Friday, April 3, 2009

Post-trauma treatment

New MGHfC Trauma Clinic coordinates recovery care

It was just another soccer tournament for 14-year-old Megan Lund, a freshman at Needham High School, as she played on a field in Florida this past fall. The game was going well until the final two minutes when Megan knocked heads with the goalie and hit her head on the ground after falling back from the impact. Rushed to the emergency room, she was told she did not have a concussion. Still, she returned home to Massachusetts with a variety of ailments -- including headaches, dizziness and drowsiness. Her mother, Sharon, knew something wasn't right.

"We took her to our pediatrician, who prescribed pain medication," she says. "But that actually made her headaches worse, and she wasn't able to go to school while on narcotics."

Sharon describes feeling helpless until she learned from a "soccer dad" about the Trauma Clinic at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). The clinic, which is open every Tuesday, treats pediatric patients experiencing post-trauma symptoms.

One phone call later, Megan was scheduled for an appointment with Caren Harris, PNP, the pediatric nurse practitioner who established the clinic with pediatric trauma surgeon Peter Masiakos, MD. The clinic-- the only one of its kind-- provides follow-up consultations to ensure proper healing.

"Sometimes if you dig deeper, you find out there's more going on," says Harris. "This clinic provides the opportunity to help identify any ongoing issues and works with the child and his or her parents to optimize recovery."

After examining Megan, Harris determined she had suffered a concussion. She scheduled several follow-up visits and reached out to Megan's school to help ensure she would not overtax herself and slow down her recovery.

The Trauma Clinic at MGHfC provides comprehensive evaluation and timely specialty referrals for children who have sustained a traumatic injury and previously undergone evaluation and treatment in a hospital or ambulatory setting. Some injuries may require the involvement of multiple specialists-- from neurologists to physical therapists-- to ensure that each patient receives the best possible treatment plan for a quick, successful recovery.

Masiakos says the idea for the clinic stemmed from years of service as a pediatric trauma surgeon during which he found that many patients had no place to go for effective follow-up care after their initial surgery or treatment.

"I've seen a lot of kids who experienced traumatic injuries and were evaluated and released with no plan for return to a physician," he says. "I've heard parents say that after a severe head injury, their kids were not the same and that their schoolwork suffered. Caren and I envisioned the clinic providing services these kids weren't getting elsewhere."

The clinic is living up to its expectations. Today, Megan is back to her normal self, taking all of her regular classes and playing soccer.

"Caren is wonderful," says Sharon. "Before we went to see her, my daughter was on a rollercoaster ride. Not only did I really trust Caren's advice, but Megan's school also relied on her. With her help, we saw Megan's treatment finally go in the right direction."

DEPTH OF CARE: Masiakos, left, with Harris in an Emergency Department pediatric exam room

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