Kids and Concussions: Our Story

Monday, November 5, 2012

Here's my wish for you, that you never have to see your child go through something like this:

About a month ago, we had to take Tyler to the emergency room for a CT scan after three days of concussion symptoms. Here's how everything unfolded:

He played a game on a Sunday morning. He and another child collided head to head (accidentally), they both fell and then the back of Tyler's  head hit the ice. He has taken harder hits than that one before. He's gone into the boards so hard I had to stop myself from running onto the ice. He has slipped, fallen and hit his head worse than that before. So when he got right back and up and continued to play, all of us, Tyler included, thought he was fine.

Later that afternoon, he was supposed to visit a friend. I told him to clean his room and then we'd go. After about half and hour, I wondered why it was taking him so long and went to see if he was playing rather than cleaning. He was asleep in bed. Our son hasn't taken a nap since he was four. That was clue number one something wasn't right.

Even later that afternoon, he complained of a headache. When we told him he should stay home rather than go to his friend's house, he started crying because his toothbrush was still at their house from a previous sleepover and now he wouldn't be able to get it back. Falling asleep, headaches and mood swings are all symptoms of a concussion.

We called the pediatrician's office for advice. For the rest of the evening, we kept a close eye on him and we woke him up twice during the night to ask him three questions each time (which he answered). The next day, Monday, his teacher sent him home from school because she could tell he wasn't feeling well. He said he'd had double vision while trying to take a test.

Tyler's headaches came on and off all that day. He would be fine one minute and in a lot of pain the next so we went to the doctor that afternoon. He was officially diagnosed with a mild concussion. Tuesday, his headaches were still coming and going, sometimes without warning.

Wednesday morning Tyler woke me before the alarm went off for school. He was crying and holding his head. "It hurts, it hurts so bad." That's when I decided to take him to the ER. The doctor looked him over and was confident his symptoms were still mild. She told us she, as a parent herself, would not do the CT scan on her own kids if they were presenting as well as Tyler, but Phil and I decided we needed to know for sure that he was OK.

Both us hadn't slept well since Sunday night, worrying there might be more wrong than we knew. Fortunately, the CT scan was normal. It was worth the possible risks from the X-Ray for our peace of mind. This doctor mirrored our pediatrician and said no physical activity (practice, games, PE class, recess) for two weeks. When she said that, Tyler started to cry.

I was very happy this doctor was able to talk to Tyler about what a concussion is and convey how serious they can be without scaring him. We sent him to school the next day (Thursday) with a doctor's note and instructions for him to go to the nurse immediately if he started getting blurry vision again.

We spent the rest of the week watching him for symptoms and noticed several odd things. He dropped the carton of milk twice in one morning. He tripped and stumbled walking back from the pool. We were talking about weekend plans and then a few moments later he asked, "So, what are we going to do tomorrow?" Each time something like that happened, it re-affirmed that keeping him out of his activities was the right choice, no matter that he told us he felt just fine.

Concussions affect each person differently. After the headaches went away, Tyler begged us to let him start playing again and we had to say no repeatedly. We yelled at him when we caught him riding his scooter, which he was not supposed to be doing anyway, but certainly not WITHOUT A HELMET! Tyler told us he felt like he was being punished. We told him his health and safety were considerably more important than his feelings.

During dinner the following Tuesday night (nine days after he got the concussion), Tyler was telling us about his day at school. "We were playing dodgeball at PE and I got hit in the head with the ball."

Say what?!

Tyler looked like a deer in headlights. He realized too late that he should have kept that story to himself.


This post is getting really long so I'll stop here and break it into two parts. I'll tell you about the conversation I had with the vice principal and the reaction Tyler got from some of his classmates.

My Parenting Fail: Alternately Titled Cottage Cheese Teeth

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This is second in a series of sponsored posts for The Motherhood's SweetSmart campaign.

So, let me tell you about one of my more recent parenting failures. It involves my son and his dental habits. I thought we had resolved our issues back when we bought him the Sonicare for Kids, but I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

About a month ago, he lost one of his last baby teeth. It was on the upper right side of his mouth. A few days later, we were talking and I noticed his breath was terrible.

"Holy cow, your mouth stinks! Did you brush your teeth today?"


"Well, go swish some mouthwash and brush extra tonight at bedtime."

The next day, it was the same thing. His breath was awful. Rather than swish I made him brush his teeth. Much protesting ensued and he insisted he had already brushed that morning. 

For a week, Tyler would talk to me, his breath would knock me over and I'd send him off to brush. Finally, I figured I needed to take charge and see if I could figure out what was happening in there.

We went into the bathroom at bedtime. I sat on the toilet lid so I could have a birdseye view.

"Alright, open up and tilt your head back. Let's see what's going on in there."

And then I almost threw up.

It looked like each tooth on the right side of his mouth was covered in yellow cottage cheese. The plaque was so thick I couldn't see enamel.

I got out my dental pick and started scraping. I wiped the plaque onto a piece of toilet paper so he could see it. I told him that growing pile was leftover food.

"Why didn't you brush that side?"

"After my tooth fell out, it hurt to brush over the hole so I just stopped."

Okay, then.

By the time I finished scraping and flossing, I swear there was enough plaque to make a small scale model of a tooth. We had another long talk about brushing, flossing and using mouthwash. 

I told him when he loses his last baby tooth, he can't not brush but to go back the the manual toothbrush on that side until his gums aren't tender. We talked about occasionally swishing with a mixture of warm water, mouthwash and hydrogen peroxide. 

Even though our son is 10, apparently he still needs supervision for basic things. I was hoping we have reached the point in his life where I can count on him to wash his own face, brush his own hair, clip his own nails and not arbitrarily decide to stop brushing half his teeth, but obviously, leaving him to own devices is not a good idea. I will never be able to clean the image of his furry teeth from my brain. 

Still, at least we have the tools to keep his mouth healthy. Many families so not and their children really suffer. Read on to learn a few fact about pediatric dental disease and then please leave me one of your recent parenting fails so I don't feel quite so bad!

Statistics from America's Tooth
*An estimated 17 million children in America go without dental care each year.

*Pediatric dental disease is 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever.

* 44% of American children will suffer from pediatric dental disease before they reach kindergarten.

*4.5 million children develop pediatric dental disease every year.

*Pediatric dental disease is a primary reason for emergency room visits in children.

*Left untreated, pediatric dental disease can lead to malnourishment, bacterial infections, required emergency surgery, and even death.

*Dental disease has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, poor pregnancy outcomes, and dementia.

This post is sponsored by The Motherhood. I received products from Johnson and Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNeil PPC as part of the Listerine Smart Rinse Sweet Smart Challenge.
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