For Parents of Ill Children, a Growing Recognition of PTSD

Amy Dockser Marcus:

Post-traumatic stress disorder in combat soldiers is receiving greater attention and wider societal recognition. Now doctors and researchers are trying to do the same for a group that has similar symptoms: parents of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Shelly Miller of Bridgetown, Ohio, has a teenage son named Dylan who can’t walk or talk due to a rare genetic disorder. One day more than five years ago, after her husband picked him up at a summer camp, Dylan suddenly began vomiting and seizing. They raced to the emergency room, where doctors told them Dylan had suffered a concussion; the parents didn’t know how it had happened.

Although years have passed, Ms. Miller says she still has flashbacks to that summer afternoon. She replays the memory of her husband running in from the car with their child in his arms, shouting, “something is not right!” She avoids going past the camp.

It is only in recent months that Ms. Miller, after reading online about the high incidence of post-traumatic stress symptoms among parents of medically fragile children, suddenly had a name for her experiences. “I recognized myself,” she says. “It felt like an awakening.”