I was finishing up a patient's exam and I felt the slight vibration on my wrist. A quick glance at my watch and I noticed it was the kids' school calling. Mentally, I did a quick check off for each kid making sure I hadn't forgotten anything. The vibration stopped just as I was finishing the exam. I pulled my phone out of my pocket as I walked out of the room to call the school back. Before I could dial the number my husband was calling. I thought, "oh shoot this can't be good". I answered and he immediately begin telling me that it was the school nurse who was trying to reach me.
Our oldest son was hurt. He was playing a variation of a football game called jackpot that I'd never heard of. One person throws the football high in the sky and the other children run to catch the football. He apparently went up in the air but when coming down, flipped over another student landing flat on his back, head first.
He was dazed. He didn't get up immediately but he wasn't crying either. He didn't immediately respond to the teacher. The school nurse came and assessed him before calling me. The nurse told me he's showing signs of having a concussion. For a moment I held my breath. The mom in me wanted to panic but the nurse in me held her own. I said, ok, tell me what happened and why you think that.
She begins to tell me how he is not behaving like he normally would. She says he is lethargic and wants to go to sleep (not good). He complained of head and neck pain (not good but expected). His pupils weren't dilated (good). He wasn't complaining of nausea and hadn't thrown up (very good). My husband made it to the school to pick him up as I contemplated the best course of action. Since he wasn't behaving normally, I knew I should have him evaluated but I wished I could lay eyes on him for myself. I was thinking that he's probably shocked and the fall which I understand was pretty hard knocked the wind out of him. But I couldn't be sure and a head injury was nothing to play with. I knew he would need a CT scan if things didn't turn around quickly. I was comforted that he wasn't having nausea, vomiting, dizziness, slurred speech or loss of consciousness. Yet, I was concerned since he had a headache, drowsiness and delayed response.
I told my husband to start driving towards Birmingham and I'd call the pediatrician. I spoke with the nurse and gave her a summary of what happened. She suggested I go ahead and have him taken to the ER because she suspected he would need a scan. Also, things would be done faster at the ER. Hearing this recommendation confirmed what I knew was best, yet made me anxious. I called my husband back and told him to take him to the emergency room at Children's hospital and I'd meet him there.
Hanging up the phone, I felt panic begin to rise in my chest. My breathing had quickened and my heart was beating faster. Terrible thoughts were playing out in my mind. Then I heard a small voice say pray don't panic. I thought to myself wow, that's a word! I calmed down and as I have done so many times before, I prayed. I notified the team I work with, including the physician, the nurse and the other nurse practitioner of the details. They all jumped in to help cover the rest of my clinic.
I gathered my things and headed to the ER. I continued to pray and felt more and more at ease by the time I met my husband and son at the ER. It was encouraging to look at my son. I could tell he was drowsy but he brightened up a bit when he saw my face. He told me his head and neck hurt and that he wanted to lay down (which he never volunteers to do). I checked his pupils with the flashlight on my phone. You can't take the nurse out of the mom no matter what, lol. I asked him if he'd felt nauseous and if he could see ok to which he answered no and yes. Good, I thought to myself.
We didn't wait too long before he was taken to a room after having vital signs done. He was gradually becoming more talkative which was a good sign. After talking to the nurse, he was seen and thoroughly examined by a nurse practitioner. I watched as she did her thing, mentally checking off the list of negative findings in the exam (negative means good in health care). She ordered scans and reviewed them. They were negative for anything major. Thank God! He was held a while longer for continued observation. By the time we left he was almost back to himself, talking my ears off and asking for food. The Tylenol and Ibuprofen had kicked in and the pain was getting better.
We received instructions to rest and limit physical activity for the next few days. That would prove my hardest task, lol. He is eight after all and has always been on the upper end of the active spectrum, lol. I was instructed to give him ibuprofen every 6 hours for the next few days and continue monitoring him. He gradually got better and by the third day after the incident he didn't complain of pain or soreness any more.
I'm aware this story could have turned out differently. I'm thankful and grateful that it didn't. No parent wants harm to come to his or her child. We wish we could protect them from hurt, physical and otherwise, but we can't.
Here is what we can do.
1. Don't panic. At least don't let the child see you panic. Panic only makes a tough situation worse for the child and you.
2. Pray. Pray for your child, for yourself and the healthcare team involved.
3. Allow the healthcare team to do their job. Getting in the way only makes things take longer.
4. Be patient. Some things just take time.
You may recall a situation with your child or a child you know in which you panicked. Looking back on it, did it help the situation? What could you have done differently? How has prayer helped you in situations of distress?