a funny thing happened on the way to my life….

WINK ;) concussions

concussionsūüėČ What I Now Know (W.I.N.K.) about concussions.

Until about¬† a year ago, I never really worried about my kids getting injured in sports.¬† Both my children have played ball since the could walk–soccer, flag football, basketball and baseball.¬† There were plenty of bruises and scrapes, but for the most part nothing serious.¬† I know that injuries are part of the deal (that’s why I made my son play flag football and not tackle.)¬† If¬†injuries weren’t reality then we wouldn’t have to sign a zillion papers promising not to sue the YMCA or rec league.¬† That being said, I still naively thought that broken arms and sprained ankles happened to other people’s kids…and there I go, clicking my heels.

Today, I’m a little neurotic when it comes to sports injuries.¬† My hypersensitivity comes from my own son’s concussion last January.¬†¬†My ten-year old¬†went up to intercept a long pass at midcourt, lost his footing and landed on the back of his head.¬† (He would want me to mention that he DID catch the basketball!)¬† I will never forget how the whole gym went silent as a group of coaches and my husband ran onto the court.¬†¬†My son managed to¬†walk off¬†on his own¬†and¬†sat dazed and confused on the bench as a family friend and teacher went to get ice.¬† At the time¬†none of us could have¬†imagined¬†the scary door this injury would open up for him and our family.

He had a headache and he was grumpy (who wouldn’t be?¬† It was Saturday night and he had plans to go to a hockey game with a friend.)¬†¬†What we didn’t realize was that this headache would last four months.¬† We didn’t go to the emergency room…a rookie mistake.¬† We did however consult a friend (a paramedic ) who recommended that we see our family doctor first thing on Monday.¬† The doctor’s examination was thorough and included a trip to the local hospital for x-rays, etc.¬† It’s amazing the things you learn about your own kids in a doctor’s office setting, you know–things they tell the doctor and not their parents.¬† Like the fact that when he first hit the floor everything went black for a second.¬†¬†And that he couldn’t hear out of one ear for most of the weekend.¬† And finally that his jaw hurt¬†on one side when he¬†chewed (turns out he was chewing on the other side so we wouldn’t know.)¬† The doctor filled us in on all the results and told us that the scans had all come back clear.¬† We were relieved.¬† Now we just had to limit our son’s screen time (TV and computer), make sure he got plenty of rest, and WAIT.¬† Oh yeah, he couldn’t play any sports until he was headache free for 5 days straight.

I wish I could say that healing was¬†as easy as following the doctor’s instructions.¬† About three days later we felt comfortable sending him back to school.¬† In hindsight, that was another rookie mistake.¬† It’s very hard to limit screen time (and READING) when you’re not present, even if all the teachers understand the situation.¬†¬†¬† I think that’s where the lesson of this particular injury really comes full circle.¬† Most of us (myself included) have no idea how serious a concussion is.¬† We see and hear about athletes all the time who take hard hits and end up¬† back on the field or the court the next week.¬† What we don’t realize is that a concussion is a brain injury and we only have one brain.¬† And brains take time to heal!¬† Especially children’s brains.¬† Allowing your child to return to regular activities too soon can lead to a secondary injury.¬† These can be very serious and cause permanent damage to the brain and even death.¬†¬†You can check out¬†Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s video¬†for more details about concussions in children.¬† http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnIRso_04Ks&feature=player_detailpage

It took four solid months for the headaches to go away.¬† My son couldn’t participate in gym, recess or any other physical activity.¬† This is especially deflating to a competitive ten-year old boy who eats, drinks and breathes sports.¬† About three months in, our doctor recommended we scale back all stimuli and pull him out of school at lunch time.¬† This is where we really started to see improvement.¬† Less means more when it comes to healing a concussion!¬† The Monday after Easter, almost four months to the day of his injury, my son was released for regular activity.¬† It’s a day I will never forget.

Sean Concussion FREE

Sean with a note from the doctor clearing him for all activities following a concussion. It was a long four months.

So, here’s what I now know about concussions:

1.  Concussions are emergencies.  Have someone look at the injury right away.

2.¬† Reduce all stimuli for the first week, no exceptions.¬† This means…no TV, cell phones, computers or¬†electronic devices of any kind.¬† No reading or school.¬† No physical activity.¬† I truly believe that if we had cut out all stimuli during the first week of his injury he would have recovered much faster.¬† Children will kick and scream, but we must be the parents in this¬†situation.

