The Women's Journal

Tips To Help Your College Student Manage A Medical Crisis

By  |  0 Comments

pat_Smith_ond17By Dr. Patricia H. Smith 

College Campus’ Health Centers play a key role in overseeing and coordinating students’ care provided on campus (Skorton and Altschuler, Forbes, 2013). College students are considered young adults, and managing their health is part of their development. Although students are learning to manage their own health care needs with less parental oversight, parents can still play an important role. Recently, my husband and I assisted our college student through a medical crisis and emergency surgery for an inflamed appendix.  

Cry for Help

On a Thursday morning (6:30 a.m.), our son called to tell us that he was very sick and in severe pain. I immediately panicked as I heard our son – who is five (5) hours away from home on a college campus – say that he was sick and had severe abdominal pain. I wanted to get in my car, catch an airplane, helicopter, jet, train or whatever to get to my child and tend to his needs. However, to properly manage this crisis, I had to calm down and listen. 


Determining what is the matter is hard to do by telephone. You can’t see your child’s eyes or what part of the body is sensitive to touch. However, it was critical that I try to understand what my son was saying. So, I took a deep breath and asked him to explain his symptoms. Simultaneously, I reflected on his past health challenges and tried to remember all the medical resources on or near the college campus that were available to him.  


When I heard our son say that he had pains in his stomach, a fever, and couldn’t eat or drink, I remembered I received a Parent/Family Newsletter from his college with a section on Health and Wellness. The article addressed how to discuss with your students the symptoms of serious illness and what to do. Specifically, the article recommended that students seek immediate medical care for fever, severe sore throat, chest pain, severe abdominal pain, or injuries. I used this information to help our son decide to immediately go to the Campus Health Center and possibly to the ER.  

Campus Health Center to ER

I received another call from our son, and I heard these words “Mom I am being transported to the Emergency Room at the Hospital – the campus nurse thinks that I have appendicitis.” My heart skipped a beat, but I remained calmed. I knew that I had to get more information before I made a move.  

In the ER, our son was diagnosed with appendicitis and needed emergency surgery. The surgery was to take place before my husband and I could arrive at the hospital. However, to stay engaged, I spoke with his nurse practitioner, anesthesiologist, and phlebotomist, etc. As a result, I felt that I was involved in the decision making and processes leading up to the surgery. The medical professionals understood that I was hours away, so they willingly explained all the steps and procedures to me. After the surgery, the surgeon called and informed me that our son’s appendix had ruptured but the surgery went well. I breathed and offered a prayer of thanksgiving. Our son stayed in the hospital roughly a week and during that time he received excellent care. 


I am so thankful that the surgery went well and that our son was properly assessed, diagnosed and repaired. The day after the surgery, I contacted the campus nurse to thank her for her medical expertise and informed her of our son’s diagnosis, surgery and recovery time. During the crisis, I prayed and trusted in the medical professionals on and off the college campus. Even today, I am thankful for their support, expertise, and willingness to be my extended arms. We worked as a team!  

Back to Class

Nine days later, our son was back in class and in the groove of being a college student. The transition took some planning with the campus nurse. The nurse was instrumental in organizing meal deliveries and transportation for our son to attend classes. Along the way, his professors and academic advisor were informed; therefore, when he returned to his classes, he was given the appropriate accommodations (e.g. extended time to complete course assignments and projects). 

Recommendations on Managing Your Child’s Health Crisis on a College Campus

  • Listen and Assess 
  • Be aware of the Colleges’ Resources 
  • Stay calm
  • Trust the team of experts to help you and your student 
  • Don’t forget to thank everyone continuously and remember that they have your student’s best interest at heart

Holmes Smith Consulting Services (HSCS), Inc. offers individualized and customized college planning services. We are qualified and proficient in helping families offset college expenses via college scholarships, financial aid and advising families on finding the right “college fit.” Call for your free consultation 302-884-6748.