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In the series This Changes Everything Hillary explores PTSD in mothers who care for medically fragile children. It is a project that was several months in the making as she spoke to experts on PTSD and mothers who trudge through giving absolutely everything they have to keep their children safe, being told that they are superheroes for doing so, and all the while struggling to hold on in ways most people choose not to imagine.

The hub for this series includes a reported feature on PTSD in caregivers of medically-fragile children and the stories of six moms--Hillary included.

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PTSD Helps Parents Keep Their Medically Fragile Children Alive — But At What Cost?

December 6, 2018

“One of the big things that still gets me is that I had to do chest compressions on my own child.” Meghan Shuttleworth’s voice is surprisingly steady as she says this to me.

She continues, “I have to do CPR training for work, which I just did a few weeks ago. And I had to leave the room at one point. Because all of that stuff just came flooding back. I can't even explain what it's like to have to do chest compressions on your 6-month-old baby.”

I am not unaware of the realities that parents like Meghan — parents who are raising medically fragile children with life-long health and developmental complexities — face daily. Meghan is certainly not the first mom I have ever spoken to about having to give her own child chest compressions. Still, after Meghan finishes her story, I struggle to mask the unsteadiness in my own voice as I tell her how very sorry I am. Then I remark on how adaptable we are, how humans can learn to live with just about any reality, however terrifying.

And it is true. We are built to survive through the realities that face some of our children, like the steep odds that Fiona was born to: at 10 weeks premature, weighing 3 pounds, with five organs on the outside of her body, Fiona was given two weeks to live. She started her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU); soon she will be 9 years old. Meghan believes Fiona survived because, “We just fought, and she fought, every single day.”

We are built for survival, but sometimes the ways in which we survive — and ensure the survival of our fragile children — have steep costs.


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