The C-Word: My Son Gets a Concussion

Friday started out as a fairly normal day. TRC had been looking forward to Winter Fun Day at school for weeks–it’s a day when the entire school zips off to the local ski hill to let the kids go skiing or do other winter activities. He’s skied the whole season, and he’s getting pretty good. So the chance to go out and show his friends what he could do was exciting for him.

I get a call from Denisa at 10 or so, saying the school called. TRC is fine, but he had a wipeout on the slopes, and could I go pick him up. He’d hit a tree(?), but nothing serious. “Hitting a tree while skiing” didn’t seem to be synonymous with “nothing serious,” but I chose to focus on the “TRC is fine” bit of the news as I hurried off from work to go get him. When I arrived, he had a cut lip, but he seemed to be doing well other than that. Knew who and where and when he was, could talk and walk normally.

All was well.

Except he wasn’t himself. I felt really bad that he’d had to miss out on most of his winter fun day, so I told him he could do whatever he wanted. Playing Minecraft the whole day was an option. He chose to lie down and read for a bit, and then to just lie down and do nothing. He played a bit of Minecraft, but then contented himself just lying down again. This was not normal behavior. I suggested he watch a movie in the evening. He complained he was feeling bad about 20 minutes in.

And then he threw up.

Now, being a librarian, I had already Googled the heck out of “head injuries” when I found out what happened to him. (The full story? He’d hit a patch of ice and gone sprawling face first into a tree. This reality only surfaced in bits and pieces as I kept asking questions over the course of the day. I have no idea what he’d told the school nurse who checked him out initially. But “face first sprawl into a tree” isn’t in the same zip code as “nothing big happened.” Just saying.) And one thing I knew was that nausea wasn’t a good sign.

Denisa and I went into panic mode, of course. I got in touch with every medical professional I could think of to ask further questions, and Denisa called our primary care physician. They all said the same thing: mild concussion. Keep an eye on him, but he should get better with rest. Report back if things got worse.

He threw up one more time that evening, but he slept the night away. The next day I downloaded Hunger Games on audio book (no screen time for him. Apparently people with concussions are supposed to avoid reading, watching TV, and playing video games–so I’d had TRC do all three after his head injury. I win the Clueless Caregiver Award for the weekend.) He had little appetite, and little desire to do anything other than lie there.

We were still very concerned.

Thankfully. things improved dramatically Sunday. He was mostly back to himself. Played multiple board games, and beat me a fair amount of the time. His attention span didn’t seem to be entirely back, but his personality was. What a relief. (Though he’s still not back at full speed–stayed home today because he was still feeling woozy.)

It’s funny. Watching sports on TV and following teams, I’ll hear about players getting concussions all the time. No big deal, I thought. They’d be back in action soon enough. But there’s a huge difference when it’s someone else’s child and when it’s your own. All sorts of nightmare scenarios occur to you. Or at least they do to me.

I think the most worrisome symptom was how different TRC was for those two days. How the kid I’ve raised and known for almost 11 years just wasn’t the same kid I was talking to and spending time with. I’ve had some experience with this before–my grandmother fell and hit her head when she had a stroke, and she was never herself after that. But still, to see the potential of it happening to my son was more than a little nerve wracking.

In the end, yay for helmets. We always have our kids wear helmets when skiing. Of course, they’re not quite as helpful when you hit the tree with your face, but . . . yay mouth guards? TRC had his in, and at least he didn’t lose any teeth.

Thanks to everyone who offered help and advice. It was all much appreciated. Did this turn TRC off skiing? Not a bit. He’s already looking forward to his next trip–hoping that the ski hill stays open a few more weeks.

Though we’ve had a few words with him about avoiding trails that go through the trees when the snow conditions aren’t great . . .

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