Yesterday afternoon, my wife was carrying both of our 3-year-old twins down the stairs. When she reached the 3rd or 4th stair from the bottom, she tripped on her pants and fell. She was able to control one of them, but the other fell forward out of her arms and landed on the tile floor at the bottom, flat on his back and hitting his head very hard.
I was upstairs working at the time. I remember hearing a little commotion, but that is completely normal in a house with 3 young boys. Moments later I heard a cry for my name with an urgency I don’t usually hear.
I rushed downstairs to find my wife sitting in a chair and holding Bryan, the one who fell. She was extremely emotional, and Bryan was not acting normal at all. He was limp, and not keeping his head held up. She told me he had fallen, but she didn’t give me much more information than that through her sobbing. I immediately feared that he was paralyzed. I couldn’t get him to respond much at all to me, and at this point he was still just a limp body. He was also starting to fall asleep amidst his own weak crying. There was no question that we had to go to the ER.
While all of this is happening, I notice that our oldest son (7) is just standing there confused and scared, and he started crying. He was really scared and feared that Bryan was dying. I had to quickly try and explain the situation, and explain that it’s ok to be scared, and that we were heading to get him help. I think he may have been thinking that Bryan’s falling asleep would have resulted in him dying. I had to assure him that wasn’t the case. It was hard to see him so scared.
We rushed to grab a few things and got everyone in the van. At this point, he had started moving his arms a bit, and he was keeping his head up a little now. That was a little relieving. We have heard that with head injuries, that you should try and keep them awake. So the 10 minute car ride to the ER was quite a challenge to keep him from not falling asleep, as that’s all he seemed to want to do. Shane got scared again in the commotion of it all.
We got to the ER, got him checked in, and they quickly got him in for a neck x-ray. As we were getting him ready to leave for the x-ray, he gagged and spit up just a little bit. Totally normal for children with head trauma. When he returned, they said they weren’t 100% satisfied with the x-ray, so they put a small neck brace on him. Unfortunately, he hated it.
Next up was a CAT scan on his neck and head. It took quite a while for this to happen. It was maybe an hour or two of just waiting in the room, which was made far more difficult because of his discomfort with the brace. He continued having cycles where he’d get uncomfortable and start crying for a while. I just kept rubbing his head and telling him the brace needed to stay on just a little while longer, and that it was there to help him feel better. He’d tell me “OK” through his tears, to which I would reply with “thank you”, and he’d say a tearful “you’re welcome.”
The technician finally came in to get him for the CAT scans. They wheeled him out with my wife, and I stayed back with the other two boys. A while later they returned and we all waited for the results, which wouldn’t come for another hour or two. We were able to get Bryan to take a nap for a while, which was helpful to break the cycle of his discomfort with the neck brace.
The doc finally came in and told us that his neck looked perfectly fine, which was a huge relief. At that point he took off the neck brace. But, he also said that his skull had been fractured. Fortunately it wasn’t bad for a fracture. It was just a hairline, but there was also a tiny spot of blood on his brain. A tiny spot is ok, but it put him at a higher risk of complications. The doc suggested we transfer him to another hospital in the area so that a neurologist could look him over and look at the CAT scans to see if they should monitor him in the hospital overnight. This began another long waiting period to get that all setup. We also were pushing to be able to transfer him ourselves instead of having an ambulance bring him down there.
By this time it was almost 9pm, and none of us had eaten, and the other two boys were getting restless. So we decided that I would drive them home, get them fed, find someone to come over and be at home with the boys, get an overnight bag prepared in case one of us had to stay the night at the hospital, and then head back. Our wonderful (seriously) neighbors across the street came over to get them fed and put them to bed and be here with them until we got home. And then I headed back to the hospital.
By that time, we were cleared to leave and were granted the ability to transfer him ourselves. It was about a 20 minute drive south. In the car, Bryan had perked up a little bit, and was talking a little. His mood was positive, which was really helpful.
We arrived at the new hospital and while we were trying to check him in, he threw up a bit. This turned out to be extremely helpful because they upped the urgency of us getting a room, and were escorted back to a room minutes later.
Shortly after his first vitals were taken, the doctor came in and gave us a rundown on what they were going to do. They were uploading his scans into their computers, and lining up a neurologist to take a look. He said it would take an hour or two before we had an answer about wether we’d have to stay the night or not. Fortunately, less than an hour later, the doc came back and said that the neurologist gave us the clear to go home.
It took another hour or so until we could actually leave. In that time, they were preparing a prescription for anti-nausea medication (for the concussion), and we had to speak with a social worker (protocol). We also had a friend show up unexpected with a care package for us, and to check on us. That was incredibly kind and thoughtful (thank you!).
We finally headed home at nearly midnight. Bryan stayed awake the whole car ride, and remained in a pleasant mood. We got home and put him in our bed so my wife could be right near him if he needed anything during the night, and I slept in the other room so that I could hear and help the other two boys if they needed anything during the night.
Thankfully, we all slept well, and Bryan woke up in a good mood and hasn’t yet complained about any pain. He didn’t eat as much as the other two, but he is eating and there has been no further vomiting. It has been a strong medicine for us to see him acting more normally today.
The whole afternoon, and continuing this morning, my wife has really been struggling with the guilt and anguish of having dropped Bryan. She keeps replaying it all in her head, constantly reminding her of what happened. An instance like this is not something any parent wants to experience, and she continues to experience it over and over again in her mind.
All throughout the evening, she/we have had to explain to doctors, nurses, a social worker, etc. what happened – every time being painful. She’s had to battle wondering what other people think of her, and what I think of her. She’s had to wrestle with the fact that she was the cause of Bryan’s pain and injuries, and for the very expensive hospital bills we will now have to chip away at for a while.
I don’t blame her one bit. It was an accident that could have happened to anybody. I have no negative feelings or thoughts toward her. I have told her that repeatedly, and will continue to do so. I have no question that she loves our children greatly, and that she’d do anything she could to rewind time to prevent what happened. She’s a phenomenal mother. Accidents happen.
She will no doubt continue to play back what happened and get emotional about it. I’m not going to tell her not to, because the reality is that she won’t be able to stop for a while. It’s something she will have to deal with for a time. I will do my best to assure her that it was an accident, that she never wanted it to happen, that I do not blame her in any way, and that Bryan is OK and recovering well, and that I love her.
I am grateful to God that Bryan is OK, and that no severe damage was done. Many of you have reached out to my wife and I in the last 16 hours or so letting us know that you were praying for us and checking in. Thank you very much for that. We have definitely felt loved and supported.