She sits across from us scrolling information on her computer screen. Looking at her my first thought is, ‘Are you even old enough to be a doctor?’ but don’t dare to ask that out loud. She seeks out my son’s electronic medical file. She makes eye contact with us both briefly, and says, “Just checking the latest protocols …” before initiating her furious typing. The thought, ‘Your mama must be so proud you can type so fast after 8 many years of university’ is added to my growing list of undeserving mental criticisms of this woman. Her barrage of questions then begins…inhale.
Did he lose consciousness?
Does he seem dazed and confused?
Pretty regularly, but not especially, no.
Did he lose his balance?
I think so.
Is he experiencing difficulty with his vision?
Does he feel nauseous?
Is he experiencing headaches?
Is he moody?
Uh- well – he’s a teenager [she’s not smiling]. Okay, not really, I guess.
This line of questioning is followed by a serious of physical tests:
Stand on one foot and look forward.
Now tap you other foot on the ground.
Now stand still with both eyes closed.
Now tap you finger to your nose and tap it to my finger, following my finger.
Intact. Good. [Upon checking both ears}
Any sensitivity to light? [Upon checking both eyes].
Now a series of questions directed at my son:
What’s your name?
How old are you?
What year is this?
Where are you?
Where were you born?
This is what I recall of the standard protocol the doctor must follow in her assessment of my son’s need for a CT scan.
In a pre-game warm-up, my son was whacked on the side of his head with a searing slap shot. He wasn’t even looking at this shooter, focusing instead on another. No time to demonstrate his incomparable glove hand. He didn’t even see it coming. He was stunned. Then …he shook it off and played his game. Now I realize that continued play was probably a big mistake.
My son has suffered a concussion.
It could be nothing. Then he’ll be back to his normal self tomorrow.
It could be something. For even those without kids in sports, we all now know if not treated properly, my son will continue to suffer from headaches, serious lapses in memory, loss of coordination, delayed cognitive responses, irritability and possibly depression. None of these are listed in his baby book in my hopes and dreams for my child.
I know she’s going to tell me he can’t play hockey for a while. That will be the easiest news to contemplate – for me at least. But what else does that computer screen divulge to her? What else does that innocuous little otoscope tell her?
I am making mental notes to Coach:
Best case scenario is that he’ll be back on the ice after a week’s rest from all physical activity. Maybe even less, if he wakes up tomorrow morning entirely asymptomatic. For you, this impacts a small part of your hockey season. For us, well, the impact is far greater. Thanks for being so understanding. Oh never mind this, I’ll let my husband tell him all this!
I am making mental notes to Teacher
No, he didn’t do his homework. No, he didn’t forget. No, the dog didn’t eat it. I forbid him to do it. Yes, I get it, he’ll fall behind. Yes, I know, dreadful sport, this hockey.
I am making mental notes to Son
I know what you’re thinking, but we know what we’re doing. You still have December, January and all the playoffs to play and it’s my job, among a few others, to protect your brain cells. Think of all the other shit you’ll soon be doing (are doing?) that will kill those precious cells.
I am making mental notes to Self
Why did I not take him to see the doctor yesterday? Why did that pile of dirty laundry take precedence? Was my Inbox really more important that my son’s temporal lobe? Keep breathing.
The doctor determines no scan is required. For now. So while in terms of hockey, it was a direct hit, in terms of a concussion, it was a near miss.