Thursday, May 27, 2010

I get a little irrational about head injuries

Tonight, I was hanging in bed with Max and Sabrina, reading books. It was twilight and rainy outside, and it was so nice to cuddle up with them and read the Olivia Forms A Band book Sabrina had gotten at the library. Then Max decided he wanted to look out the window. Sabrina ran to the other side of the bed; she wanted to help him down. And suddenly, before I could stop her, she grabbed his legs and pulled him off the bed. Max body-slammed onto the floor. It all happened so fast.

I shrieked and ran over to Max, who was sobbing. Sabrina started sobbing, too, because I scared the heck out of her.

Max cried for a good five minutes. Once he stopped, I peered into his eyes to see if his pupils were enlarged, a sign of a concussion. They seemed normal. I asked him to point to where it hurt, and when he gestured at his head I felt a little sick. Sabrina kept sobbing, and I also felt awful about having freaked her out. As I held Max I explained that I shouted because I got scared that Max was hurt, and that I knew it wasn't her fault and that Max was OK, and she calmed down. "Max, you're OK, you're OK," I crooned as I rocked him back and forth, fervently hoping that he really was.

After I put them to bed, I looked up The Mayo Clinic's list of concussion symptoms. I felt comforted seeing them, even though I know them well. I have called the pediatrician several times over the years when Max has fallen and hit his head. Ironically, he's tended to fall more often than typical kids because of his brain injury. Since his balance is pretty decent these days it's not as much of an issue but when he was learning to walk, he'd conk his head a lot. At one point, we had him wearing a helmet.

I got a little distracted because the Mayo Clinic site lists slurred speech as a symptom and I was like, um, that is what Max sounds like all the time. But then I scrolled down and they had the specific symptoms for head injury in children: listlessness, irritability, change in eating or sleeping patterns, loss of balance. So far, Max is OK. He went to sleep with his usual cheerful demeanor, although I keep checking on him.

I am still feeling shaky. Dave is away on business, so it's me and the kids. I just downed ten mini Toblerone chocolates in a row, straight-up stress eating.

I am not a person who typically freaks out during crises, and this I know because I have had to deal with two different seizures Max had, the first a gigantic grand mal when he was one-and-a-half that lasted even after he got to the hospital and the medicine they gave wasn't strong enough, the second a smaller one last spring. Both times I immediately dialed 911, told the dispatcher what was going on and Max's history, talked with the police when they got to the house a few minutes later. I handled it OK, though it was awful.

But tonight, the sight of my child potentially suffering a head injury unhinged me. Completely. It was as if, in a matter of seconds, the repressed fears I have about Max came out of their hiding spots in my head and amassed themselves in my chest into a ball of terror. My concern about a head injury isn't irrational—but the intense reaction it triggers is. I have a feeling this isn't uncommon among parents who have been through an NICU trauma.

I am off to check on Max again, poor little guy.


  1. Although I feel certain that Max is all right and that you will get over this, I can relate. You are such a good mother, so alert to knowing when something is really wrong --

    Feel better soon, Max!

  2. I'd freak out too.

    I'd comfort myself with wine and not chocolate though.


    I've noticed G's hearing getting worse. We've discussed so many times that his hearing loss could outgrow hearing aids and require a cochlear implant. That makes me crazy. The thought of surgery so close to his brain. He's had two bleeds.

    I think I'd rather have a straight up Deaf kid than risk any further brain damage.

  3. NICU PTSD. I must say I too have it. I was an EMT for many years and have a science background (pre-med major in college) but nothing makes me forget all of my training than Noah acting a little "off" or when his seizures were never ending. I hate that sick feeling. That fear that just takes over your entire body. I hope Max is just suffering a little headache (it sounds like he will be just fine). :)

  4. Ahhh, we are kind of the opposite around here. I mean, head injuries are, of course, frightening, but I always tell myself that the kid is tough as nails.

  5. Uhhh... We need to have lunch and some Moscow Mules. When and where?????

  6. YOU poor thing! I understand about being overly worried, but how can you not be? Take it easy on yourself as well; it sounds like the whole family could use a night of good rest!

