Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend Concussion

Memorial Day weekend started out nicely for our family. On Friday late afternoon, I headed off to the much-anticipated homeschooling conference at Belmont Abbey, having not been able to go to the local or national one last summer. I felt in hungry need of both encouragement from the speakers and seeing new materials from the vendors.

Two teeth lost in one week!
Meanwhile, Mary lost her second tooth in one week! Her daddy emailed me a joyful picture in the short half hour I got to stay at the conference.
Then my guardian angel must have tapped me on the shoulder because I was enjoying the beginning of the next speaker when I thought to reach into my purse and check my muted phone for messages: there were four texts and some missed phone calls from Chris.

Mary had fallen, she had a concussion, and I needed to come home.

I've always thought it would be Mary who causes our family to experience our first concussion, broken limb, stitches, and so forth, but this time she wasn't even doing anything Mary-Crazy. She was being a little heroine!

Two-year-old Joseph had climbed up on the deck railing, a short three feet above the dirt ground. Compared to the climbing, swinging, and leaping our children do around here, that one doesn't even make me bat an eyelash. Mary (6), being a mother hen, climbed up next to him to sit and provide some safety for him. From what I hear, Joseph began to fall backwards, so Mary intentionally braced him in her arms and fell with him, breaking his fall. Joseph came away scared but unscathed but Mary's head hit in just the wrong way and she came away with a concussion.

On the drive home, I called our doctor on call to find out whether Chris needed to take Mary and the other children to the Emergency Room or could he wait the forty-five minutes till I got home. The doctor was very calm, explained to me what concussions are, and advised we not rush in because the treatment for concussions is quiet rest at home with very little stimulation.

But he explained that a concussion can lead to a brain bleed, which is an emergency, how to watch for the signs, and that then we would rush in to the ER for medication and/or surgery.

Helpful instructions I wrote on our family white board

It was sad to see my active, vibrant Mary limp on the couch clutching her head in pain. But she was showing signs of normal concussion and not of a brain bleed, so we waited it out, despite my Mama's emotional (not rational) desire to take her to the hospital for a whole battery of tests, not caring about taking resources away from a more needy patient, driving up insurance costs generally, or how much money we would spend out of pocket.

Daddy bought her flowers, root beer, and cherries--her favorites!
Mary threw up voluminously once and we'd been told once was normal, but more than once meant a ticket to the ER. I thought things were headed downhill, but that was when Mary, a few hours post-smackeroonee, began to perk up, and would smile in her fatigue and chat with me.

That first night, I slept next to Mary and woke her throughout the night, per doctor's instructions, and she woke just fine.

I found it fascinating to be instructed that she had to refrain not just from obvious jostling activities like climbing, jumping, and swinging, but intellectual stimulation, such as any computer devices or screens, reading, schoolwork, or playing music. The doctor explained that the brain had to heal and could not do so while overstimulated with these activities.

Indeed, on Day 2, Mary's headache began to dissipate, sometimes disappearing, then resuming every time she walked up and down stairs, tried to read a page, or tried to watch television. Within a minute, she'd be clutching her head, telling me the headache had returned. It was like watching in real time how blood flow and activity of some physical kind occurs in the brain when we actually think.

She didn't want to eat for almost a day, then her appetite came back gradually. I'd be fascinated to know why a head bonk causes vomiting and loss of appetite, but they are common symptoms in the concussion list.

Napping on the windowsill
Poor bunchkin was also so tired. The girl who dropped her naps at 18 months without looking backward, the girl who stays up later than any of the children, she kept taking little naps, including one on our windowsill.

I finished reading aloud "Peter Pan"
and the lesser known, earlier work "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens"
God had Mary resting her brain and me resting my brain. Despite looking forward to the homeschool conference with a near desperation for being "filled up" and nurtured, despite feeling like I can't do this homeschooling thing without the rah-rah cheerleaders these conferences provide, God clearly had another lesson in mind for me this weekend. My brain did not get to be stimulated and filled with new information at the conference. Instead, my main job was to keep Mary quiet and entertained while Chris' main job was to keep the three active children out of our way.

Brother John reading aloud to his big sister
I felt it was poignant that Saturday was the first day in the 15 months Mary has been taking piano lessons that she didn't run to the piano to play (not once but probably half a dozen times): the house was quiet.

Apparently doing artwork doesn't exhaust the brain like reading does, as Mary was able to draw two pictures during her recovery.

On Day 3, Mary woke up proclaiming that the headache was gone! Immediately she tested whether she could read without pain (she could) and whether she could still play "Titanium Toccata" (which she could--you can see here a video of her practicing it last week). Still, by splitting Masses with Chris, we kept Mary home so she wouldn't be tempted to be too active.

Nonetheless, she didn't have any headache all day! At night, I tucked her into bed, where I left her reading aloud to her brother--with great animation and character voices--a children's version of The Odyssey. Our Mary is back!


  1. Thank God she's OK!!! That's a very fast recovery! That is amazing that she reacted that fast to help her brother! sorry for the pain for Mary and the worries for Mom and Dad!!!!

  2. How incredibly scary Katherine, I am just reading this! Thank you Jesus that she was alright.