We still recognize July 26, 1995, as one of those pivotal dates in our lives where everything was either "before" or "after." That was the day my two children and I were in a devastating car accident in Gaithersburg, MD, not far from where we lived. We were on our way home from dinner at McDonald's, a treat for my son, Chris, age five and my daughter, Lindsey, age 8, while my husband was in California on a business trip. We were hit broadside by a drunk driver at an intersection not more than three blocks from home. I remember nothing of the accident, but awoke to find paramedics using the "jaws of life" to pry open our car to remove Lindsey, who had been sitting right behind me and who took the brunt of the impact.
I was transported by ambulance to the trauma center at Suburban Hospital to be treated for my own injuries, a broken wrist, broken pelvis, and chipped vertebrae in my back. Lindsey and Chris were both airlifted to Children's National, where their excellent care started immediately upon arrival in the Emergency Department. Thus began our two month stay at Children's National.
While Chris, who had suffered facial cuts from broken glass and a broken collarbone, was able to be released in two days, it was immediately clear that Lindsey's injuries were major and life-threatening, and included a torn aorta, a ruptured intestine, and two broken bones in her left leg. She had several surgeries, including the first one the following day to repair her ruptured intestine, then to patch and repair the torn aorta, and finally, a week later when she was relatively stabilized, to set her badly broken femur with an "external fixator." In all three cases the surgeons who operated on her were the top specialists in their field, and as pediatric surgeons they recognized the particular issues involved with growing organs. The heart surgeon had to fashion a "child size" graft for her aorta, while her orthopaedic surgeon was constantly monitoring the "growth plates" in her leg to be sure her left leg continued to grow normally and "match" her right leg's growth.
Her two month recovery in the hospital was punctuated by many complications related to her injuries; heavy-duty IV antibiotics to prevent sepsis from her ruptured intestine, pneumonia caused by continued bed rest, and painful physical therapy on her broken leg.
What sustained us through everything was the knowledge that Lindsey was getting the absolute best care available in the entire region, and the network of folks who comprise the Children's National family, who not only took care of her medical needs; but helped us receive the many benefits and services we temporarily needed (like a handicapped parking spot in the parking lot for me with my broken pelvis). Our wonderful "trauma coordinator" Jean Reardon, who had been assigned to us on day one as a patient advocate and "liaison" between the medical staff and the family, met with us every morning (my husband and I took turns staying overnight in Lindsey's room with her) to let us know what tests or procedures were going to be done that day, what medications were being stopped or started, what specialists were going to visit, and the results of Lindsey's constant blood tests. Jean was always there for us to translate the results of the various tests and to see to the needs, both physical and emotional, of both Lindsey and us, her family. We still keep in touch with her, as a matter of fact, 14 years later, and she has not forgotten us, nor we her! Lindsey still remembers the kindness and gentleness of the residents and nurses assigned to her case, and we her parents remember their endless patience with our constant questions and worries, and Lindsey's inevitable crankiness.
I'm happy to report that Lindsey was released in mid-September and with the help of the wonderful social workers at Children's National, continued to receive physical therapy at home, as well as home schooling for her third-grade curriculum until she was able to return to her local public elementary school. While the car accident was truly a traumatic event in our lives, we continue to be thankful for the many, many people at Children's National who helped us put our lives back together.
Lindsey's mom, Cynthia