Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall for the Head Fake

My cell phone rang on my desk the other day, and my heart immediately sank when I saw the name on the screen. It was my boys’ school. Just great! One of them probably threw up, or more likely, set something on fire, and now I have to stop my work day and go pick them up.


“Yes, Mr. Schmatjen, this is the school nurse. We have Son Number Three here in the office. He hit his head on the big giant brick wall out in the middle of the playground, but he’s fine.”

Yes! Just a head injury. My day is saved! “Well, I’m relieved to hear he’s OK.”

“Yes, he’s fine. It’s just school policy to call home whenever there’s a head injury.”

Wow. How do I not get more calls? That kid’s head is a magnet for hard objects. “Well, that sounds like a very good policy. So, just to be clear, it sounds like what you're telling me is this isn't going to affect my day at all?”

“Uh... No, I guess not. Again, he appears to be just fine.”

Hmm... Perhaps I should sound more concerned. “Well, as long as both his pupils are the same size, go ahead and kick his little butt back in the direction of his classroom.”

“Uh... Yes, he’s not showing any signs of serious injury. We’ll send him back to class. There will be a note coming home with him today. Again, just school policy.”

“Great. I’ll be sure to read that. Thanks, gotta go.”

“Uh... Would you like to talk to your son? Mr. Schmatjen? Sir?”

*Dial tone*

By the time I went to pick the boys up after school was out, I had forgotten all about the morning’s head vs. wall incident. It wasn’t until we were all home for an hour or so that I got around to looking through their folders.

School District Health Services Head Injury Letter

“Oh, yeah. Hey, buddy, how’s your head?”

“It’s OK. But I threw up in class today.”

*sound in my head of record scratching to a halt*

“You did what now? Before or after you hit your head?"


"Hang on, buddy. I need to read something."

School District Health Services Head Injury Letter
Since symptoms of a concussion may occur within 24 hours, we feel it is important for parents to have the following information:

Children should be kept under observation for the next 24 hours. The child should be encouraged toward quiet activities during the observation period.

Hmm... So screaming up and down the street on his scooter right after school wasn’t the right call?

Apply ice for 1 hour to relieve pain and swelling.

We’ll call that one taken care of, more or less.

Give only clear liquids until no vomiting for at least 6 hours.

Well... He just ate a burrito when he got home from school, so I’m going to have to say I failed on this one.

Keep him awake for the first hour or so, after which time he may sleep if he want to. Awaken him every 4 hours to see if he is arousable, recognizes his parents, and to see if his pupils are equal size.

Well, he doesn’t seem sleepy, but I can tell you right now I won’t be able to wake him up if he does go to sleep. He’s the hardest sleeper we have. On any given night I can pick him up, slap him, and roll him down the stairs without waking him up. So how am I supposed to know if he’s normal or concussed?

I guess we could try to keep him up past his bed time, but that will end up being a problem with about half of this list of symptoms. Specifically:

Unconsciousness, “in a daze”, or unable to awaken child
Inability to recognize familiar people or objects
Slurred speech
Double vision
Staggering gait or loss of coordination

Every one of those things happens to him if he stays up even an hour past his bed time. So, I can’t let him go to sleep, and I can’t keep him awake. What now?

“Why didn’t the school call me again when you threw up?”

“Oh, it was just a little. I was bending over like this right after lunch, and I burped, and a little came out. It wasn’t a real throw up.”

*sound of School District Health Services Head Injury Letter crumpling up*

“Go ride your scooter some more while I make you another burrito. Don’t forget your helmet!”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

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