  7. Poor Max, Poor Mom! I have had heart attack moments with Faith like that before. There's no assurance that something couldn't happen so we have to live with that fear. It's not irrational, though. Just down a few more chocolates to take the edge off....

  8. You're not irrational, that's completely justified thinking--even with a child with no history of siezures. A conk on the head with a wiffle bat or a kickball is one thing, but when they hit the floor, it's heart-stopping.

    Poor Max is going to have a massive egg on his head tomorrow, poor dear. And poor Sabrina is probably going to stay traumatized for awhile; you might want to have another little chat with her about handling Max with care and taking things slowly with him, owing to his challenges.

    I think you all need to go get ice cream tomorrow. Ice cream is a wonderful prescription for troubles such as these!!!

  9. Another vote to say you are not crazy for worrying about head injuries. And I agree that part of it is PTSD. I have had meltdowns from stuff that should be no great worry but I know it is tied to the two babies' hospital stays, and I am not sure we will ever get over it, we just have to learn to recognize the fear for what it is. Of course tonight, I saw my 21 month old CP girl pinch her big sister really hard to try to get a toy from her, and I am pretty sure that one will give as good as she gets, provided she is already sitting or remains vertical. Sending hugs your way!

  10. I my gosh, I thought I was the only one who did this!
    The number of times I've freaked out then diligently kept watch on Dimitri for 24hrs after a fall and bump on the head (or his jack-knifing forward to hit the edge or corner of the table). I also have a need to double check the symptoms. The thought of a new brain injury on top of his current problems....

    Hope Max is bump free soon.

  11. I do it too, but I find myself getting worked up even when she is "just" sick.
    My daughter has a very high pain tolerance and is non-verbal. She does not understand when I ask her where it hurts. It is always a guessing game.

    I think it comes with the territory of having a special needs child.

  12. I'm so sorry this happened---this always happens to us too...the boys end up just as upset as Olivia b/c they did something on accident and I freaked out. And this: "the repressed fears I have about Max came out of their hiding spots in my head and amassed themselves in my chest into a ball of terror" that happens to me all the time.

    I think we may be twins separated at birth... :)

  13. (((hugs))) I do the same thing, too. For precisely the same reasons. PTSD. NICU. Brain injury. Shrieking. Check. And so (((hugs))))

  14. Not irrational at all Ellen. Gabe has a shunt and I am always worried about head injuries. Hope Max feels better..and you too momma!

  15. I'm so sorry that happened! I'm glad everyone is ok. You're not being irrational though. You've got such good reason.

    I know I do the same thing with Mango. A lot of us are in the same boat. Head trauma got us here, and that's our big fear.

    I agree with the other gal - this sounds like it calls for ICE CREAM!

  16. Definitely NICU trauma. Been there done that. I have never been one to handle stressful situations well, and the NICU experience just magnifies my reaction to situations. It makes me think of my first day home alone with my daughter. She had been home from the NICU about 2 or 3 days. Her g-tube came out and I completely freaked out. We had to take her to the ER to have them put it back in and I think the doctors were more concerned about me than her - that goes to show I was not handling things well AT ALL!

  17. I am right there with fact that's what lead us "here"...a linear skull fracture caused by a head first trip onto a playground bar..purely an accident, but that lead to a stroke, seziures, and a toddler who will never be the same after that Feb 16th, "trip" I panic big time.


    tesnjen at aol dot com

  18. Oh, Ellen! I never thought of that. I overreact, I know I do...over everything..

    I always have been told it's my nature, and my friends say "calm down, sheesh."

    My husband goes crazy when I scream, but what you just said MUST BE WHY!

    Thank you, Ellen, I do NOT have a problem, it's what I've been through that puts my in overdrive.

    Our 3 kids were all in NICU, born 6 wks early, and then came home with asthma and food allergies. I CANNOT count the number of times I dialed 911 with eack one's first year of life.

    Thank you so much for telling me it's my circumstances that have made me this way...

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. I was recently diagnosed with "birth trauma ptsd" - something I'd never heard of. It was such a relief to know that how I was feeling was actually common after living in the Ronald McDonald house for almost three months while my daughter was in the NICU. I was really irrational for a while - jumping up every 5 minutes to check on her when we brought her home without monitors. For months.


Thanks for sharing!

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