Whatever Wednesday – Ramblings of a Mom Who Recently Went Through the Wringer

“Welcome to my World”. Posts on Wednesday’s will be about whatever I feel like sharing. It may be about my kids, my thoughts, my memories or just a day in my life.

The majority of my posts are related to Walt Disney World in one way or another. Occasionally on “Whatever Wednesday” I will share about memories that I made with my family, in hopes of capturing them for my future enjoyment. Today, I write for therapy. In fact, I’m writing about an incident that would I give just about anything to erase from my memory.

Witnessing your child as he suffers a traumatic injury, and not knowing for several hours whether or not he is going to be okay…it does something to you. It shakes you to your very core. There’s simply no other way to describe it.

This is my son Shawn.

The easiest way to describe him is he is “all boy”. He’s an athlete who would rather be playing with a ball than just about anything in the world. His other favorite pass-times are hanging out in his tree-house and riding his bike. Shawn is arguably the biggest Disney World fan out of any of my children. He absolutely loves to help his Dad with projects around the house. Shawn has more energy than he knows what to do with and he has a heart of gold. He’s also a “tough kid”. He has broken his elbow (in Kindergarten on the playground), had staples in his head (another playground injury) and dented his cheek causing a permanent dimple (yup, you guessed it…he was on a slide). While I’ve nursed Shawn through his share of scrapes and bruises, NOTHING could have prepared me for what recently happened to my boy.

A week and a half ago, on January 14th, my life stopped in it’s tracks. We were all awaiting the start of the Patriots play-off game and I was upstairs in the dining room. Shawn went to run something down to his room, and in the blink of an eye…he took my breath away. Looking back, it all happened so fast…yet in seemingly slow motion. Sawyer, our chocolate lab, was laying on the top step. Shawn didn’t see him and he tripped, falling down all 11 stairs and whacking his head on the concrete basement floor. The thin commercial carpeting did precious little to soften the blow. I watched the whole thing, in horror. I screamed “Shawn!!!!” as I ran down after him, and I felt my heart lodge in my throat. It remained there for several days. He immediately asked for ice for his head and shoulder, and was a bit dazed. I was instantly grateful that he hadn’t broken his neck. Yet, I had seen the whole fall…I saw him tumble head over heels twice and I saw his head bounce as he landed flat on his back. I had a very unsettled feeling. Shawn got up and tried to act like everything was fine. He just thought he needed a little ice. However, with-in a few moments he laid down on the playroom sofa. I sat next to him and watched as he broke out into a sweat. Quickly the nausea set in and he began vomiting. I called his Pediatrician to let them know I was bringing him to the Emergency Room. I then sent out a desperate Tweet, begging for people to pray for my boy. Shawn threw up again in the car on the way to the hospital and he was screaming “my head, my head…Mom, are we almost there?!?!” He was behind me in the backseat, and I couldn’t see him. It took everything in me to remain calm. It felt like an out-of-body experience, actually. I was gripping the steering wheel, tears were streaming down my cheeks and inside I felt like someone had a vice-grip on my heart. Yet, I heard myself calmly say, “You’re going to be okay, Shawny. We’re almost there. Everything is okay, buddy.” The triage nurse immediately brought us to the back where a doctor was waiting. He asked Shawn what hurt the most and he just kept holding his head in his hands yelling, “my head, my head”. This was a kid who didn’t cry when he broke his arm. He has a very high pain tolerance. To say I was worried would be the biggest understatement ever. With a shaky voice, I attempted to explain what had happened to the doctor. He took me aside. Looking at Shawn, then back at me, the doctor told me he was very impressed with how well I was holding it together. I told him that I knew I didn’t have a choice, Shawn needed me to be calm for him. However, I also admitted that I felt like I had a knife in my stomach and I was suffocating.  Even now I can hear Shawn yelling…his voice keeps replaying in my mind. It’s haunting. They put him in a cervical collar as a precaution. Then, they started an IV. Shawn was so brave. He squeezed my hand and didn’t flinch at all. They gave him a dose of Zofran to attempt to stop the vomiting along with a strong pain medication. Shawn threw-up 3 more times and they gave him another dose of Zofran. Then they put him on oxygen because he was so pale. The moments between when they couldn’t get him to stop throwing up and when he got the results of his CAT scan were quite possibly the most frightening moments of my life. Was he bleeding in his brain? Did he need surgery? What was wrong with my son? My mind was racing a mile a minute and I was all alone with him. I kept telling Shawn to rest his eyes, take a deep breath and relax. Truthfully, I was reminding myself to breathe deep and maintain my composure. I was determined to be calm for my boy…or at least to put on one heck of a front. At one point, after throwing up for the 5th time, I was rubbing my fingers through his gorgeous red hair. Shawn looked into my eyes and asked, “Are you okay, Mom”? That did it. My eyes swelled with tears as I told him not to worry about me. I explained that it’s hard to be a Mom sometimes, especially when your sweet boy is lying in a hospital bed with a head injury.

