An interview with psychologist and researcher, Dr. Nancy Kassam-Adams about children’s medical experiences as a source of PTSD. Nancy, gave helpful suggestions for how parents can identify trauma in their kids after painful medical procedures or hospitalizations. She told a story of a child injured in a hit and run car accident, where the parents greatest difficulty had to be coming to terms with an adult who could leave her child, and the child’s biggest fear had to do with waking up alone at night in the hospital. We especially talked about the ways that hospitals are moving to make pediatric care more “trauma informed” (sensitive to the possibility of trauma), working not to separate children from their parents, and measuring the D, E, F’s of care: remember to assess and treat Distress, provide Emotional Support and, to include the Family. Nancy described an innovative program to treat adolescent cancer survivors and their families. Lastly, she offered two resources: www.aftertheinjury.org for parents, and www.healthcaretoolbox.org for professionals.
An interview with film-maker Nancy Andrews about her experience as a patient in the surgical ICU. Nancy describes the ICU as a torture chamber, where if you didn’t know they were saving your life, you’d think they were trying to kill you. She describes becoming delirious under the influence of painkillers and sedatives, and gives a vivid description of the hallucinations and fears that followed. Upon her release from the hospital Nancy noticed that she kept having “weird experiences”as if she was back there,” which her doctor fortunately recognized as flashbacks from PTSD. Nancy’s film, On a Phantom Limb, explores the horror and disorientation of being an ICU patient. She says that while she is “unable to bear watching scenes of surgery or the physical restraint of others, making a film about it was empowering because I was in full control of the film, in ways that I was out of control as a patient.” She is passionate about getting the message out that PTSD after the ICU is common, and that early identification and treatment can make a tremendous difference.