Medical Trauma

I grew up at Sick Kids. I had multiple operations over the years. Almost every surgery came with excruciatingly painful complications.

One of those surgeries happened 33 years ago today.

I was seven.


I remember it vividly, including being in a hospital room which – for all intents and purposes – could very easily be this one.


What I experienced that week in the hospital – and so many times thereafter – was medical trauma.


One of the best ways I’ve found of understanding trauma is as a single, horrific event or a series of repeated events in which you felt unsafe, dismissed and devalued, and in which you experienced a partial or total lack of agency and autonomy.


We can’t heal what we don’t accept, and we can’t accept what we don’t understand. So understanding that what we experienced “counts” as trauma is the first step to realising that it doesn’t have to be the end of our story.


Today I’m here waiting for my daughter, who’s appointment is necessary because, despite all of the medical procedures I had done, they have never been able to figure out what the root cause of all of this disability we share might be.


Today is hard, because all of the emotions are up at the surface.


Today is hard, because I am still working through the trauma of what I have experienced.

We need to get better at protecting against medical trauma.


We need to get better at addressing medical trauma when it happens.


We need to get better at screening families for generational medical trauma, and providing supports around it, so that families can show up at their best for the next generation, regardless of their experiences.

If medical trauma has been part of your story, know this: it doesn’t have to be the whole of your story, and it doesn’t have to be the end of your story. It is possible to heal the trauma that you have been through – possible to feel safe again, to be heard and valued, and to regain agency and autonomy in your world, even in the face of severe disabilities (yours or your child’s). If this post has resonated with you, please – get in touch!

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