It was an ordinary late summer evening for Katie, Brian, and their two small children. After a busy day, the North Huntingdon family was just starting bedtime routines. Katie was upstairs in the family’s home about to give their 3-year-old daughter, Brooke, a bath. Brian was outside, entertaining 15-month-old Connor.
As she was about to fill the tub with water for Brooke, Katie heard her husband rush inside and yell for bandages. The next thing she knew, Brian was beside her, setting Connor in the empty tub and asking her to hold pressure onConnor’s finger.
“We have to go to the ER,” Brian said quickly, rushing to get Brooke dressed. Wondering just how bad it could be, Katie gingerly peeled back the damp wipe stuck to Connor’s hand. Beneath the wipe soaked with Connor’s blood, Katie saw that his finger was cut to the bone.
In the Blink of an Eye
The accident happened on the evening of August 31st in the family’s garage. Brian was holding Connor at the time, letting the curious toddler press the garage door button, as he had so many times before.
As Connor admired the closing garage door—the magic with which it moved so seamlessly at the push of a button—he reached out to touch it.
Before Brian even realized what was happening, Connor’s finger was pinched between two panels of the garage door as they came together. Almost immediately, blood started gushing from the toddler’s finger. A stunned Connor started wailing.
A Long Night
After wrapping Connor’s wound the best they could, Katie and Brian got both kids in the car and made their way to the hospital closest to their home. The hospital examined Connor’s hand and recommended he see trauma care specialists at UPMC Children’s.
At around 10 p.m. that evening, the family arrived at UPMC Children’s Emergency Department (ED). Connor was examined and treated by a hand surgeon from the hospital’s trauma program. The surgeon performed a procedure on Connor’s hand, and properly cleaned, sutured, and bandaged the wound.
Around 4 a.m. the next morning, the exhausted family was finally discharged home.
Back to the Hospital
Throughout the next week, Katie and Brian took turns carefully cleaning and dressing Connor’s finger. Despite their best efforts, Connor’s hand started to look worse instead of better.
On September 10th, ten days after his initial injury, Katie decided to bring Connor back to UPMC Children’s ED. Physicians in the ED confirmed that Connor’s hand was infected. He was immediately admitted to the hospital’s sixth floor for intravenous antibiotics.
An Uphill Battle
For the next six days, Connor was hospitalized at UPMC Children’s for treatment. Unfortunately, the antibiotic initially administered to the toddler failed to fight off his infection. After about four days in the hospital, Connor had hand surgery again and was switched to a different antibiotic. Thankfully, he eventually started to show signs of improvement.
Throughout this period, Katie remained bedside with Connor. During most of Connor’s unexpected hospitalization, Brian was out of the country on a work trip. With her mom watching Brooke, Katie did her best to make life in the hospital feel normal for Connor.
A Chance to be Happy
Katie explains that while living in a children’s hospital by herself with a sick 15-month-old was “tough,” the amenities at UPMC Children’s made a difficult situation a little easier.
To keep Connor entertained each day, Katie would often take him to the Howard Hanna Healing Garden to get some fresh air without leaving the hospital. She also drove Connor around the hospital in donor-funded push cars. And Austin’s Playroom—a medical-free play area filled with toys and games and funded through philanthropy—was a favorite escape for mother and son, offering Connor the chance to explore, touch, and have fun despite his clinical surroundings. “Connor really loved the playroom,” Katie explains, “But I think I loved it even more! It allowed me to relax, knowing he was in a safe space where he could play and just be happy.”
Katie shares that the people at the hospital further contributed to a positive experience. “The doctors and nurses were great. The people who cleaned the room were so friendly and wonderful, as well,” she says.
She goes on to say that other patient families were also a source of comfort and support—finding toys for Connor to play with and sending the family warm wishes and prayers. “Everyone was kind and supportive. Children’s feels more like a kid hotel than a hospital.”
On September 16th, Connor was discharged from UPMC Children’s. Today, he’s back home in North Huntingdon with his mom, dad, and the big sister he loves dearly. He continues to receive follow-up care at UPMC Children’s.
Connor likely won’t remember his time at the hospital, but Katie will never forget it. Although Katie and Brian hope their kids will never again experience hospitalization, they’re grateful to have a world-class pediatric trauma center like UPMC Children’s so close to home.
Katie says, “We will always be thankful for everything the hospital has done for our family.”