At the Level I pediatric trauma center where I work, my colleagues and I are used to dealing with whatever accidents and injuries roll through the door. The work can be terrifying, inspiring, heart-wrenching and thrilling — sometimes all at once.
One memorable shift, however, was notable for how routine it was.
The emergency department had warned the pediatrics staff of a motor vehicle crash that sounded bad: A family’s vehicle had rolled multiple times and was totaled. Three of the four passengers were being admitted to the hospital.
As we started to prepare for the patients, more details emerged. Turns out the vehicle was new, which means it was in top condition. It also means that its safety features — LATCH system, air bags, brakes, etc. — were the latest and the best.
When the patients were escorted to their hospital room, the full picture came into view. This family did everything right: Everyone in the vehicle had been wearing a seat belt. No kids were in the front seat but were in seats with age-appropriate restraints. No distracted driving and no intoxicants were involved.
So how did the passengers fare?
They spent one night in the hospital for monitoring and were sent home the next day. No surgeries. No intubation. No bloody wounds. No intensive care unit.
Both kids and adults were shaken up, for sure. The kids had some bumps and bruises. The adults each had a microfracture, and one still suffers concussion symptoms. The family needed some physical therapy. But their injuries were drastically minimized both by the safety equipment available and the fact that they used it as intended.
These are the type of patients we celebrate. As much as we love the kids we care for, we’d prefer to see them on a playing field or their bikes instead of in a hospital bed. If your child comes through our doors, we will provide the best care possible, but we’d prefer them to avoid injury.
As we continue our pandemic focus on personal protective equipment, masks and hand sanitizer, please don’t forget the protective gear that has been nearby all along. Make sure your children buckle seat belts, sit in the correct child seats, and wear bike helmets and other protective sporting equipment — every single time. Just as important, set an example by doing the same.
In the midst of the holiday season, give yourself a pat on the back for the traumas you’ve avoided. For that, my colleagues and I will give thanks.
Kelly Maynard is a pediatric intensive care nurse at Hennepin County Medical Center and a copy editor for the Star Tribune.