Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak. Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
Saturday is a big day in our home and it presents some significant triggers. Last year, on that same day, I decided to start this blog and today, one year ago, I published The Call. This year, November 18th found us in the emergency room.
Georgia succumbed to a significant PTSD episode, and Joseph and I had no idea what to do. She came upstairs, crying almost unintelligibly, and complaining that her hand was numb. Apparently, she got it stuck in something and temporarily cut off some of the circulation. But instead of waiting for the familiar tingles of returned blood flow, she rushed upstairs insistent that the sensation of numbness was travelling to her cheek. By the time she finished explaining her plight to Joseph, all the while barely choking back her tears, she was hardly making sense with her words.
Georgia can be a bit dramatic. So, we assumed this was one of those times, and after quieting her down, we left her be. But less than an hour later, Joseph asked her a simple question about putting butter on her bread for lunch. Georgia didn’t respond. Even though Joseph was sitting just a few chairs further down at the table, it was as though Georgia didn’t hear him. I heard him from the back bedroom. So, when he repeated his question and still wasn’t getting an answer, I came into the kitchen. I caught her attention and asked her if she heard her daddy and the look of confusion on her face was telling. I asked her to follow me to my room.
Once we had some privacy, I asked her basic questions and was stunned to get the answers.
“What’s your birthday?” – “Uh… Aug… uh… yeah… also that’s it.”
“Can you tell me your middle name?” – “Georgia.” – “No, your middle name.” – “Oh. Uh… [long pause]… Georgia.”
“Ok, sweetie. Can you say your ABCs?” – “abc-efgh-lmno… o… oqrv… I can’t remember!”
I followed up with a quick, amateur assessment for stroke. It didn’t seem like that was happening, but I couldn’t figure out what was causing her sudden confusion. There were no head injuries in the recent past, no medications, no illicit drugs, no nothing. The pieces were part of some bizarre puzzle, but I didn’t have the picture to understand where they fit. Joseph and I spoke with one another and then called our friend, a retired nurse. He couldn’t give us any more insight than what we already knew, but he reminded us that if she got worse, and we decided to go to the ER in another few hours, the Saturday night crazies would be out, and our wait would increase significantly. I hung up the phone and prepared to leave immediately.
We were streamlined through the initial assessment and triage portions of the ER and soon found ourselves in a quiet, private room with a CT scan on order, an IV started, and both Toradol and Zofran pumping into my 13-year old’s little body. Georgia was barely responsive or gave the same, confused, unintelligible responses to the nurses and doctors that she gave to us while at home. Nobody knew what was happening.
Several hours later, and enough time for the medications to bring down the terrifying pain and nausea shooting through Georgia’s body, we finally sat down with the doctor and the results of all the tests.
We were relieved, to say the very least. But with everything returning normal results, we had no more answers to explain the episode than when we first arrived. The doctor said it could be the onset of migraines, but the confusion and disorientation didn’t fit that diagnoses. However, he was content that the symptoms abated and simply told us to return for further testing if the episode recurred.
The discharge nurse came to finalize our paperwork and home instructions. Georgia and I were nodding in agreement as he went over post-care scenarios when suddenly he asked this:
Have you experienced any trauma in the last year?
Um. Seriously? I almost laughed. I glossed over the details but explained that Georgia had experienced significant trauma through the past 18 months. The nurse nodded with understanding and proceeded to ask if we were effectively managing it with appropriate care. I assured him that we were and then asked him why he brought it up in the first place.
Because this type of episode is commonly brought about by high levels of stress or a PTSD trigger. Are you familiar with PTSD?
Um. Again, seriously? Georgia holds an official PTSD diagnosis from both the CVCP and Trauma Recovery Center. Suddenly, all the puzzle pieces began to fit and the answers were plain.
Georgia was already emotionally fragile going into this week. Her behavior was aggressive and even violent at times. She was obviously struggling to exhibit appropriate responses towards her siblings. We even moved her into the guest room to separate her from her sisters and brother – both for their good and her own. Then, this morning she got her hand stuck in the bars of a papasan chair. The familiar sensation of her hand falling asleep triggered deep memories of another time when the circulation to her hand was cut off… a result of being held against her will. Without consciously recognizing anything that was happening, panic took over her body and she simply shut down.
Moments like these can be terribly disheartening. They remind me of the layers of brokenness still present in our family. And they scare me a little, truth be told. Georgia’s response was unfamiliar and incredibly unnerving to watch. We didn’t know if she was experiencing a stroke or worse. In this instance, we can certainly draw her attention to what happened so she might be better armed if the same sensation arises in the future. But how many other triggers lie under the surface dormant for the moment?
Sweet Jesus, remind me that you know the beginning from the end, and none of this is hidden from your gracious, omniscient eye.