A Very Happy Ending (Suffolk County News)
Source: Suffolk County News
By:Liz Finnegan, Editor
West Sayville, NY
In the middle of the dog days of summer last August, Rachelle Madden, then seven months pregnant, stood in the kitchen of her home while her three year-old son, Owen, was playing and running around nearby. She heard him fall hard hitting the back of his head on the hardwood floor and he began to cry. Though very concerned, at that moment Rachelle never imagined the harrowing day she and her husband would soon have to endure. And although all turned out right in the end, she said the experience has given her a whole new prospective as a parent.
Rachelle and her husband Kyle are both teachers; Kyle is also a football coach. “I’m always aware of the signs of a concussion,” she said, reflecting on the incident. “That was my immediate thought.” But Owen soon stopped crying and seemed fine. “He ate dinner and I checked him twice during the night,” she said. “He ate breakfast the next morning and went to camp, then ate dinner at night. It was just normal.”
However, what then transpired as she was getting him ready for bed was anything but ordinary. “He began crying and saying that his head hurt. I calmed him down …and then he vomited. Slowly he started to become more and more tired. I knew something was wrong; it just didn’t feel right.”
Though Owen was initially responsive, Rachelle said she called the on-call pediatrician anyway, who suggested just to be safe, Owen should go to the hospital. She and her husband got into the car and just two blocks from home Owen suddenly became unresponsive. She frantically called 911. As they waited for the ambulance to arrive she followed the instructions of the 911 operator who suggested she should begin counting her child’s breaths. “It was a nightmare, but I tried to be calm,” Rachelle noted.
At Southside Hospital, a CT (computed tomography) scan confirmed an epidural hematoma. “The doctor came out of the room and calmly said ‘There’s bleeding on the brain and we need to remove the blood as soon as possible.’ I went numb,” she said, adding that her anxiety was heightened by the fact that the doctor could not assure her that there wouldn’t be brain damage.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Salvatore Insigna explained that Owen had suffered a fracture from his fall, which caused a small artery in his brain to burst. A pool of blood was caught between the skull and the dura mater (membrane covering the brain) and increasing pressure within.
Owen was rushed into surgery while Kyle and Rachelle waited a painstaking hour and half until they received the news they’d hoped to hear, that he was doing fine. Rachelle shutters recounting the doctor’s next words, which were that it was indeed a life and death situation. “He said, ‘You guys are very lucky. He’s a lucky boy.’”
Dr. Insinga, said that although Owen’s condition was dangerous, it’s not uncommon in both children and adults. “That’s the scary thing,” Dr. Insigna said. “You don’t need a big hit [for this to occur]. It just has to be in the right location to cause a significant amount of damage.
“Time is of the essence and [in this case] the intuition of the mother kept Owen alive. You don’t want to [overact], but if you notice something unusual don’t wait hours to seek help.”
Soon after surgery, the Maddens accompanied Owen as he was transported to North Shore LIJ Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, which has a pediatric intensive care unit. “We still didn’t know if there was damage until he woke up,” Rachelle said. However, they soon realized all was well when he awoke, called for his parents and promptly told his mother, “ ‘I don’t want to wear a diaper. This is for babies,’ he said. At that point we knew he was [OK],” she remarked.
Rachelle said soon after her child was released from the hospital she was “an emotional mess” constantly worried about his safety. But she soon realized that wasn’t being realistic. “I can’t treat him like the boy in the bubble,” she said, adding that she still struggles with the internal conflict of being protective while still allowing him to be the normal kid that he is, back to playing and running around as usual.
Two months after the accident, Rachelle gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Hadley. She said when she looks back on the experience, though it still stirs her emotions, she realizes that it was also a good lesson on life.
“I truly don’t take any moment of any day for granted anymore,” she said.