The Power of the Unspoken Word

Communicate while under distress

On this topic, I want to stress the importance of knowing how to pick up queues when your child is having an SOS moment. This may range from having mother’s intuition, your super Spidey sense, or just knowing your child’s mannerisms. Specifically, if your son or daughter is in danger, how can you pick up on that immediately? Sometimes, we only have a few precious moments or seconds before a preventable accident becomes a catastrophe.

One possible scenario is if your child doesn’t feel safe with a group of friends or a supervised adult. In this case, your kid may call you up on the phone and unusually inform you exactly where they’ll be in the next hour. Wouldn’t we all love such specific GPS locations of our kids?! You’d no doubt take the bait, understand the discomfort level, and pick up your kid or tell them they need to come home. That’s a pretty obvious smoke signal.

But, what if your child is nonverbal or has difficulty expressing him/herself in precarious situations?

What if your kid doesn’t realize that every friendly face or funny person could be a very dangerous stranger? Perhaps, a child who encounters epileptic seizures can alert, if possible, before or during a seizure to an adult so the adult can properly help. Look, we cannot control what your child is not aware of, including nuanced scenarios, but we can at least have a code. A code that is practiced and understood in times of known dangers or medical issues can be the difference maker.

These thoughts run through my mind as Yoni is currently hospitalized with a serious skin infection. In this cautionary non-fictional tale, I’d like to point out two SOS alert signals we had and how we can further improve upon them with a simple hand signal for your loved ones.

The first SOS alert arrived near the end of December after Yoni fell awkwardly on his right arm.

He got up and cried. But, it wasn’t an uncommon cry after a fall. So, Idit and I consoled Yoni and he was able to relax. But, then Yoni wasn’t talking. He was also pretty subdued and out of it. And then he would have muffled cries, finally alerting us, “My arm hurts.” Luckily, Yoni was able to verbally express himself after a good 15-20 minutes about his arm. That led us to a doctor visit and X-Rays displaying a broken arm. I was stunned and so glad Yoni was able to express himself so we could take care of him.

Takeaway SOS signals: Unusual cries, unusually quiet, withdrawn, verbal discomfort

Call to action: Alright, so this interaction was pretty straight-forward. Boy falls. Boy cries more than usual and says what hurts. Parent gets medical attention. Boy ultimately gets arm cast.

So, onto the second not so obvious SOS signal.

At this point, Idit and I were already on high alert as we want to ensure Yoni’s arm heals properly. We followed up to our ol’ reliable doctor, Dr. Michelle Carlson, the same doctor who saw Yoni when he was a few week’s old about his stuck finger. Since this time, apparently she has become somewhat of a celeb sports doctor, working on healing basketball All Stars, including: Kevin Love, Joel Embiid, and Kyle Lowry to name a few. So, it’s definitely a reliable orthopedic doctor we could trust. And we’re glad we saw her. Dr. Carlson recommended immediate surgery to correct the break in the arm so it will grown properly. The four-hour surgery removed the scar tissue and basically reconstructed Yoni’s arm. The surgery went as planned and was successful.

A couple weeks later, a follow-up visit to check the arm passed all tests. It was healing nicely according to the doctor and the cast would come off in another couple of weeks. But, a week later, the second SOS signal happened. This past Friday, we got a call from Yoni’s school nurse. The nurse told me Yoni was complaining of his arm. However, when I asked to speak with Yoni, he told me he missed me and wants to come home. If you know Yoni, he’s a big gamer so he can’t wait to play his PlayStation and Nintendo Switch at home. Plus, it’s not the first time he has asked to come home from school. He’s a gamer on many levels. LOL. When he spoke with me, it seemed like he was just gaming the system, trying to find his way home to game. But, the nurse called again an hour later relaying Yoni was crying and not eating. We didn’t want to take any chances so I took Yoni to HSS for precaution where Dr. Carlson works.

So, later on Friday, the doctor opened up Yoni’s cast due him complaining about it earlier. When I saw his arm, I went white and almost passed out. It was deeply infected. Thank goodness Yoni continually advocated for himself while at school. Yoni was immediately checked into the hospital. They sampled his arm tissue for infection analysis along with a minimum 5-day in-patient stay. The concern was to ensure the infection is localized and hasn’t escalated to anything serious. Therefore, testing on the tissue sample will be done and Yoni will be monitored for the week. Wow, how things can escalate fast, right?!

Takeaway SOS signals: Distressed multiple calls from school, crying in school, not eating

Call to action: Boy makes cry for help in public setting. Symptoms: not eating, crying, and pain. Boy gets taken to hospital.

Again, here, Yoni was able to explain he’s experiencing pain and needed help. In the second instance, it was a harder sell as it was through the nurse and, as such, signals weren’t entirely clear at first. So, the question here is how could we and families, in general, have a better code of SOS signals?

Potential SOS signal strategy:

Establish a hand code

Whether going into a seizure or not being able to verbally communicate one’s needs, you should establish a distressed signal so your child and you know when there is a serious situation unfolding. Perhaps, it could be what Yoni and I have developed following his fall with his arm: the thumbs down sign. I know, not too original, but you don’t want it to be so complex and you want it to get the point across. If Yoni used this signal right away after he hurt his arm, we could have sought out help immediately and not wait to soothe him. The bottom line is that a hand code is easier to quickly relay in times of in-the-moment pain or emergencies where words may not be able to be coherent or communicated. It must be stressed that this signal is to be used only under times of emergencies. That way, it carries the sense or urgency required.

As a tech aid, the Life 360 app is also a great tech tool to have for your loved ones. In the most severe scenario, you’ll want to ensure you can locate your child. This app is awesome to have a good GPS feed on your kid. Yes, it’s big brother-like, but G-d forbid, your child is lost, kidnapped, or with the wrong people, you can locate him or her.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to endure a serious emergency with your child, but as we know as parents, incidents and accidents do happen. It’s up to us as parents to be prepared. A simple thumbs down distressed signal may be the difference maker when it comes to handling a life-altering accident.