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.
Look up.
Look down.
Look left.
Look right.
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

Trust us.
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.


16 Responses to Near Miss

  • Wow…I hope he is okay. I read this whole post holding my breath. You must have been so scared. I’m thinking about you guys and hoping that he will be back out there playing. BTW, you wrote this beautifully.

    • Thanks for reading, Annie. Yes he will be fine – acting like a normal teenager already (which isbears more than a vague similarity to having a concussion!). I will be breathing normally again real soon too 🙂

  • Astra…the risk element of some of our favourite winter competitive sports makes me dizzy with parental concern. It’s truly a love/hate relationship: we love that they excel and love the sport…we hate the risk and trauma that potentially ensues….

    Strangely, the athlete always seems to hold stronger than the older generation…misguided youth?…or perhaps one stronger and more resilient than the preceding generation.

    (ps: I’m holding true to the latter… 🙂 )

    • So true, Sandra. They possess this invincibility that I have sadley (or sagely) long since lost. Back between the posts on Monday evening, I think! Girls must be staring their ski season soon too, eh?

  • I love reading your writing, but I hate that this topic is so near and dear to my heart. I think you captured so well the emotions of that doctor’s visit. That’s part of the eggshell walking that parents do. We love that our kids play, but we are keenly aware of the risks they are taking in doing it. I do believe sports are the ultimate life-learning arena, but when “life” and “lesson-learning” collide in injury, it is much harder to watch as a parent than it ever was to endure as an athlete. I so hope your son recovers quickly, and I hope your growth through this is positive too. MMF

    • Thanks Meagan. There are risks just getting out of bed each morning too. He will recover soon, yes, and life will quickly return to normal, no doubt. I appreciate your words of wisdom about life, lesson-learning and growth 🙂

  • That is so scary. Both my kids are super risk tAkers with sports. We’re just starting ski race season-so glad they have helmets!

  • wow, glad he’s okay.

    I took my older son to the hospital last year from getting hit in the head with a rock. The injury from the rock was okay, but after scanning his head they found he had a deep ear infection (he wasn’t complaining of any pain so I had no idea) and he had to be transferred. I was up all night in the waiting room (with a newborn) waiting for a doctor the doctor to tell me if he was okay. Stressful night that was..

    • Oh Lady, that DOES sound like an unbelievably stressful night … and with a newborn in tow! Poor you. Glad to hear your son is now ok. This same son with a concussion had an ear infection as a toddler that he never complained about either. High pain tolerance? Who knows. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. It would appear that these stories are far more commonplace than you’d think!

  • Astra, I pray that your son is okay and that there were no serous consequences. In spite of your angst and anxiety, this is such a beautifully written post. I literally sat holding, no gripping, my coffee cup, until I read the last sentence. Motherhood. It’s not for the faint of heart. And why is that we always blame ourselves for everything that happens? I think it’s part of the motherhood package. My son played contact sports in high school and there wasn’t a day I wouldn’t be worried sick that I would either witness or receive a call that he’d been injured. The last football season of his junior year, I was elated. I knew his football career was officially over and that allowed me to exhale. Here’s hoping your son is okay!!

  • Astra, I hesitated reading this post. I am glad to read (via your responses) all is well, and i truly enjoyed the writing, but the subject is hard for me… I love my kids more than words can describe.. I have hated every scraped knee, broken, bone, their reasons for sadness, and worst of all, the day my daughter cried her first years of heartache. Had I known the woman in me was weak in this way I might never have been a mom. I ached reading this, knowing how in the moment you were feeling. So very very glad all is good now.

    • Shock, fear, dread, regret, anger, sorrow, anxiety, relief, joy, pride = all in a day’s work, right? Thanks for reading, Brenda!

  • That is terrifying. Thank goodness no scan is required. Hockey is a very dangerous sport. My husband is very excited to get our son involved (he’s 3), and I can honestly say, I’m a little scared. Our son is not particularly gifted in the motor department. I hope things continue to go well for you son and he can enjoy playing the game without further injury. Hang in there!

    • Laura, it was a pretty freak event, particularly for a goalie. I’m relieved he’s okay. I won’t say you shouldn’t worry about your son playing hockey – it’s hard for a mom not to worry. Be vigilant about protective equipment and take some comfort in knowing that this was my son’s first serious injury in 11 years of hockey and 12 years of skiing/snowboarding.

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About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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