You may remember my
rant diatribe thoughts on the trip middle school kids take in Our Town to a place so cleverly named Mt. Misery (I know, just accept it). You can read about that here, here, and here. Sweet Pea went 2 years ago and because he is our oldest and I wasn’t working much and I hadn’t yet discovered Pinterest, I had time to fret about such things. Fast forward two years and the hype is upon us again because it is time for Pickles to go to the land of deer ticks Mt. Misery.
We sent him on his merry way Tuesday morning with the same sleeping bag, the same duffel bag and possibly even the same socks that Sweet Pea used. I expected to hear nothing and show up at pick up on Friday to find a tired, slightly cranky version of Pickles in need of detox from Kool-aid, white pasta and Apple Jacks. Sadly, that is not how it went down.
Thursday in the middle of the day the “nurse” (and I use the term loosely) from Mt. Misery called me.
“Nurse”: Hi, Mrs. Mulder, this is the nurse from Mt. Misery Pickles is fine.
Me: Okaaaay. (thinking, ‘then why are you calling me?’)
“Nurse”: He had an incident and has something that could remind you of a cut on his eyebrow.
Me: Does it remind you of a cut or is it a cut?
“Nurse”: It is sort of a cross between a cut and a scrape.
Me: How did it happen?
“Nurse”: They were playing a game and there was something about a tree branch.
Me: Oh. He walked into a branch? Is it bleeding?
“Nurse”: Not really. It isn’t a deep cut.
Me: Was it bleeding?
“Nurse”: It was, but not much.
Me: Does it need a stitch?
“Nurse”: I don’t think so, it is a small cut and it isn’t bleeding.
Me: Okay. I am not worried about a small cut on his eyebrow, he already has a scar there. Tell him I said that chicks dig scars.
Me: Never mind.
“Nurse”: I gave him some ice. Everything is fine, I just wanted to let you know.
I went the next day to pick up Pickles and when I saw him I could tell he looked weird. This is not unusual, all the kids look a little weird because they have just been on a camping trip for 3 days away from home and drank nothing but Kool-aid and ate nothing but Apple Jacks. I went to get his allergy medicine from the School Nurse (Not to be confused with the Mt. Misery “Nurse”) and ran into Pickles’ teacher who filled me in on what she knew. After talking to Pickles and 3 other teachers, I was able to put together what happened and it was this:
Pickles was participating in a Food Web lesson where they run through the woods ala squirrels and foxes chasing each other in a Predator vs Prey game. While running downhill, the kid in front of Pickles fell down and Pickles tripped over him and took a header into a tree. He did not lose consciousness, but he has no memory of events right before or after the injury. He only knows what he was told. Pickles went to the “nurse” where his cut was tended to. He was sent back to the “nurse” two separate times by two separate teachers who thought he was acting weird. He was given ice. One of the teachers went to talk to the “nurse” about how she thought he *off* and that she knows him pretty well and he isn’t usually like this. The teacher was assured that Pickles was fine and was sent away. Possibly also with ice. (And you thought I didn’t like the “nurse” just because she didn’t laugh at my scar joke.)
After piecing together what happened and taking a moment to wrap my brain around it, I called our pediatrician and took him in that afternoon where it was determined that he had a concussion. Coincidentally, our pediatrician is conducting research on concussions. Awesome. (editor’s note: I got a concussion in a car accident last summer which I never wrote about because the whole event has been such a pain in my a$$ that I haven’t even had the damn time.) We took him home with instructions for “brain rest” which means no screens, no music, no loud noises, no physical activity, no fun, and no thinking of any kind. (Essentially they wanted him to go lie down in a cool, dark room and then call them in 2 weeks.) What 12 year-old kid doesn’t want “brain rest”? Actually Pickles was very cooperative because he felt so bad. He was dizzy, a little nauseas, tired, and feeling generally weird(er). Oh, and his memory and balance were absolute crap and he had a wicked headache.
We hung out like this for a week expecting him to wake up one day feeling better so he could go back to school. Week after week, doctor visit after doctor visit. Still a headache, still bad balance, still bad memory. During week two (or was it three?) Pickles let the dog inside, bent down to wipe the dogs feet, and cracked his head on the chair. In the exact same spot, of course. Throughout each day he would ask several times when I was going to work, when I would be back, when Sweet Pea was coming home, if he had any appointments, etc. Despite every doctor assuring me that he would make a full recovery, I started to wonder if he was going to be a simpleton forever. And he had such promise…
After 3 weeks, he was recommended to start physical therapy for balance and brain stuff. It takes another week to get that going, of course. It was during this time that we started to realize that maybe he wasn’t going back to school for a while. It was weird how hard it was to get used to that idea. We had to get used to a lot of things like: He won’t be taking standardized testing (score!), he won’t be in the band concert, he won’t be going on the class field trip, he won’t go on either fun band trip, he may need help to be ready for 7th grade, he won’t be able to play guitar for a while, he won’t be able to play trumpet for even longer, he can’t play soccer for the rest of the season (at least, maybe for a much longer time), he can’t ride his bike any time soon, he likely won’t be swimming this summer, etc.
We felt bad for him, but we also were getting a little punchy. On the 2 days I don’t go to work, all we do is go to doctor’s appointments. I didn’t like to run errands during the week because I didn’t want to leave him alone any longer than absolutely necessary. Being alone too much can start to mess with your head. Going to too many appointments can mess with my head! Pickles’ hair is really long right now and it drives Husband crazy. Husband and I considered telling Pickles that the best thing for a head injury was to cut your hair short to reduce the stress on the brain. We came really, really close to telling him that. We didn’t do it, but we thought about it a lot and then we laughed and laughed and laughed.
After 4 weeks he was cleared to start home-bound tutors, which also takes time to get set up. He also had a screening for vision therapy. Luckily we don’t have to do that for 6 weeks. We were all feeling positive about at least being able to do something more than make him rest in a cool, dark, quiet room. There are kids and a dog in this house, there is no quiet. I know, I have been looking.
So here we are at the 6 week mark. Pickles has not been back to school and likely won’t for the rest of the school year. He missed an entire quarter of 6th grade. They will average his first 3 quarter grades for his final grades, but it will show as a medical absence or something like that which I couldn’t care less about. Pickles has PT three times a week as well as a recheck with either the concussion doc or his pediatrician every week. We have gotten as used to the schedule as we can. I consolidate my work schedule as much as possible so he isn’t home alone but sheesh! It is a lot.
Fast forward 4 years and I am finally getting around to publishing this post. Pickles healed up, though it took for-ever. He is relatively normal now at 16 but I reserve my right to alter that opinion if he annoys me.