Once the pain medicine kicked in, Shawn began to voice his frustration with the fact that we were missing the Patriots game. I told him that it was being recorded and we’d watch it together tomorrow. I found a lot of comfort in the fact that he was upset about the Pats game…it was a reassurance that he was still “Shawn”.

Throughout the evening, my Blackberry was my lifeline. Once his pain was under control, I was able to periodically update friends and family via text messages. I credit several of my dear friends for getting me through that hellacious night with my sanity still intact. It was their prayers and support that helped me to be strong. They know who they are and I’m forever grateful to them.  

As I stood next to Shawn’s hospital bed and looked at him with oxygen up his nose, an IV in his arm and a cervical collar on his neck…two specific memories of him kept coming to my mind. They were recent times when Shawn was the happiest.

This one, when his All-Star baseball team won this game to progess in the tournament last summer…


and this one, taken a few months ago at Disney. Shawn has always been a Goofy fan and the way they were playing with each other was a riot…

My mind kept replaying these moments over and over again. I kept telling myself that Shawn was going to be okay and that he’ll be back up to bat this Spring. He’ll be joking with Goofy. He’ll ride his bike. He’ll hang in his tree-house. He’ll do it all. My boy simply HAD to be okay. I refused to allow myself to believe anything other than that…and I prayed. A lot.

I was told that Shawn had a “significant brain injury”. He had a “very severe concussion” and possible swelling in his brain. The fact that he threw up 5 times and required multiple doses of the Zofran was an indication of how hard of a hit he took. The next few days were utterly brutal. Shawn stayed flat on the couch for 3 days. He continued to take Zofran every 6 hours for several days. I wanted nothing more than to roll him in bubble wrap and keep him that way. Emotionally, I was wreck for at least a week after his fall. I would cry on the drop of a dime, which is very unlike me. I could hardly sleep. When I did, I would wake up with my heart pounding out of my chest and visions of Shawn falling down the stairs replaying in my mind like a broken movie. I kept reliving it…over and over and over again. I would wander out to the couch at 2am, pour a glass of wine and cry. I don’t even drink wine. I felt like a fragile piece of crystal that was about to shatter. It was a very horrible, vulnerable feeling. Yet, somehow, I held it together in front of Shawn at all times. On Tuesday after the fall, Shawn cracked a joke with me. It was the first sign that he was still my “Shawny Boy” and he was coming back around.

Shawn returned to school on Wednesday the 18th for a partial day. After dropping him off and speaking to the nurse, I watched as my boy walked off to class. Then, I climbed into my car and started to drive away. Almost immediately, I had to pull into a parking lot and I proceded to sob like a baby. I found myself caught somewhere between traumatized from what we had gone through and profoundly grateful that my precious son was miraculously healing. The body-wracking sobs were cathartic. I felt the lump that had been lodged in my throat slowly dissolving and I was able to breathe a little again.

I sent Shawn to school for half days on Thursday and Friday as well. He was not released to gym or recess, but he really wanted to get back into the swing of things. Friday evening, he came home to a wonderful surprise. My sweet friend Kay had sent him a cookie bouquet with various sports balls.

The past 3 days, Shawn has gone to school all day, although he has still not yet received clearance to return to gym and sports. We’re going to take that slowly, one day at a time. It may be weeks before I’m comfortable with him getting back into the game. If he were to suffer another concussion before this one is fully healed…it could be very dangerous. I watched that fall. The fact that he does not have any permanent injuries or worse truly baffles me. There is really no other explanation other than Shawn had angels watching over him.

Like I said before, witnessing your child suffer a traumatic injury does something to you. I’m still not back to “me”.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I will be for awhile. I believe I may have lost 20 years of my life that night and in the days that immediately followed. Thankfully, my mind has stopped “going there” all the time. I am able to smile again. I’m not waking up in the night, caught in the middle of a flashback. I’m counting my blessings and I’m healing. I have my friends to thank for helping me get through this ordeal. I am truly thankful for everyone who lifted up my son in positive thoughts and prayers…and I’m eternally grateful to God for letting me continue to be Shawn’s Mom. It’s a priceless gift that I won’t ever take for granted.

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