Sean passed his first night in the hospital without any problems – no vomiting, more seizing, or bleeding from random orifices. My mom barely slept the night because he talked so much in his sleep!
Day 2 – Friday
My parents and my cousin spent the day with him. Pretty uneventful, they said.
Sean was slowly returning to normal. The first sign? His (growing, 15-year-old) appetite was back. The hospital menu had everything (that kids eat, at least) and my parents had access to buy all his favourite food – sushi, pizza, Subway, you name it.
They mostly spent the day waiting around for Sean to get another CT scan on his skull. My dad said he watched five movies. Back home, my sister and I made one of Sean’s favourite desserts to bring to the hospital the next day – croustade aux pommes!
Day 3 – Saturday
I spent the morning looking for our copy of Settlers of Catan, one of Sean’s favourite board games. To my dismay, it was out of reach behind a gigantic pile of stuff in our garage. Plan B was finding where to buy Jungle Speed, a fun card game I just discovered at a board game café. No luck there either.
The rest of my siblings and I made our way to the hospital. Sean was now moved to a private hospital room on the neurology/trauma floor. I asked him how he was and all that. To my surprise his right eyelid was very swollen:
I suppose it was just from all the blood from trauma to his head. The nurses said that the swelling “gets worse before it gets better.”
Sean was generally weak, tired, and disengaged. He didn’t talk much and his head was perpetually aching. These were all predictable after-effects of a head injury. He asked me, “Ate (big sister), can we walk?”
At around noon, it was about time he got out of bed. In fact, it was the first time he walked out of his room since his accident.
I’d like to think that he was waiting for me to arrive before taking a walk. After all, we’re practically walking buddies fo lyf – in the several months I spent in my neck braces, he was the only one who agreed to always walk with me for my exercise.
I am forever grateful to him and it was heart-wrenching to see the tables turn.
As Sean, my younger sister, and I walked around the hospital, I tried to keep it together. I almost cried in the hospital elevator. In the hospital elevator! I simply couldn’t handle seeing Sean like that while trying to give him advice to stay strong, while I myself had been going through living with my own trauma. I said something like, “Hey, all athletes get injured at one point.” Pretty dumb, right?
SickKids was practically a children’s amusement park… in a hospital.
While the hospital common room did have a trove of board games, Sean was too weak to even want to play. Sigh. (Good thing I didn’t unearth our copy of Settlers of Catan from the garage.) My sister and I played Battleship while Sean rested – there’s really not much to do in the hospital.
At some point in the afternoon, my oldest brother and I made a $40-worth McDonald’s run for the whole gang. Sean ordered a lot of food – and ate it all. Another good sign, I guess.
As I was walking down the hospital corridor, I saw a two-year-old baby with a HALO BRACE. Huuuuuuuu. As much as I wanted to say a few comforting words to the baby’s family, I restrained myself from doing so. My dad told me he had already seen three kids with halos on the same floor. The halo still haunts me to this day…
I volunteered to spend the night with Sean. After all, I am the family expert at extended hospital stays.
We had our own little movie night watching White Fang (1991) – the only movie we found in the common room that was entertaining enough for children ages 10 and up. Not surprisingly, Sean barely paid attention and I finished the movie by myself.
When I was in the hospital in California, my mother and my husband were both at my beck and call 24/7 – my mother for two weeks and my husband for an entire month. It was only eight months later, that night at SickKids, after Sean turned in for the night, that I realized how draining it was to care for someone else – always asking for what they need, always making sure they’re comfortable, always putting them first.
Day 4 – Sunday
Sean finally had the motivation to take a shower. I passed the time doing my neck exercises. Really nothing exciting.
Sean’s nurse told him that he could get discharged that day if he really felt better and moved around more. Our goal? Three walks. Consider ‘er done.
At some point in the afternoon, a while after the rest of my family arrived, Sean’s neurosurgeon came in and checked up on him. Without hesitation, he allowed him to go home.
I bombarded the neurosurgeon with our list of questions. His only restriction was not to play basketball as his skull fracture healed, until his next follow-up appointment in a month’s time. He also had to take some anti-seizure medication for seven days – not because he was actually having seizures, but only as a precaution. Video games were okay. Going out with friends was okay. This wasn’t going to be such a bad Christmas break after all.
When we all got home after the short 30-minute drive from Toronto, Sean just crashed in bed. He was still too tired and weak. I’m sure that we were all thankful that that’s all he has to live with for the next couple of days, given the seriousness of his injury.
The next day, I was surprised to see him already playing video games on his XBox. After an entire hospital stay was devoid of gaming, I told him to take it easy and take breaks every thirty minutes or so. He was still getting easily fatigued and experiencing frequent headaches. Unfortunately, I had to catch my plane to Québec City that evening to be able to go to New Brunswick for the holidays with my husband. As sad as I was to leave him so quickly in his quasi-recovered state, I knew he would be okay. I even gave him a $30 gift card to the movies to encourage him to go out with his friends.
Upon leaving my parents’ house for the airport, I saw one of his good friends limping to our house, crutches in tow. He was injured too! At least Sean would definitely have some company this Christmas break.
I called my family every now and then during the holidays, until I came back for the New Year. Sean was my biggest concern, but he seemed to be fine every time I talked to him and asked him how he was feeling. But you never really know with teenagers, so I was still a little bit worried.
The winter basketball season was starting on January 10th and I made sure that his coaches were aware that he got injured and he couldn’t play for some time. Sean wanted to play sooner than his follow-up appointment, and both my husband and I had to tell him that it was a strict no. He could end up worse if he hit his head again! He had to wait. (He still sent me texts though, telling me he felt well enough to play.)
Four weeks post-accident, his MRI showed no issues. His neurosurgeon cleared him to play.
Sean’s back in the game. In fact, yesterday was his second week back! I’m glad that his recovery period was only relatively short compared to mine, his one month compared to TEN of mine. I wonder if I ever did help him in his recovery by showing him, over the last several months, that yes, you can come out of it stronger than ever before. You can deal with an injury. I put my best game face on with mine, and I hope that he’ll continue to do so with his.
To all our family and friends, thank you for your prayers, thoughts and well wishes for my brother two months ago. Special thanks to the doctors and staff of The Hospital for Sick Children who made his stay as safe, enjoyable, and quick as it could possibly be.