Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Boy With The Blank Face (Part 2)

Eli 10.5 was steadily improving after we left the hospital and drove home. Clearly, he wasn't quite the same--he took an hour to eat one tortilla for dinner--but he was smiling and talking normally, and he seemed like himself again, even though his head still hurt.

Wednesday morning, we kept the blinds closed, dimmed the television, and turned on the Sprout channel. It's for preschoolers, and if you're an adult, this channel will make you want to stab yourself after a few hours. If you're 10, though, and had a concussion the day before, and it's the only television you can watch, then it's damned good entertainment.

"I could watch Caillou all day," he said, laughing.

"Good," I said, "because you pretty much have to." Caillou is a very gentle little cartoon that features a family with the worst haircuts I've ever seen. Well, except for Caillou, who is a little boy with an enormous, entirely bald head.

Eli wasn't really going to watch television all day, and fortunately, Gloria found something he wanted to hear. I'd read The Hunger Games series (three books) last year because I thought it was something he might enjoy. I wound up enjoying all three books, but they were intense and fairly dark. Now, though, his friends were reading them, his teacher recommended them, and he wanted to see what they were all about.

It's a heartwarming story: one child from each district put together on an island to battle to the death, with one child emerging victorious.

A feelgood story, in other words.

Eli was fascinated, though, and Gloria read for hours, because listening required much less effort from his brain than watching. By early afternoon, his headache was gone, thank goodness, and his appetite was back to normal. He was fine for the rest of the day, and Thursday, too, but after consecutive days of the Sprout channel, he was thrilled to go see the neurologist on Friday for a post-concussion evaluation.

Which he aced.

They said his balance was better after a concussion than most people without one. He destroyed every test they gave him, basically, and they said he could start exercising the next day.

Steps. Concussion treatment is big on steps. Like this:
Saturday: 15-20 minutes walking
Sunday: 10 minutes light jogging, 10 minutes walking
Monday: 30-45 minutes tennis, with breaks

He handled everything with ease, until Monday night when he tried to play a three-person game of Life (the boardgame) by himself, and he said it made his head hurt. Actually, his head had hurt briefly the night before at Barnes and Nobles when he tried to read a book. Exercise was easy for him, but "close work" like reading or concentrating for too long still gave him a headache.

The doctors had cleared him to go back to school today, and we sent him, but I don't know why, since he hadn't done any homework at home. We were basically ignoring "the steps" on the mental side of recovery because the doctor had cleared him for school.


When he got to school, the first thing they did was science class, and they looked through microscopes. Shit. That's probably the single worst thing he could have done. He stopped when his head hurt, and told his teacher (who is a wonderful, warm person), who told him to "take it slow."

That's the wrong advice when you're recovering from a concussion, because if you have a symptom, you don't take it slow, you stop. Eli kept going, wound up with a headache, and went to the nurse, who gave him some Tylenol. He went back to class, which was now math class, and his headache got worse trying to do some math problems. He needed to pee, and when he went to the bathroom, he suddenly threw up.

Game over. He was home by 11:00.

In retrospect, we were so stupid that it's embarrassing. He had zero chance of making it through the day, and we should've known that. We also should have known that it would be impossible for his teacher to monitor him as closely as we could-- of course he couldn't, because he has 20 kids in his class, not just Eli.

Parenting fail, and he suffered because of it.

By early afternoon, though, he felt fine again, and he was scheduled for 30 minutes of skating (with doctor's approval) today as part of his activity rehab. Gloria called the doctor, who said he could skate if he didn't have any symptoms while exercising. We went, he skated, he had a great time, and he was fine.

Tonight, he was still fine, and we watched hockey and hung out together. He's not going back to school tomorrow, and we're going to start the "mental steps"--5 to 10 minutes of homework an hour, if he's able, and we can build from there. Until he can do a sizable amount of homework in a single day at home, he's not going to get through a day of school.

I wish I had that kind of common sense this morning.

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