"No matter what happened, I would have had peace because of what happened in the first few hours," Alexandra Buijtendijk said.
This mother of two had received the phone call that every parent dreads. Her young daughter had been seriously injured and flown with strangers to a hospital in who-knows-where.
Although the family lives in Connecticut, Alexandra was spending time in New York City with her mother while her husband took her father and their two pre-teen daughters on a tour of the country. While driving through Moab, Utah, a severe accident happened, and their car flipped over.
Her 9-year-old daughter, Wilhelmine, suffered a depressed skull fracture behind her ear and a traumatic brain injury from bleeding and a concussion. Immediate treatment at a hospital with experience taking care of severely injured children and a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) was critical to her survival. Therefore, Wilhelmine was quickly airlifted by helicopter to Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem, Utah.
"The helicopter medical crew gave Wilhelmine a little stuffed elephant — what a brilliant idea!" her mother said. "Holding on to it gave her a feeling of safety; this goes well beyond medical care. The human touch and compassionate gift of a stuffed animal made a big difference to my daughter."
Phone calls: from alarming to reassuring
Shortly after Wilhelmine arrived at the hospital, Alexandra received three phone calls from medical staff. Dr. Dustin Monroe, the hospital's pediatric critical care specialist, and several nurses provided information and encouragement.
"Those personal calls were so warm and relieving; everyone I talked with reassured me that my daughter was safe, and everything was being done for her," recalled Alexandra. She recalls words like, "she's in good hands in a good place" and "we will care for your daughter as if she were our own." Those initial phone calls gave her a sense of calm and eased her soul during a scary, stressful time.
"When you get a phone call like that, you sit there like a lioness, but there is nothing you can do," Alexandra said. "What comes through during such a time of turmoil are those types of messages. The medical staff did all the right things to make me feel okay and able to handle the next steps."
Simple things combined with expert care made all the difference
As Alexandra quickly made her way across the country to Utah, several pediatric specialists, including Dr. Monroe and General Surgeon Lee Trotter, thoroughly addressed Wilhelmine's injuries at Timpanogos Regional Hospital. After arriving at the hospital, Alexandra did not leave her daughter's side.
"I loved that there was food for me, and I didn't have to leave the PICU," noted Alexandra. "And there were all kinds of little books and games for Wilhelmine. The nurses really try to make the stay as entertaining as possible. The whole team really understands children and what they need medically and emotionally."
For this mother, in addition to excellent medical care, the simple things made a huge difference. Whether she needed an explanation or more information, someone to walk with, or some nourishment, there was always someone to help her. Alexandra felt like she could get whatever she needed.
"We experienced nothing but overall kindness and sympathy during our time in the PICU," Alexandra reported. "Everyone was really nice, no matter who they were. We were wrapped in warm blanket from the very start."
The team of pediatric specialists provided expert trauma care and carefully monitored Wilhelmine during her four-day stay in the PICU. Led by Dr. Monroe, they took a conservative approach to her care plan, which eventually meant that they did not have to perform surgery, which her mother appreciated.
Back in Connecticut, the family followed the doctors' recommendations to keep stimulation low, at home and in school. Although Wilhelmine continues to see a neurosurgeon for follow-up, Alexandra reports that she is "fully herself again — and that elephant goes everywhere with her."