When you have an emergency situation thrust upon you, there is no time to think through it or prepare your child with scripts and visuals! I had this very experience just recently and I would like to share with you what to do in this situation.
Last Thursday evening, 7th December 2017, we had a mercy dash to hospital after my fifteen year autistic son put his foot through a glass window while in meltdown! I had been outside with him monitoring him from a short distance away as he thrashed around on the ground, hitting and punching himself.
What seemed surreal was what he did next – he turned his body full circle and plunged his foot through the dining room window smashing the entire pane of glass. As he pulled his leg out, he cut his lower leg (severely) in two places and needed urgent attention.
I had my 19 year old daughter call the ambulance while I applied deep pressure to the wounds. My son was in so much pain! We waited 15-20mins for the ambulance only to have 000 call back instructing us to take him to hospital ourselves. I was very distressed at this point and quite frustrated that we didn’t have an ambulance arrive! It could have been much worse not knowing the extent of the damage and whether or not he had severed an artery?
We phoned the hospital prior to arriving to alert them that he was autistic, non verbal and would require special attention (such as a quite room away from the noisy emergency waiting room).
We arrived and sat in the waiting room for about half an hour before being moved to the quiet area. He was able to lay up on a bed and rest. He had his ipad and seemed to be quite content (while ever the ipad was charged up). We waited another hour or so until the doctor on duty came to see us. He wanted to look at his wounds (which were covered up with a towel and tape) to assess the damage. We informed him that our son would become heightened and potentially aggressive as the towel was unwrapped. He listened but needed to look anyway. We held his legs firmly so that the doctor could take the towel off and look at the wounds. My son would not let the doctor come close to check out what damage had been done or whether there was any remaining glass in the wounds.
He wrapped it up with bandage and proceeded to call in the surgeon to also take a look at his leg. The surgeon’s approach was very ‘autism friendly’ and after chatting with us and indicating that our son would require surgery, arranged for him to be admitted to hospital the next day.
The nurses came in to rewrap the wounds properly, applying compression bandages to keep the bleeding under control. I spoke with them and said that we would need a couple of strong hands to hold him down while the bandages were being applied. They brought in the security attendant as well as myself, my son’s dad and three nurses. He thrashed around in pain but the bandages were applied quickly. I talked to him throughout the whole process telling him that he was ok, that he was doing a great job and that they were nearly finished.
We were able to take him home for the night to make him comfortable in preparation for surgery the next day.
The next day came and he was able to have breakfast but nothing else before surgery, scheduled at 2pm. One of the hardest things to explain to my son was why he couldn’t eat or drink (and he loves to eat and drink!) We made it through though!
It was time to head to the hospital. We arrived and took him straight in the day surgery unit. I had organised for another support person to meet us there to provide some extra help if needed. At one point, we had 7 people standing around his bed discussing how we were going to play this out. They asked me what would likely be the least traumatic way of administering the anaesthetic to which I replied ‘well, with past experience the gas mask always worked well but that there would need to be a few people to hold him down to hold the mask on long enough’.
My daughter role modelled placing the mask over her face and counting to ten and she asked him to do it. He placed the mask over his face for a short time and seemed quite happy to try it.
He was wheeled off to theatre with nursing staff in toe, happily playing on his ipad…
Stay tuned next week for Part Two – I have more of this story to tell! 🙂