3.¬† Remind your children that they must be honest in medical situations and tell you every symptom they’re experiencing.¬† If I had known that my son blacked out (even momentarily) or that he couldn’t hear out of one ear, we would have certainly responded more urgently and taken him to an ER right away.

4.¬† Don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions and stand firm.¬† My son wanted to play basketball again.¬† We allowed him to go to the games and support his team, but he was DONE for the season.¬† I will tell you honestly that there was a lot of talk among friends, family and schoolmates about how we were being overprotective parents, questions of my son’s “toughness,” and many who second-guessed the seriousness of concussions in kids.

5.¬† Find a doctor who understands concussions in children.¬† We were fortunate.¬† I cannot tell you how much we value our kid’s doctor!

6.¬† Pray and ask for prayers.¬† As a family of faith, we believe that a mighty God was with our son and our family during this time.¬† The power of prayer cannot be underestimated.¬† The strength and support offered by our church family was vital.¬† I could go on and on….

Today, my son is playing basketball again.¬† Don’t get me wrong–we all held our breath during that first¬†basketball game back¬†and especially during the game that took place in the same gym where he landed on his head.¬† I am a more fretful mom today¬†and I make no apologies for it.¬† I cringe and pay extra special attention when I hear about similar injuries.¬† And I make it a point to tell other parents and family members What I Now Know about concussions.

Men ought to know that from the brain, and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joy, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs, and tears.                    Hippocrates (about 400 B.C.)

What I Now Know (W.I.N.K.) is a recurring entry on this blog.¬†¬†The idea of WINK as an acronym popped into my head the other day while I was doing laundry.¬† You see, aside from being a slave to housework I actually have quite a bit of knowledge filed away in my overworked brain.¬† While I don‚Äôt claim to be an expert on anything, I know something about a few subjects that just might be worth sharing.¬† And just like that¬†this new blog idea was born‚ÄďWINK (What I Now Know).¬† I hope to share a little bit of what I‚Äôve learned as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother and all-around regular, ordinary¬†girl.¬† Look for ongoing posts, but What I Now Know (as a busy wife and mother) is not to promise¬†weekly entries because life happens‚Äď and it usually happens when I want to blog!¬† (Here‚Äôs where if I could wink at you, I WOULD.)

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WINK (What I Now Know)

winkLet me start by saying that I CANNOT¬†wink…but, boy do I wish I could! I think that if I could actually wink, my life would be very different. If I could wink I might be a little funnier, more carefree, flirtier¬†and¬†definitely cooler than I actually am. If I could wink I’d wink all the time…so much that someone might think that I had some sort of eye disorder or nervous twitch. Nope, that would just be me–winking because I could ūüėČ

Kidding aside, what I love most about the wink is the feeling it denotes. It sort of says “look I’m in¬†the know”¬†or it¬†gives the impression that you’re sharing something special with another person.¬† A wink can say “hey, I’ve been there” or even make you feel like you’re the only¬†one that matters in a room full of people.¬† A wink is personal, even intimate. I like that.

That being said, the idea of WINK as an acronym popped into my head the other day while I was doing laundry.¬† You see, aside from being a slave to housework I actually have quite a bit of knowledge filed away in my overworked brain.¬† While I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, I know something about a few subjects that just might be worth sharing.¬† And just like that¬†this new blog idea was born–WINK (What I Now Know).¬† I hope to share a little bit of what I’ve learned as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother and all-around regular, ordinary¬†girl.¬† Look for ongoing posts, but What I Now Know (as a busy wife and mother) is not to promise¬†weekly entries because life happens– and it usually happens when I want to blog!¬† (Here’s where if I could wink at you, I WOULD.)


It’s Raining Pine Needles in My Living Room

tree 005We should have listened to my seven-year old daughter while we were at the Christmas tree lot.¬† She lobbied for a Frasier, but we went with the Balsam–that was our first mistake.¬†¬†Its intoxicating pine fresh scent had us fooled (not to mention it’s slightly cheaper price tag.)¬†¬†We took the Balsam and left “Stacy” (my daughter had already named the Frasier) to another couple who had been obviously eyeing¬†it like a hawk that afternoon.¬† About a week after we decorated the tree my son¬†started to say, “Mom, it’s not good when you can see through your Christmas tree.”¬† It was our second clue.¬† When your dog shakes off pine needles like she just stepped out of a bath…that’s called strike three.

