When traumatic events happen, you deal with them as best you can. Times goes on. You assume the event is safely in the past. Then, you enter a situation that is similar to the traumatic event and have a panic attack. This is what happened to me this week, and it took me by surprise.
In some cases, life-changing experiences can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a mental illness triggered by peak levels of distress. It can be treated and brought under control with help from a doctor, therapy, and professional guidance. A good friend lived through the big earthquake that rocked Christchurch in 2011. Diagnosed with PTSD, she suffers recurrent nightmares and over-reacts when she hears loud noises.

In my case, what I went through this week was not PTSD but a flashback. A flashback is when you feel drawn back into the traumatic experience as if it is happening all over again.
This week, the youngest son was scheduled for an adenectomy and to have grommets inserted. Surgery is a last resort in my book. But in my son’s case, the specialist believed that his oversized adenoids were causing the loss of hearing in his left ear and inability to breathe through his nose. So it had to be done.
We sat in the hospital waiting room and worked on our crossword, chatting and laughing.
A nurse said, “We’re ready for you now. Follow me.” We followed her along the winding corridors through a pair of heavy blue doors. As the nurse and my son stepped aside, I got my first sight of the room. I took in the surgeons, the anesthetists, the nurses, all in masks and gowns, the skinny operating table, the machines, and the lights. My stomach immediately dropped sickeningly. My skin prickled with goosebumps, and my heart was pounding. I was freaking out. But I couldn’t show it. My son needed me, and I had to be strong for him.

It was scarily like that other time, in August 2010, when he was five years old, and we followed a nurse into a stark white operating theatre. I was straight back there. No time had elapsed in between. In 2010, I looked at my little boy, and I looked at that operating table and felt as if I would throw up with fear, knowing my baby was about to undergo a heart bypass and open-heart surgery.

However, as a parent, you are the captain of the ship. Captains don’t get to freak out. Your job is to stay at the helm until the bitter end.

I had to be calm that day in 2010 and smile for my son. I murmured, “You’re okay, mama loves you,” when he fought the gas mask, and the doctors made me lie on him until the anesthetic took effect and he went limp beneath me.

On Tuesday morning this week, I walked into that operating room, took one glimpse, and stepped back ten years to the scariest time of my life. On Tuesday, my son was only undergoing a minor medical procedure. Yet, I was staring into the white light and hearing angels as if his life was on the line.

As a mature adult today, I have lots of tools to help me weather the storms of life. Whenever something stressful happens, I calm down with meditation, affirmations, yoga, and breathing techniques. But for the private panic attack, I suffered in that hospital room this week, none of my tools helped. I was physically reliving the helpless terror I felt in that other theatre room. According to Rothschild, ‘A flashback can mimic the real thing because it provokes a similar level of stress in the body. The same hormones course through your veins as did at the time of the actual trauma, setting your heart pounding and preparing your muscles and other body systems to react as they did at the time.’

That describes my panic attack perfectly. I stayed with my son until he had fallen unconscious. In the waiting room, I did the only thing I could do. I rang my family and talked to people who cared, and it helped so much.

*According to the site, Trauma Recovery, here are some ideas for managing the situation if you get stuck in a flashback:
NAME the experience as a flashback (example- this is a memory, NOT a recurrence of the actual event)
Use LANGUAGE that categorizes the flashbacks as a “memory” (example- I was attacked, rather than I am being attacked)
Use the SENSES to GROUND self in your CURRENT environment:
Name what you see, feel, hear, smell, etc.
Rub hands together
Touch, feel the chair that is supporting you
Wiggle your toes
Favourite colour- find three things in the room that are “blue”
Name the date, month, year, season
Count backward from 100
Use an object as a grounding tool
I’ve kept a note of these points in case any of my loved ones need escorting into theatre in the future.
Have you ever suffered a private panic attack or a flashback? What did you do?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating
Yvette Carol

“I have laid my son on an OR table and kissed him as he fell asleep. I have handed him to a surgeon knowing they would stop his heart and prayed it would beat again. I am a Heart mum.” ~ Suzanne White


  1. davidprosser says:

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that trauma again Yvette but I’m glad you had access to people who cared for you and your son with the nursing staff and perhaps family by phone as you did last time. The fright, the shock can stay with you for years and odd things can trigger the panic. Just bear in mind how many people out here care for you and will be thinking of you should you need it. You don’t have to go through things alone.
    Massive Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Keith says:

    Yvette, I hope it all worked OK. I can feel your angst through your words. One of the hardest things as a parent is watching your kids go through operations, sickness, etc. When it is truly out of your hands and you must be cheerleader to the doctors and nurses and calming influence for the child, it is even harder. When you have a task to do to help, it makes it easier on the caregiver.

    PTSD is more common than people think. Flashbacks bring it to the front burner. It may be a sight, an odor, or a sound that is the impetus. For a friend who fought in Vietnam, he could never be on an elevator with people behind him. When he entered an elevator, he would go tp the back.

    When a charity I volunteered with helped working homeless families, the kids and mother (and father) had PTSD. Not being able to provide for your children is highly traumatic. Kids seeing their parents in anguish is traumatic. If they were homeless due to evading a domestic violence situation, that added greatly to the PTSD.

    I feel for you, but it sounds like you mustered through it I hope the surgery was successful. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Hi, Keith, thanks for stopping by. Yes, the procedures worked out well and we survived. The next morning, my son called me into his room at 6.30 a.m. “What’s that alarm? Can you hear it? It’s been going off for half an hour and won’t stop.” We worked out he was talking about the birds singing, which he was hearing properly for the first time!

      I am still surprised to have discovered I could flashback to it. At least I know what the trigger is and it’s unlikely I should be in that situation too often. But for folks who suffer from PTSD, who might have everyday triggers, life must be challenging. You must have seen this yourself in the work you do.

      No matter how bad things may get there is always someone who has it worse.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Keith says:

        Yvette, I love the birds singing story. That shows improvement. Terrific news You are right, we each have our struggles, but unfortunately, some are burdened far more than others. To me, if we can survive painful learning experiences, it does make us tougher, although, we must be aware of those PTSD triggers. I have some blogging friends who deal with chronic pain, and it is those people who I admire the most for putting up with so much daily grind. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

      • yvettecarol says:

        Yes, Keith, I feel exactly the same way. I’ve always had a lot of empathy for chronic pain sufferers.


  3. Thanks Yvette for this heart rending account of the experience. All my support goes out to you. Forever in your corner. When my middle daughter had her ear operation, I slept over with her in the hospital. She was having the panic attack, so my job was to sooth her and allow her to trust the doctors all by herself. That was ten years ago. Now she can look back without flinching on the experience. Never easy to be a mummy. Take care. Our children are our greatest joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a similar experience a few times. Which was bound to happen with 5 active sons. But regardless, you’re never prepared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Exactly, Joylene. And yes, it’s true, boys tend to get into a lot more scrapes. My baby brother put my parents through their paces, too, by being accident-prone. They were always rushing him to the emergency room.


  5. cleemckenzie says:

    Sorry to read this. I understand the feeling of those attacks. Mine started about three years ago–a traumatic event in my life–and I keep hoping they’ll go away. Meditation has helped and lots of walking.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s