Thursday, August 15, 2013

Traumatic. Brain. Injury.

There's a country song with lyrics that say, "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then" (go ahead, take a minute to figure it out...). Over the past three weeks I've realized: I'm glad I didn't know then what I know now AND that I should stay off of Wikipedia when it comes to all things medical.

I saw my "baby" bloody in a ditch--just hit by a car.  It was almost like an out of body experience. Well I've never had an out of body experience, but if I were to have one, this is how I envision it would be.  What was coming out of my mouth and what was running through my mind weren't matching up, but it's possible that's how I'm wired (you'll never know though).  Regardless of the words that were coming out of my mouth, in my head I was thinking, "He's conscious. This is good. He's going to be ok." We get to hospital #1, and by this time I was in full on rational, get things done mode. Within 30 minutes we had 7 friends standing outside of his room listening to the doctors and praying like crazy. The news came that he had no broken bones, no internal injuries, but he did have a fractured skull and a hematoma on his brain, so we were headed to the trauma hospital.  Still in rational mode, although survival and denial mode are probably more accurate, the thought that was running through my head was, "If they take the clot off, he's gonna make it." As they wheeled him away for surgery, I asked the doctor if he was going to make it, and she said yes.  I was so relieved, I asked her for a hug, and we went on our way down to the waiting room. At that point, in my head was, "If he gets through surgery, he's gonna make it, and he's going to be fine. We'll be on our way home soon and this will be a distant memory." Fortunately, that is how it played out, although the distant memory part isn't there yet.

Over the past three weeks, I've begun to process and feel the weight of what could have been.  You see, to me, I figured if Aaron made it through surgery he would make a full recovery.  I didn't comprehend at the time that he could live, but with different long term outcomes: brain damage, paralysis, vegetative state....I'm not sure that I still fully comprehend that. Quite honestly I don't want to fully comprehend that. Having a mostly non-verbal kid to begin with is trickier to assess pain, emotions, and what he's really thinking. We had a follow up at Children's Hospital a week and a half after the accident.  I didn't know what it was going to be for, I just do what the doctors tell me to. When we got there the appointment was with the rehab team.  Rehab? Well that didn't occur to me.  Huh.  Again, because of his autism, it's different.  They asked us a ton of questions (because Aaron certainly wouldn't answer them) and looked him over. I kid you not, the doctor said, "I don't understand.  I don't understand how he could have the injury that he did, and be where he's at today. It doesn't make sense." I understand.  This is where faith and science don't meet. I walked away with the realization of how much of a miracle my son is. A week after that, we were back at Children's for a follow up CT scan and appointment with neurosurgery. Another layer of realization.

Modern medicine is amazing.
I believe that faith in God and the power of prayer, resulted in a miracle.
It's a miracle my son is still here on this earth.  
It's a miracle my son is functioning like he was before the accident.

We met the driver of the car the other day. A very, very nice man. A man who felt terrible and told us that was the worst night of his life--the sound of the accident still plays in his mind.  He quickly added that it was probably the worst night of our lives as well. I showed him the image of the CT scan, and he showed us a picture of his car (I will no longer make fun of Prius' least I'll try not to).  Looking at the damage to the car the man told me he was surprised that Aaron didn't have a broken pelvis.  Huh.  That thought never occurred to me.  He gave Aaron a hug and went on his way, hopefully with some closure. I walked away with another layer of realization of what could (should) have been.

I drive that road often.  Last night I was driving and watched my speedometer go to 35 mph.  Aaron was hit at probably 35 mph. I visualized the accident happening as how I understand it went down. I was sick. The extra layer of cushion Aaron has, his insane flexibility, and him not understanding what was about to happen and therefore not tensing up, helped. Having autism played a part in saving his life. Another layer of realization. If he were a "typical kid" I could better assess where he's at right now, but alas, he's a guessing game. In my denial of what could have been, I find myself treating him as if nothing ever happened.  He has this tic now that he didn't do before the accident that annoys me--how's that for ungrateful? I have to keep reminding myself (with the help of my neighbor the nurse) that he just had a major accident that he shouldn't have walked away from. 

So here I am, 25 days after my son got hit by a car, and my biggest problems with him are keeping him off the scooter (which was easy as soon as we hid them in the neighbor's garage), keeping him off the trampoline (not so easy), and jumping through all of the insurance hoops.  On a side note, if you tell doctors you own a trampoline, they suddenly treat you like you are a child abuser and belong in prison. Just letting you know! As time goes on, I am more and more thankful for his life, as challenging as it may be. The little things just got a lot bigger, and the annoyances got a lot smaller.  I'll have to remember this the next time he ruins something! Or maybe even now as he picks out the marshmallows in the Lucky Charms and throws away the rest. :)

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