You always dread phone calls from your kids’ school, but you answer them anyway, because you know it’s important.

Yesterday afternoon, Nora’s school called me about 45 minutes before the end of the day. “Nora’s okay,” they start by saying, “but she fell down in the school yard, and a running kid tried to jump over her, but didn’t make it and accidentally kicked her in the head.” She was, at the time, otherwise okay, but they wanted to explain the icepack I’d see when I got there.

Unfortunately, half an hour later, they called me again, to tell me that Nora had gone pale and was complaining about an upset stomach. Could I come pick her up from the office, right now?

I’ve had one concussion in my life. In grade four, I was playing on one of these rubber tire spinners, and I slipped off it and smacked the back of my head against the trunk of a nearby tree. I don’t really remember much about hitting my head, and it’s possible that I was knocked out momentarily, because I do remember the kid I was playing with saying, “I’m sorry, Jamie,” and there being considerable fear in his voice, and then I opened my eyes.

I got home okay, but then I started feeling sick and dizzy. I threw up once, and my mother took me to Sick Children’s Hospital (which was fortunately two blocks away), where I waited on a gurney in a hospital corridor to have my head x-rayed. While I waited, I got better, and after the x-ray was done, my parents were allowed to take me home, where I had supper at around 10:30 in the evening.

There was no follow-up, as far as I know, and I was back at school the next day.

Our understanding of concussions has improved in the years since, thanks in no small part to football and hockey players who’ve had their lives and health ruined through repeated events, helmets or no helmets. Between these two experiences, I strongly suspected that Nora had received a concussion of her own, and the school agreed with me. When I got to the office, I found poor Nora curled up in her seat, keeping her eyes well away from the light. That’s when I was certain. I was even more certain when poor Nora threw up on the floor.

The school administration was sympathetic and attentive. They brought in Vivian, and called me a cab to the nearest hospital. When the cab took some time in getting there, the principal bundled us into his own car and drove us straight to emergency at St. Mary’s Hospital.

We didn’t have to wait long before being admitted, and while we were somewhat testily told that Grand River handles has the MRIs and CTs to handle head injuries and paediatrics, we were seen promptly by professionals who did a number of tests.

Meanwhile, Nora was staging a recovery of her own, looking less pale, and sitting up in her emergency bed. Three hours into our ordeal, the doctor gave us his diagnostic (mild concussion) and gave us papers listing symptoms we were to watch out for. Erin and Nora went home by cab while I picked up Vivian from some friends who rushed in to watch her while she waited for us. By the end of the evening, she’d had supper and ice cream and was sleeping normally. As instructed by the doctor, we woke Nora up at 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. to ask her some questions, and she told us that her name was “Oh, go away!”

As our understanding and respect of the damage concussions can do have improved, I now have a few protocols to follow to ease Nora’s re-entry back into school. It seems inconvenient, given how bored Nora is behind me right now, but I respect the necessity, just as I appreciate the help we’ve received these past twenty-four hours from people around us.

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