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Mama Trauma

September 1, 2011

My original idea was to write this post from Joy’s point of view. But as I sit here, decompressing from this morning’s Botox injections, I realized I cannot write about her experience because  I experienced only my own.

Joy has come a long way since this spring. She did not exhibit any signs of anxiety this morning about the hospital or the routine procedures she, until quite recently, negatively associated with her surgery and the month she spent in a body cast. Maybe we’re almost out of the woods of this round of PTSD. I’m thanking God for that, literally.

I went into this morning’s procedure conscious of the way similar procedures made her more vulnerable to the  PTSD she experienced after surgery. I’d discussed that with her doctor and we agreed to give Joy Versed to relax her before the mask came out to administer the nitrous oxide anesthetic used for this outpatient procedure.

But I did not observe any noticable difference between the procedure with vs. without the Versed. She still tried to pull away from the injection needles, so obviously felt  them. She cried silently under the mask during the procedure, which lasted seven minutes.

But, they told me again, Versed has amnesic properties. So does nitrous oxide. They assured me that even if she did feel something, she won’t remember it. That is exactly what the textbooks say, too.

But I wonder if the people who design and run the drug trials have conversations with the people who treat PTSD. How can there be a statistical relationship between previous experiences of PMT –pediatric medical trauma –and PTSD if kids really don’t remember? It seems to me that despite the fact that the drugs lessen the degree of pain kids consciously experience during traumatic procedures, it does not erase the traumatic experience. It is not as if it never happened.

The morning wore me out. Joy’s only four. We have decades of twice-yearly rounds of injections (Botox and Phenol) under anesthetic ahead of us.

That’s part of what I’m wrestling with: that I feel procedures as”us” even though I’m not the one lying there with a mask over my face trying to escape needles. It does not require very much of me to stand next to the bed, holding her hand, stroking her hair and singing. But I’m the one who delivered her over to this. I drove her there, pushed her inside, carried her to the table, and didn’t do anything to rescue her. In fact, I signed the paper that gave them permission to inflict pain.

Why? These twice yearly injections are supposed to stave off the really serious trauma of major surgery like she had in March. That’s the formula: lesser trauma upon lesser trauma, each lesser trauma pushing back the monster that dogged her this spring. But how many lesser traumas does it take to add up to a big one?

The alchemy of the subconscious is not linear. Yet we continue to make decisions for our kids based on statistically derived recommendations –as if science has anything to do with how children interpret whether the world is a scary place or not. It is a place where sometimes you lay down, a machine beeps, and a stranger announces you weigh 26 pounds. And the next time you lay down, five big people hover, trapping you beneath a mask and pinning your leg when you try to jerk it away from a needle you’re not supposed to remember you feel.

While mommy stands idly by singing an aria. Does Versed erase that memory, too?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Danyelle permalink
    September 4, 2011 10:54 pm

    Sounds like a hard day for both you and Joy. Prayers.

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