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Can We Talk About Medical PTSD?

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

Last year I wrote a blog about caregiver PTSD; a very common, yet unacknowledged phenomenon that occurs in parents of special needs kids.

I talked briefly about the medical PTSD aspect that affects two of my children, but there was, and is, so much more to say.

I don’t think I have met a child who is not afraid of the doctor at some point.

I remember hiding under the exam table when I was little, wishfully thinking that the doctor would open the door, think I wasn’t there, and leave me alone.

That fear subsided as I got older and more mature, but for kids with medical PTSD, that fear almost never goes away.

Many people mistake Medical PTSD for anxiety, and not to minimize the effects of anxiety, but this is something totally different.

Medical PTSD, from my own experience with my kids, can actually cause anxiety that spills over into other aspects of their life.

Medical PTSD is melting down the minute we enter a medical office of any kind; the smells, the atmosphere, the scrubs all bring back traumatic experiences of being hospitalized numerous times, the pain of recovering from many surgeries and being poked and prodded too many times to count.

Medical PTSD is not even able to examine my child properly in some instances because they won’t, and can’t calm down long enough. We have to have all dental procedures done under general anaesthesia because of this.

We try and combine dental work with other procedures that require anaesthesia to minimize stress and recovery time.

Medical PTSD is regressing emotionally after every hospital stay, every procedure. Sometimes it takes days to bounce back; sometimes, it takes weeks.

Medical PTSD is being scared to let Mom or Dad out of your sight when you are in the hospital, even at 8 years old, even if it’s just when they run to the bathroom, to sneak Ninja style out the door once your child falls asleep so you can do a cafeteria run or grab some much-needed coffee.

Medical PTSD is seeing absolute fear come over your child’s face at the mention of going to the doctor’s, even if the appointment is not for him.

Medical PTSD doesn’t only take a toll on the child who suffers from it; it affects those close to them as well.

Parents and caregivers of children with Medical PTSD experience their own form of distress, watching their kids go through all that they do.

So, to all the parents and caregivers of medically fragile kids out there: I see you, I get it, and you are not alone.


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