August 25, 2014

Can your teen manage health care at college?

Among the biggest challenges for young people heading off to school is managing their own health far from home.

Lauren Davies had a desperate thought while stuck in traffic as she frantically drove to reach her 19-year-old.

“If I drive on the shoulder and a cop stops me, will he believe me when I tell him I think my daughter’s dying in a hospital?”

The sophomore had fallen so ill from an out-of-control sinus infection that she was in a feverish stupor, unable to open her mouth, her face so swollen that a membrane was pressing on her brain after two rounds of antibiotics that didn’t work.

Davies, from Garden City, New York, had another thought about scooping up her young adult: “In my mind I just wanted her home. That’s where she was going to be.”

What could go wrong did go wrong for Leah Davies in 2011. Having turned 18, a legal adult when it comes to care providers sharing health information with parents, mom and dad were forced to the sidelines as doctors at home tried to convince the hospital in Syracuse to be more aggressive.

Heading off to school is stressful for young people on a variety of fronts. Among the biggest challenges is managing their own health far from home. And it can be a trial for parents, too, in this, the era of the helicopter when it comes to raising children.

Leah, now 22, took a semester off after her health ordeal.

Women’s health nurse practitioner Barbara Dehn in Los Altos, Calif., has a busy practice with lots of teen girls. She has seen it all in 25 years and will soon send her 18-year-old son to college.

Med schedules are a recurring issue after campus drop-off, she said.

“A lot of kids I see have ADHD, anxiety disorders, OCD. Sometimes, with the stress of living away from home, they stop their meds, have more depression, more anxiety,” Dehn said.

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