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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Heather Appleton: Emergency room visit quickly became a nightmare

Heather Appleton

I was inspired to write this in hopes we can save other children from the unnecessary radiation and painful restraints that my 4 1/2-month-old daughter and family suffered at Sacred Heart Hospital.

One evening I slipped on a bottom stair with my daughter in my arms. We took her to get an X-ray and unfortunately, she had a mild buckle fracture of her lower leg.

Then my world fell apart because I then took her to the emergency room doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital who believed my daughter would need a blood draw, 20+ X-rays and a CT scan.

The doctor would not allow my daughter to leave the hospital before all these tests were done – and said she would have to keep my daughter and she would be calling Child Protective Services if we did not comply! She also refused or forgot to splint my baby’s leg before subjecting her to five long hours of placing an IV and restraining her with her screaming like a nightmare. With an untreated broken leg and my daughter crying for help without feeling I could do anything to stop them, you can only imagine the sadness this brought us.

After all the tests required by this doctor to avoid CPS getting involved and with them coming back perfectly normal the next morning, our character was judged when we had a surprise visit from CPS to investigate and question my husband and me – and they also went to my kindergartner’s school to question him unannounced, without asking our permission!

Ever since this experience my daughter has been struggling with sleeping, crying more, clenching onto me and only wanting to be in a fetal position, as if she only feels safe there!

I decided to look up the published national guidelines for treating children suspected of child abuse. None of the published research in the last ten years supported the hospital’s procedures. The best summary of national recommendations came from the Journal of Family Practice in March 2010, titled “When is it safe to forego a CT in kids with head trauma?” The authors give six criteria that should be met before a CT scan of an infant. None of these were met by Sacred Heart Hospital. The authors further describe the known cancer risks of CT scans for infants.

Had the doctor been better informed of the current guidelines they might not have felt a need to threaten me that CPS was going to be called or ran any tests. Regardless of the hardships caused by these unnecessary tests done to my daughter, I have learned that there is no reason to be scared into doing any doctor’s recommendations if you know they are not in the best interest of your child – as well as threats a doctor may make to calling CPS if you have done nothing wrong. Looking back, I would have called CPS myself to save my daughter from such abuse!

I wish I should not live my life as a slave to fear of my next emergency room visit!

Heather Appleton lives in Spokane.

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