As parents Julene and Simon Greenshields settled down in their Wilton, Connecticut, home to review the day's fun events, Natalie tromped back downstairs to say she had a headache. A bad headache. It was obvious this was more than just seven-year-old dramatics when the child began to lose consciousness. Terrified, her parents summoned the Wilton EMS squad, who arrived in minutes to whisk her to Norwalk Hospital. "I recognized the symptoms of a cerebral bleed, and I knew that time was the enemy.
She needed care fast," recalls Simon. Norwalk Hospital came to the same conclusion and raced Natalie via an ambulance to Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital. Charles C. Duncan, MD,
chief of pediatric neurosurgery at YNHH, and his staff were already reading Natalie's CAT scans and prepping for surgery. Within two hours of the initial symptoms, Natalie was on the operating table, where Dr. Duncan evacuated a growing hematoma.
Natalie remained in the pediatric ICU for three days, with her parents by her side. When she awoke, she was out of danger but she found that she could not move her left arm, her left leg was weak, and she suffered from hemianopia, a reduction in the vision field. "The whole experience was surreal. Simon had a better idea of what was going on, but I was in another world," Julene recalls.
The plan was for Natalie to go from the hospital to an inpatient rehab center. But while she was at YNHCH, she began occupational and physical therapy. "They made it fun, and there was a nice place where I could draw and make things," says Natalie, now 10, shyly adding, "Crystal was my favorite nurse. She gave me some real stethoscopes to keep, and I still have them!" At the end of two weeks, Natalie had improved so much, she could go home and do rehab on an outpatient basis.
Today, Natalie is healthy and active. She plays soccer—"She scored a goal yesterday," her father proudly reveals—and loves to write stories. "She's our miracle girl," says Julene. In appreciation of their miracle, the Greenshields gave a sizable donation to support the pediatric intensive care unit
and the Child Life
programs at YNHCH. Julene says, "Dr. Duncan and Yale-New Haven saved Natalie's life. We can never give enough for that. They made us feel part of the family and we want to give back."