Thursday, February 2, 2012

A cautionary tale: WEAR YOUR FREAKIN' HELMET.

It is after midnight as I begin to write and here I sit in the dim light in our living room half numb, half high on adrenaline, part of me wanting to crawl out of my skin and scream at the top of my lungs, another part wanting to crawl under the covers on my bed and sleep for a week. Maybe it was all a bad dream.

But it wasn't a dream. No, rather it was that nightmare of a phone call every parent dreads receiving: "The ambulance is on its way. We need your permission to send your child to the hospital for treatment."

It was Wednesday. Wednesday is Ski Club day. Sam wouldn't be home until late, so Rachel and I took the opportunity to have a little date night. We went for pizza - her choice - and then we needed to do a little shopping for a few things to finish a school project. As I parked the truck at our final stop I saw my cell phone glowing in my purse.

Who's calling? Nobody ever calls me.

As I grabbed the phone to answer, the screen went dark. Missed it. I checked my missed calls - there were four of them. Steve, my brother, a number I didn't recognize, and then Steve again. Oh hell. My brother rarely calls me. I thought something happened to Steve. He's in Pennsylvania. How the heck could I get to Pennsylvania fast enough?

I dialed Steve's number. "I just got off the phone with Ski Patrol," he said.

My heart stopped.

In my head: Oh God. Please tell me Sam was wearing his helmet.

I don't know what I actually said. It's all a blur now. I do know I had Steve on speaker phone, and as he told me Sam had fallen and hit his head and been knocked unconscious I heard Rachel gasp and then start to cry in the seat next to me. They were waiting for EMS, he told me, and I needed to call Ms. B, the ski club advisor, so someone could tell me where to go.

By the time I got off the phone with Steve I had a voicemail from Ms. B. I spoke with her, then she handed the phone to Sam and I tried my best to console him. He was scared and didn't know what had happened. It felt like someone was ripping my heart right out of my chest - my firstborn hurt, confused and crying on the other end of the line, my baby sitting next to me crying, worried about her big brother.

I spoke with the gentleman from ski patrol. Sam was ok at that moment, he said, but the ambulance should be there any minute and they might want to take him to the hospital as a precaution. I asked him to call me as soon as they knew more, gave my consent to follow whatever procedure the EMT's felt necessary, and I would drive to get Sam wherever I needed to. I hightailed it home to drop Rachel off with my in-laws and wait for the call.

By the time I got home, Ms. B had called to tell me Sam was being loaded into the ambulance and he would be taken to a nearby hospital. She said he could tell the EMT's where he lived, but he didn't remember talking to me just 20 minutes prior. This concerned them.

The hospital he was headed to is about a 1.5-hour drive from our house.

Longest. Drive. Ever.

I asked my future-sister-in-law Sue to ride along with me. Did I mention it was a long drive? With only the knowledge that my kid had been strapped to a backboard and rushed off in an ambulance. Because he fell and hit his head - sans helmet - hard enough to knock himself out.

He was not. wearing. his helmet.


Sue and I got checked in, got directions to Sam's room, and I walked in to find him sitting up in the bed watching NCIS on television. He smiled at me. I kissed him. I touched his head. I stared at him. He giggled. "What?" And he kept giggling, that "I'm a little uncomfortable with all of this and I don't really know what's going on" giggle. If I hadn't been so relieved I probably would have smacked him. There he sat looking like nothing ever happened, save for some dark circles under his eyes, and there I was, heart and mind having gone through the wringer a thousand times on the way there.

He has a concussion. A CT scan came back normal, so he was discharged. Praise God in Heaven. It could have been so much worse.

So tonight I keep vigil, checking on him often. He is released to return to school in the morning if he is up to it. I fear he has a long road ahead as the doctor said the resulting short-term memory loss could last for 4-6 weeks. He must have asked me a dozen times on the way home if I had gotten his bags (I did), and if he would be able to go skiing next week (not likely).

While I drove home, Sam texted back and forth with one of the kids who was skiing with him. He asked his buddy to help him piece things together - how he fell, what he hit, how long he was out. He couldn't (and still can't) remember any of it. The ER nurse said he might never remember. Everything from the time he got on the bus to go skiing until the time he was loaded in the ambulance is gone - *poof* - from his memory.

He read the texts to us. I was immediately sorry he had. It was all I could do not to pull over, jump from the truck and vomit on the roadside. I just kept repeating in my head ... thank you Jesus ... thank you Jesus ... thank you for letting us keep him ... thank you for the friends who were with him ... thank you ... thank you.

And, maybe a little selfishly, I am thankful he doesn't remember the trauma.

I'm sure Sam will want to go to school if he's not too sore; he wants to see his buddies and hear everyone's version of what happened. I plan to go with him to explain to his teachers the whole memory-loss thing.

Hopefully while I'm there I'll have a chance to hug a few kids and tell them "thank you" for getting Sam the help he needed. They may never understand how grateful I am.

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