A week before Christmas last year, I was busy living the high life without a neck brace. I started exercising again, continued to take French classes, and met up with my friends before I left town for the holidays.
One regular Thursday night, I was about to leave my French class and hop on the subway to go home when my mom called my cellphone, asking me where I was. She told me to stay downtown and go straight to SickKids Hospital (also known as The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada). My 15-year-old brother, Sean, had fractured his skull while playing basketball.
My heart stopped. My mom was trying to remain calm and so was I – 2015 hasn’t been the best year for our family. Apparently it “wasn’t serious” and that “he was okay.” Sean was being ambulanced to SickKids from another hospital in Mississauga and was set to arrive in half an hour. While she and my brother still had to drive downtown from the suburbs, I was able to get there as soon as possible.
I don’t know why I opted to walk the 20 minutes to the hospital instead of taking the 5- minute subway there. Maybe I wanted to savour the fresh air as long as possible – who knows how long we were going to be in the hospital (after my one-month stint in the hospital, devoid of fresh air, I wasn’t taking my chances). Maybe I wanted some time to think and pray as I skirted Queen’s Park on foot. Maybe I didn’t want to feel more stressed by being on the subway.
In any case, I arrived just in time. (I also got to buy some shawarma on the way – I was hungry!) I entered the emergency department and boy, was it the saddest place in the entire world. A lot of sick children (as the hospital name suggests). Screaming babies cradled by their moms, kids with various medical devices attached to them, parents looking so drained.
Luckily, the nurse quickly located my brother for me. As I entered an examination room filled with different pumps and computers, I tried to keep it together upon seeing him in this state:
I was the first family member he saw after becoming conscious and aware. As someone on the other side, it was heartbreaking to see my little brother so uneasy, connected to at least two monitors with a NECK BRACE.
(He didn’t break his neck like me; the neck brace was just a precaution. And I just had my OWN neck brace removed TWO WEEKS AGO at the time.)
With tears in his half-opened eyes, he told me, “I had a skull fracture, I don’t remember anything…”
At that moment, I just DIED inside. I didn’t know what to say. Tears already welled up in my eyes, but I needed to be strong for my little brother.
“Sean, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay, just chill,” I consoled him.
The doctors talked to me. He was really going to be okay – just no basketball for the next couple of weeks. We needed to wait for my parents as the doctors couldn’t give me any more information because I wasn’t a parent.
“Am I going to need physical therapy???” he knew how sucky it would be if he did, after walking me to my appointments – three times a week.
“I had a skull fracture… during Christmas break!!!” he cried out in disbelief. “I wanted to make every day count…”
For the next thirty minutes until we were moved to another room in the emergency department, I talked him through it. Still in his basketball uniform, he wanted his cellphone and XBox, both of which were no-no’s for a recent head injury as these may overstimulate the brain. He also wanted food (but he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink; otherwise I would have offered my warm shawarma). Cellphone, XBox, food – pretty normal wants for my 15-year-old brother.
He spoke coherently. His limbs moved normally. He was complaining why my mom was taking so long to find parking. He wasn’t in pain, except when he moved his head. (Your head would hurt too if you freakin’ broke it.) He even asked me, “How does my hair look?”
At that point, I was assured he was actually fine.
“Can I get crutches?”
“No, Sean, you didn’t even break your legs!”
Sean fractured his skull playing basketball for his high school that afternoon. It was his second month playing for the ~*school team*~, after I encouraged him to join (read: paid for) some basketball camps/programs for the last few seasons. I was ecstatic that he stuck to a sport (a team sport even) instead of wasted away playing video games in my parents’ basement.
I obviously wasn’t there when this all happened (I was instead on the bus LOL) but my dad gave me the gist of it. Sean’s team was playing at another high school. Colliding with another player while doing a lay-up, he suddenly fell and hit his head on the floor with the other player on top of him. He had a one-minute seizure as his body reacted to the abrupt trauma to his head.
When I later told him he all of this, he said, “Wait, I had a seizure?”
(Flashback to when my neurosurgeon just forgot to tell me I had a BRAIN HEMORRHAGE until a few weeks after my accident… and I was like, “Wait, I have a brain hemorrhage?”)
Paramedics arrived and rushed him to Trillium Hospital in Mississauga. Sean’s coaches immediately called my dad and he too rushed himself there. At Trillium, emergency staff confirmed Sean’s skull fracture. My dad was with him the entire time at emergency, but as Sean kept flailing his arms and legs and shouting, he was too violent to talk to.
Sean was given some sedatives to calm him down. As Trillium does not specialize in pediatric care, he needed to be ambulanced to SickKids in Toronto so proper pediatric neurosurgeons could examine him. Here are some photos my dad took while he was being transferred into the ambulance:
Sean doesn’t remember any of this.
He sustained a small fracture in the left occipital part of his skull, overlaying the left transverse sinus vein. Luckily this important vein was not affected in any way and he didn’t need any surgery. He didn’t break anything else, as confirmed by CT scans and X-rays.
However, there were small areas of bleeding around his left sigmoid sinus vein, so his neurosurgeon wanted to keep him for observation for a few days. The bleeding may clot and cause a stroke. Wah.
My mom and brother arrived soon after we were transferred to a private room in the emergency department. Sean was so out of it. He continued to complain about the pain in his head, but we couldn’t do anything more than wait for his next dose of Tylenol.
It had been a long day and he needed to rest. My mom stayed with him for the night and the doctor instructed her to watch for vomiting, seizures, or other random red flags.
My dad sent out an email to their church group that evening, calling for prayers:
Lord God, please continue to touch Your healing hands to Sean and to guide the doctors and nurses currently doing some work on him. Sent forth Your Holy Spirit to continue to protect him. May he be safe and away from any danger. We ask this in the Mighty Name of Jesus. Amen.