I’m not sure, even after 30-some years of life, that I have as many scars as this child. And last week Monday, he added a doozy of a scar to his head, and his second ambulance ride. If you’ve never been around someone that is bleeding from their head, let me forewarn you: heads bleed A LOT. MASSIVE amounts of blood. My mom said it looked like a crime scene in our house when she got there.
I had just put Colten and Max at the table for lunch and turned to get my own lunch ready. I heard a bang and knew a highchair (and child) had fallen. It sounded like Max’s chair and I heard no fussing. Then I turned around and saw Colten missing from the table – then I heard the screaming and crying. I ran over to scoop him up and held him, inspecting his face and mouth looking for the injury. My hand was on the back of his head while I carried him out from the dining area through the (off-white carpeted) living room. It was then that I felt the drips on my hand, looked, and saw blood dripping all over the carpet and noticed the trail behind us on the dining room tile (also white). I quickly carried him over to the kitchen, set him on the counter and grabbed a wad of paper towel to hold against his head. I couldn’t see what was back there but it was gushing. I thought for a few brief seconds of how I could manage getting him and Max into the car and driving to the hospital – then realized I could not do that and keep a compression on his head!
So I dialed 911. I was trying to stay calm, which resulted in a fast-paced talk over a screaming child while my hands shook crazily trying to comfort him, hear what the dispatcher was asking/telling me, and keep new wads of paper tower coming as they became saturated in blood. It wasn’t pretty. I was almost breathless as I was talking. Once they verified an ambulance was on its way, I had a very helpful 4-year-old unlock and open our front doors and then stand on the porch to help wave the paramedics down. At one point, Max came over to see Colten and said something along the lines of “Is Colten going to be done?” When I asked him to repeat the question, he mumbled, “Uh, you know, dead… Ah, forget it!” I reassured him that Colten was just bleeding and he would be okay but that the ambulance needed to come so the paramedics could help and that Colten would need to go to a hospital for stitches.
While I waited I got in touch with my mom, who was about a mile away watching my niece and thankfully she was able to come right over to stay with Max – AND she even cleaned up the blood everywhere after we left! Thank you Momma!
The paramedics came in and by then the bleeding had mostly subsided. They checked his wound quickly and then had me carry him out to the ambulance. We sat on the stretcher together and Colten about had a fit in there. He wanted NOTHING to do with being inside of that truck. Once my mom arrived to stay with Max, we took off down to the closest hospital with a pediatric ER, St. John’s.
During the drive was the first time I was able to see the actual laceration on the back of Colten’s head. I will spare surprising you with the gruesome image, but as we have never shied away from sharing wounds before, if you really want to see it you can click here to open the image. Had Colten just hit his head on our tile floor, he probably would have had a big bump. But Colten landed back on a small brick step/divider right in our front door landing/foyer/whatever you want to call it. Needless to say that step edge is now fully covered in rubber padding all the way around. And we moved his highchair so he backs up against a wall. Not that it prevents him from still trying to rock his highchair side to side…
The hospital staff was great – Colten did an amazing job during the shots to numb him up and rested on me the whole time. For a 2″ laceration, because it was such a clean line cut, they only needed four stitches! Their first choice was to staple shut, but I informed them that Colten was scheduled for an MRI on Thursday, his annual follow-up for his VP shunt. So we certainly didn’t want to put metal in his head! The four stitches helped to realign the skin of the opening and they bandaged around to catch a little of the extra blood before we left.
This boy just wants to keep us on our toes! He complained of a headache that evening but after that was right back to his usual self, thankfully. The hardest part of recovery was making sure his wild brothers eased back a little playing with him so he didn’t re-open the wound.
So as eventful as the first part of our week was (did I mention the day before there was a fire at Max’s preschool?!), Thursday was Myelo Clinic (Spina Bifida clinic at CS Mott Children’s Hospital) and was a LOOOOOONG day as well. Colten and I reported to Mott at 8:30am for his kidney ultrasound, then followed that with a sedated MRI to do a quick-scan of the ventricles in his brain (where his shunt is, draining fluid), then a CMG to test his bladder function. After all that, we went to the Myelo clinic where we met with his various specialists from Urology, Neurosurgery, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitiation, Social Work, physical therapy, orthotist, and the wheelchair seating clinic.