You know it’s time to get rid of the Christmas tree when the ornaments start taking themselves down!

So it’s the second week of January.¬† It had to come down sometime.¬† I mean, my little girl’s birthday is just a few days away and we can’t have birthday¬†photos with a tumbleweed Christmas tree in the background.¬† So I bit the bullet and took the tree down—but not before I could make an event out of it.¬† Christmas Blend Starbucks coffee, peppermint candy canes, and my favorite Christmas DVDs playing…I started taking off the ornaments that hadn’t already surrendered to gravity.¬† It was a sad day.

Sad because not only was I taking down all the festive Christmas decorations, but sad because this meant another year had slipped through our fingers.¬† Sad because the kids’ break from school had run its course. Sad because all the holiday cheer has been replaced with dieting resolutions and “organize your life in 2013” mumbo¬†jumbo.¬† And a whole lotta sad because I had a Christmas tree mess unlike any other!

You always have battle scars when you¬†opt for¬†a real Christmas tree.¬† Little scratches and scrapes¬†during decorating…and don’t forget the sap, uugggh!¬† Plus, the occasional¬†water spill and of course–pine needles.¬† However, this year’s Christmas tree outdid itself in the pine needle department.¬† They started falling off about a week in.¬† Then we noticed small piles of needles starting to form on the tree skirt.¬† Soon after–when the living room was quiet–you could hear the pine needles fall through the tree.¬† It quickly escalated to sagging garland, the strand of lights slowly inching toward the floor, and the occasional¬†ornament falling in the night.¬† Before long we began to worry whenever someone opened the front door and a breeze swept in.¬† I yelled at the kids about running past the tree too fast and setting off a needle avalanche.¬† We tried to keep up with the needles¬†through the aid of our Dyson vacuum cleaner, but after a while I started to worry that we were actually damaging the Dyson.¬† And forget about it when the UPS guy came the door–I promise that tree almost came tumbling down when the dog raced to the window to let out her warning barks.¬†On Christmas morning there wasn’t an ounce of snow outside, but there was a nice prickly layer of pine needles dusting every gift.¬† And then we left town.

When we returned we¬†couldn’t turn the lights on the tree anymore…fire hazard.¬† My niece caught wind of it on New Year’s Eve via a Skype video call.¬† She wondered what HAPPENED to our tree!¬† Her comment spoke volumes.¬† We all knew it needed to come down.¬† I actually sort of wanted it to come down (and I NEVER want to put the tree away…I secretly want it to be Christmas all year!)¬† Still, it was painful to look at and I would have probably paid someone to take it down for me at that point if I thought we had any takers.

One week¬†later we were all sort of used to the newly dubbed “tumbleweed tree.”¬† Its falling pine needles had become just a regular household sound like the squeak in the kitchen floor.¬† Whenever I walked into the living room I would just waltz over to the tree, inspect underneath, gather the fallen ornaments, dust off the pine needles and put them on the table.¬† A small pile of ornaments had started to emerge when I decided that I was all out of excuses.¬† There were other things that needed to get done, but the tree won¬†out today.¬† It’s ugly, shabby appearance had already forced me to tell the children that their friends couldn’t come over and play until I had taken it down (and I said that four days ago.)

It took hours and I’m still not technically done putting all the Christmas decorations away, but removing the tree was a big start.¬† Of course, a zillion needles fell out in the process, it took a broom, a dust pan and about 30 minutes with the Dyson to get things looking good (although I still wouldn’t recommend walking where the tree used to be in your bare feet!)

tree 004I know we’ll do it all again next year and the year after that…although I’ve been eyeing artificial trees in the clearance section at Wal-Mart (wink, wink).¬† But for now the living room has resumed its regular homey look, the children can have their friends over again, and the branch that used to be our tree has a nice new¬†home up against the fence in our backyard.¬† And who knows how long it will stay there….

The perfect Christmas tree?  All Christmas trees are perfect!  ~Charles N. Barnard