Monday, September 15, 2008

Too Close To Home...

A recent article in The Sun (13 Sept) asserts that a teenage girl with a congenital heart defect died after telling her gym teacher she did not feel well. She was warming up for hockey practice when she asked to stop because of chest pain but, according to classmates, the gym teacher told her to keep going. The classmates then watched her collapse on the pitch.As a heart parent, I can tell you that this is one of my biggest nightmares. I've been unable to let go of the bond with my daughter into another's care (other than family members and the occassional night out while the neighbors come over). Granted, she's only two at this point, but I worry about the day when she will enter public or private school, out from beneath my watchful eye. I've heard so many stories about children with special directives and orders who are overlooked or ignored by their teachers, counselors, coaches, etc. How will I protect my daughter from such a tragedy, yet encourage her toward independence?

Of course, no one can fully protect their child. I understand this. But one can take steps to help ensure a tragic accident such as this one does not occur. The parents of the girl who passed away at hockey practice had made the school aware of Sasha's condition, so they assumed that this information would be passed on to her teachers. Apparently, it was not.

As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children how to live with their heart condition, to know their bodies and be able to judge accordingly when "enough is enough." The father of the deceased child said, “Sasha had lived with her heart condition since she was born and she knew her own body. Yet even though the school knew she had this problem, they still didn’t listen to her when she said she was unwell.”

Clearly there is something to be learned from this tragic incident. I know I personally take the following from it:

  1. Teach your child about their heart condition. Help them to understand their body.
  2. Make sure your child's caregivers are aware of his or her condition, and the potential stresses that could lead to a serious medical crisis.
  3. Teach your child that it's OK to take breaks when you need to. Even if a coach, friend or other person is pushing you to go farther, your child is the best judge of his/her body. Don't take unnecessary risks.
  4. Talk to gym teachers, coaches and other sport instructors that your child will be working with. Make sure they understand the child's condition and any special considerations and precautions that should be taken.
What do you do to protect your child? How have you taught him to read his body's signs? How do you help her to engage in a healthy, active lifestyle without providing undue stress to her already fragile heart?

1 comment:

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