Sheryl Tretter is a nurse manager at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. She explains the day that changed her family's perspective on life.
It was my son Anthony’s first day of high school soccer tryouts - summer 2013. He had been playing soccer for years so there were no real concerns. I was waiting to hear how it went, but got a different kind of call.
The coach said, “he’s with the trainer,” which made me concerned but not overly worried. He explained that Anthony was playing goalie and collided with another kid. He took a knee to his side. As a nurse, I assumed there might be a couple broken ribs but would never have considered what we were about to go through.
The athletic trainer made the call to request an ambulance – and that probably saved his life. I directed them to send the ambulance to Mercy. My husband and I met the ambulance in the emergency room and saw Anthony. He was white as a ghost. The trauma team was called.
His kidney was shattered and his spleen was lacerated. These are big injuries, but I thought, “okay, we’re okay,” - that is, until I talked to the interventional radiologist, Dr. Labib Haddad.
During the CT scan, the doctors saw Anthony’s arteries were lacerated and blood was spilling into his gut. Dr. Haddad didn’t have time to explain the procedure, just saying that he needed approval to do it and do it quickly. Fifteen minutes more would have been too late.
After surgery, Anthony went to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where it was touch and go for the first couple days.
The Ronald McDonald Room was a godsend. We didn’t leave the hospital while Anthony was in the PICU, so it was a nice place we could take his younger brother to watch ESPN away from a “hospital” environment. They also washed and dried our clothes for us.
Anthony started doing better. When he left the PICU he hadn’t been out of bed for more than a week. The physical therapist came in and walked him down the hallway. Anthony wanted to keep going, but we made him sit and take a break.
While we did have a tough go, and it took some time for Anthony to get his endurance back once we went home, we were extremely lucky. I credit everyone along the way who made the calls and understood how severe his injuries were – athletic trainers, the ER and trauma teams and Dr. Haddad. And, of course, all the Mercy Kids doctors and nurses who not only cared for Anthony, but provided me strength I needed to make it through.
Anthony got back on the soccer field in February 2014. My husband and I struggled with it, but we can’t hold him back because of our fear. The next year at fall tryouts, the coaches even had a “Don’t Touch Tretter” rule and everyone joked about it.
Anthony just finished his junior season as the varsity starting goalie at Fort Zumwalt West. He is also a referee now, officiating youth soccer to earn money.
Looking back, I still can’t believe how quickly everything flipped. I remember looking out the hospital window the first night and thinking “I should be on my way home wondering what to do for dinner.”
I’d like to thank all the Mercy Kids physicians, nurses and clinicians who helped us along the way. Mercy Kids critical care physician Dr. Phineas Oren in the PICU was amazing. One particularly rough night, he stayed late taking care of Anthony. Dr. Anand Palagiri, with pediatric urology, was equally impressive. And, of course, his pediatrician, Dr. Patrice Matthews, his doctor since he was born.
My time as a nurse prepared me for this – a little bit. I definitely recognized it was going to be a long haul. I learned to pace myself and take it moment by moment. However, until you’ve been there, you can’t really know what it’s like to be on the other side. Now I'm better able understand what a patient's family members are going through and can share my own experience with open conversations. I still don’t know why we got lucky, but we did and now feel like we need to pay it forward.
While Anthony was in the hospital, we realized there were plenty of toys, movies and games for younger kids, but a lack of teen-appropriate entertainment. So instead of receiving Christmas presents that year we asked our family and friends to help us donate games, movies and other things that would appeal to a teenager in the hospital. We collected quite a haul and it was shared between the emergency department and pediatrics.