My Brush with Head Trauma

Imagine you’re 49 years old, very clumsy, accident prone and you’ve just discovered a newfangled, two piece skateboard (like this:

Question: What’s the stupidest thing you can possibly do?

Answer: Ride the thing down a hill without a helmet.

In case there was ever any doubt, I’ve now officially earned my Darwin Award.

Yesterday we were visiting some friends and both kids and parents were enjoying riding various forms of rolling equipment down their gently sloping driveway. Of course, we insisted the kids don protective helmets, as we always do, but for the adults it was a case of “do as I say, not as I do”. You know where this is going, right?

I don’t actually remember the events directly leading up to my fall but at some point both feet went out from under me, my body jerked violently backward and my head smashed hard on the driveway pavement. The next thing I remember is a) tremendous head pain, b) no feeling anywhere in my body and c) screaming at the top of my lungs. I don’t remember consciously generating the screams, it was as if someone else was controlling my body and I was watching the whole scene.

I’m told I screamed three times and then suddenly stopped. I remember thinking how strange it was to feel completely disconnected from my body. Then I began to feel a tingling all over, just like when part of your arm or leg falls asleep. A short time later, all the feeling came back into my extremities. By that time, our friend, Richard, had called 911 while my wife was trying to assess my condition.

The paramedics arrived very quickly. They gave me a bunch of field neurological tests and took my vital signs. Because I was lucid, the paralysis was gone and my stats were ok, they were optimistic but suggested I take a ride to the local ER. I declined, partly because I didn’t want to further traumatize my daughter. My wife was not quite so sanguine – she insisted on driving me to the ER near our house, where I spent the rest of my Sunday.

Five hours later, I learned that I had suffered a mild concussion but the results of a CAT scan and neck X-ray were normal so I was likely out of the woods. Apart from a very stiff neck and a feeling like I’d been hit in the head with a baseball bat, I seemed to be ok. And I’m feeling a little better today.

In conclusion, here are three things I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. I can’t take the same risks I used to take when I was 18. Not because I’m no longer up to the challenge (I never was :) but because I have a daughter and a wife who need me to stay healthy. As my wife noted while driving me home from the ER: “Your nine lives have officially run out”.
  2. I’m very fortunate to have good health insurance so that when something like this happens I can get it fully checked out and treated.
  3. Helmets: not just for kids.

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