This is a scene from our long day, when Maria was hit by a basketball that was kicked at school... no bad intent, just thoughtless exuberance. She didn't see it coming, but four hours later, when I picked her up from school, she described this to me, "I didn't know a ball was coming, but something hit me, and everything just went black, then I saw a white flash. When I woke up, I was on the ground, crying." It happened during lunch, and she says her friend, Tati, took her to the office. As she's telling me all of this, I made a quick, furtive search of my phone... how did I miss the call from her school?? No call. No text. Nothing from the school about our daughter passing out from a blow to the head?? They gave her an ice pack, and she stayed there, attended by... still not sure on that, then was sent back to her class, and after school program.
I checked her eyes, tracking, pupils, I watched her appetite. She described how she was very dizzy, after getting hit. Back at home she ate, and stayed awake and engaged, talking, but by late evening she complained about a headache, and she was very agitated, anxious about what she could not remember, about feeling responsible for what she couldn't recall. I called a doctor, Should we take her in to be seen? The answer was Yes, if only because you won't sleep with the question and concern hanging over you. Makes sense. So we spent two and half hours in the ER, to get some assurance that she was doing alright. They sent us home with what to watch for in cases of concussions, and head injuries, what symptoms were cause to return to a hospital, etc.
This is not something I want to make a major drama of, nor do I feel vindictive, or overwrought about it... probably because it turned out, mostly, fine. Thank God. But I do feel there are greater issues here, and they concern me, a lot.
The school should have called me. On my mobile, at my home, or called my husband, or any of the people I add, every year, to the "in case of emergency" or hit in the head form. "It was a very busy time," an office worker explained to me, "and Maria didn't tell the nurse/health-tech substitute how she was feeling, that she'd blacked-out. She seemed fine, so she let her go back to class." Then she retracted the word "nurse," because it was not a nurse who attended Maria, it was a "health-tech substitute," and therein lies a sad concern. Our schools, good schools, with good people, are strapped, and we've become so accustomed to minimally staffed, or under-staffed campuses, that we feel glad to have anyone who can apply an ice pack. However reassuring the euphemism suggests their skill or knowledge of supplying first aid, or assessing the needs of a child that was knocked to the ground from a hit to the head... the reality is, this person is not a nurse, or an EMT, and whatever manual she read, or seminar she attended, it failed to instruct this person that Maria needed to be seen by her doctor, or to at least have her family notified of what had happened. I'd like to find a poster, or make one, with clear instructions, maybe illustrated, about how to recognize a possible concussion, to remind the person in attendance that a child, especially hit in the head, may or may not thoroughly describe their symptoms or concerns... Confusion, after all, is one characteristic of concussion, and it cannot be the patient's responsibility to diagnose themselves. And the poster, with it's triage instructions would say: Call the family. Now.
All of this raises an even bigger, broader worry... schools that are already struggling, campuses that already fall short on funding, depend on PTA and bake sales to provide science, art, P.E., music, to supplement any areas that cannot be covered by our taxes, these schools are face to face with an Education Department's budget, which in the president's budget blueprint "takes a $9 billion, or 13.5 percent, cut." This, with the agenda, philosophies, and stated intentions of the Secretary of Education... ok, honestly, at this point I am too distraught and confounded to track down sources, and links. I just have to say, education and liberal (broad-based, generous, enlightened, unprejudiced) support and funding of public schools is vital, essential, critical. I want to live in a society that values and respects its children, that supports college bound adults, that cares to make education accessible, worthwhile, the best. I want to live in a country, a world, where we continue to have smart teachers, inspired engineers, respected firefighters, trained architects, enlightened chemists, resourceful plumbers, innovative film makers, inquisitive journalists, critical thinkers, motivated, educated, thoughtful citizens... that's real profitability, a meaningful incentive for funding schools, and seeking the most effective means of opening doors for as many as possible to achieve their best.
What you should do if you think you have had a concussion?*
The best answer: when in doubt, get prompt medical attention. Lots of people may have a headache or dizziness for a day or so and then recovery fully, but a very small group of people who sustain a concussion — five percent — can develop bleeding or a blood clot that can be life threatening if not promptly diagnosed.
Brain injuries are extremely common, but diagnosis can be complicated. Today, there is no single, objective measure that can determine if someone has had a concussion. To make a diagnosis, professionals look at many variables that might indicate trauma, ranging from changes in balance to memory lapses and dizziness.
It’s critical to seek immediate medical attention in a hospital or emergency department if any of these symptoms are present:
Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory for the event
Feeling dazed or confused
In addition, for children under 2 years of age, any scalp swelling or abnormality in the way they usually behave.
And if possible, see a medical professional who has knowledge of and experience with brain injury.
*And if you are a child, hopefully an adult will act on your behalf, calling your family, so you can be properly cared for.
One more thing... the child that kicked the basketball, Maria didn't know who it was, but he approached her the next day, and apologized. I think that was sweet, kind, and brave.
With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.