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Pediatric Trauma: Read Christopher's Story
High school football player back on the field after spleen injury
Date: 10/25/2013

High school football player Christopher Kline was tackled while catching a pass at practice. As he hit the ground, his elbow jammed into his abdomen, resulting in a potentially serious spleen injury.

“When it happened, I thought I just got the wind knocked out of me,” says Kline, who was a freshman wide receiver at the time. “I was off balance when I fell, the ball was in my left arm, and, when that arm came down, my elbow went right in to my side.”

Kline reported the injury to his coach, who had him sit out for a few minutes. The pain persisted and Kline had trouble breathing, so he saw the team trainer, who quickly determined that Kline should seek medical attention.

Tim Kline picked his son up and drove him to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, where Emergency Department Nurse Practitioner Diane Albala assessed Kline in triage. She noted his intense discomfort and ordered a CAT scan right away.

“It showed a ruptured spleen, which can be very serious,” recalls Emergency Department Physician Dale Goode, MD.

“Someone with a ruptured spleen can lose a lot of blood in the abdomen, or there can be a delayed or further rupture later on. If you have enough blood loss, the body can go into shock.”

The scan also revealed a lumbar fracture in his spine, which Kline attributes to a football injury he sustained during a game the week before this incident. To ensure the best possible care, Kline was transferred to The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at RWJ, the first hospital in New Jersey to be designated a Pediatric Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons.

“From our advanced and specialized transport of pediatric patients, to the trauma bay and Pediatric Emergency Department, along with the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit , trauma floor and pediatric rehabilitation, we see to it that children who are injured get the best possible care from start to finish,” says Adam M. Shiroff, MD FACS, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Trauma Program Director at RWJ. Debbie Kline, Chris’ mom, was impressed by RWJ Hamilton’s swift action and by the pediatric ambulance and team that transported her son to New Brunswick.

“I was worried about the extent of his injury, but I was grateful that Robert Wood Johnson took that level of care to make sure he was safe.”

At RWJ, Shiroff determined that surgery to remove Kline’s spleen wasn’t necessary.

“In pediatric patients, every effort is made to preserve the spleen because it serves an immunologic function,” he explains. “It helps to prevent infection.”

Kline spent two days being monitored at RWJ’s children’s hospital. Debbie remembers the hospital’s Child Life team, whose staff set up an Xbox for her son to make his stay a little more enjoyable and answered any questions that he, his siblings or his parents had. The Kline family was also very impressed with the nursing team for its skill and attentiveness.

“Everyone here was very caring,” Debbie Kline said. Kline was released, with restrictions for several weeks to allow his spleen and his spine to heal. He returned to school the week following his hospital visit, and in March he resumed normal activities and play.

“It was one of those things that just happened, but all told, in light of the circumstances, this was a very positive experience,” Debbie Kline says.  

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