We talked at length with our Urology nurse about Colten’s enema program and how that is going. Urology doesn’t typically handle bowels of course, but in the case of children with Spina Bifida, it seems that they do out of necessity. Normally a GI doctor would handle bowel issues but there seems to be a disconnect between Spina Bifida and “typical” (?) GI dcotors. Other families have found them not very helpful. Most families work through their urologist to handle the bowel needs. So we discussed what we’ve been doing and how it’s working and then reviewed his kidney ultrasound (all good still!).
Moving on to Neurosurgery, all was status quo. No issues, no concerns, ventricles look great, done.
Physical Medicine and Rehab came in with the Physical Therapist, Orthotist, and wheelchair seating specialist. They were quite amazed at how well Colten maneuvers with his torsion cables. Our PM&R doc is not typically a fan of cables of any kind and we had to do some proving of the value of them for him through various models with our physical therapists. She agreed they were much better for him than KAFOs. Since Colten was still groggy from his anesthesia earlier, he wasn’t super-cooperative but luckily we have plenty of video of him walking independently without his walker, riding an adaptive bike, using a scooter, etc… So she looked at those to see how his form and strength looked and then gave us permission to move forward on forearm crutches already! In talking with his PTs, the earliest they’ve seen kids with them is 3 or 4 years (Colten will be 3 in October). She said “he’s basically walking without the walker as it is, so we know he can handle a little less support”. The crutches/canes won’t help him walk as fast as he goes in his walker, but they’ll provide another option for him in terms of movement.
We are continuing to hold off on a wheelchair. Even though there are certain use-cases I could see it being valuable (at the zoo, at big parks along bike paths), we still use the stroller and Colten is okay with that. It does take 6 months to a year to process and we probably will opt for starting that process when he’s 4. Or not. We’ll see when we get there. We’re trying to take our cues from him at this point in regards to mobility. He’s determined to move independently in his walker, and I’m assuming he would enjoy the extended freedom of a wheelchair instead of a stroller some time soon, but for now he’s content in the stroller.
So after that LOOOOONG week, Colten once again knocked our socks off. As you may have read, he recently was fitted for an adaptive tricycle with a hand cycle and foot pedals on it. He even had a chance to ride a similar one at his EarlyOn school on Monday (pre-head injury) and rode it quite a ways very successfully – steering and all. On Saturday we were outside; among the plethora of ride-on toys in our garage he asked to ride on our tricycle. Last summer we had some adaptive pedals made by my cousin (tutorial HERE) and tried to use them a little. We didn’t have a push handle for this trike and Colten couldn’t propel, so we would push him a little but it was quite difficult to go far. However, it did get his legs moving in the pedaling motion so we were hopeful that we could devise a push handle for this summer and do more with the trike. Knowing we have an adaptive one coming though, those thoughts didn’t really come back to us yet this spring. So Colten asked to ride it and I located the food pedals to strap his feet into. As I got him into the trike I said, “Colten, these handles don’t pedal like the other bike; you have to use your feet if you want to ride this.” He said “Otay” and then TOOK OFF DOWN THE DRIVEWAY.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? He can PEDAL A TRICYCLE????!!!!
[ watch the video here ]
I think I’m still speechless so I’ll leave this post at that 🙂
Well, unless you want to see a video of him walking around without his walker… [ watch video ]
Lessons learned over and over and over:
Doctors really never know for sure. Medicine is a practice and it isn’t perfect.
Your child will do what your child will do when your child is ready to do it. Or they will do it differently. Or they won’t do it at all. It really doesn’t matter.
Give your child plenty of opportunities to try (and fail); never tell them they “can’t” or “won’t” succeed at something. They will amaze you.