'm completely out of my element. To give you a sense of just how useless I am, I will quickly share a story from a few years ago.
It was Memorial Day weekend. Matt and I were in the yard getting ready for summer. We were taking the patio furniture out of the shed and cleaning up the yard. Matt stepped off the shed step awkwardly and fell, twisting his ankle in the process. He crumbled to the ground and I ran over to check on him. As soon as I looked at him and saw the pain in his eyes I passed out! Just like that I was falling to the ground. Matt, struggling with his own injury had to get up and make sure I was ok. Fast forward to this week and the focus of this blog.
After a long day at work I came home and found our littlest one Daniel crying and the report from the babysitter was that he was "off" and in “pain.” I kept him up a little later that evening to settle him down and keep an eye on him and he definitely wasn’t himself, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. He'd been constipated the day earlier so I gave him gas drops and prune juice, which seemed to help and put him to sleep. The next day he was still not quite himself but it wasn’t until I went to get him ready for his bath that I realized what was wrong. I'd taken his shirt off, but this time he wasn’t lying down he was standing on my bed and I was looking at him straight on. His right shoulder was sagging downward and he had some swelling and discoloration over his collarbone. It was late and our pediatrician's office was closed, so we headed to the one place in town that I remembered from the older boys that was still open. Unfortunately, over the last few years with all the walk-in orthopedic centers they no longer offered x-ray services. At this point I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes and I started arguing with Matt for no reason other than the fact I was nervous and the panic was setting in.
It was shortly after that moment I reminded myself that I had to be strong and panicking wouldn’t help an already stressful situation. I gathered myself and called the on-call pediatrician from our doctor's office. I explained what had happened, what I saw, and we agreed there was no need to do anything that evening and it would be exactly the same the next day, so the best course of action would be to go home and get Daniel ready for bed.
The next morning I woke up early, got the diaper bags ready with snacks, puzzles and books and we were on our way so we could be there when the pediatric orthopedic office opened. I set Daniel up with his puzzles and checked us in. After I finished with all the forms we headed back to the offices and waited for the doctor. The doctor agreed we needed x-rays. The first round of x-rays needed Daniel to lay on his back and pick his neck up so they could see his collar bone, while keeping his hands still by his side. I sang songs the whole time and after two pictures and a super cuddly teddy bear we were back waiting for the doctor. The good news was the collarbone was fine, but the bad news is we needed more x-rays to get a better look at the shoulder itself.
For this set he needed to be positioned with his back against the wall, followed by a 45 degree angle, which he would have to do all by himself because another person would block the image. Anyone who has toddlers will know that getting them to stand still is no easy task. I remained calm and focused on what I knew would keep Daniel occupied - Animals. We played guess the animal sound. I know it was only a few minutes but it felt like an eternity. Finally they got a clear shot and it was time to head back to the waiting room. The doctor came in and confirmed that he did have a chip in his shoulder and he would need to minimize any physical activity for the next two weeks.
The next few day’s were a bit of a blur. The focus was on Daniel and ensuring that he was not in pain and having fun, while relaxing enough to allow his shoulder to start healing. It was no small task, but not only did we make it through but everyone rallied together and stayed strong for Daniel and within a few days he was pretty much back to normal.
The moral of this story is that bad things happen and if they do happen to little children, we must remember they are incredibly resilient and will bounce back. We need to focus all our time and energy on doing everything we can to make those bad moments as perfect as possible and minimize the time we spend worrying about the what ifs and trying to change the things we can’t control.