Heads, hearts and helmets

No brilliant person’s words of wisdom, no fantastically written book, even no astute observations on my part could have ever prepared me for what would happen to my heart when I had children.

What it would feel like to hear tears down the street, to not worry too much because daddy was nearby and to go running down our little lane only to be waved back to the house by the daddy carrying the middlest one who obviously had met much pavement at a very high speed on his bike.  The blood pumping strong I run back toward the house and do what he told me to do “turn around and get all the first aid ready”.  The word “all” makes me start to worry much.  I clear the counter in an instant and realize our bandage supply is meager, it is the end of summer after all.

The pain in his voice as he’s carried in the door makes my insides shudder.  I never knew I would know all the different sounds of ‘boy’ and that only a few would make me feel like this.  His helmet is still on and we gently take it off (we don’t play the “what if he hadn’t had it on?” mind game now, but it comes later).  He is writhing and I want to just hold him but I have to assess the scope of it all.  The impact was obviously head first and then the whole left side.  I see deep open sores on his side and he is holding it so tight, I think spleen? and keep taking mental notes on everything while trying to play calm mommy.  Left elbow maybe broken, lots of blood and road rash abrasions.

We make the decision to head to the ER.  Too many variables not to go.  And he is getting foggy.  Not responding normally to us.  So we pack up and go.

The drive from our new place to the ER that we know and love seems like an eternity.  I pull over on the side of the freeway because he isn’t answering me.  I tug on his foot and he talks back but I know we aren’t in good shape.

As soon as they see him they bump him to the top of the line and send him straight back and there is a doctor there before we are even on the bed.  He is sharp and kind and takes the very best care of my boy.  When he gives me choices on what to do and I waffle and wish my hubby was here to help me decide, he offers to call him right then and there and talk with him in the room with me and we figure it all out together.

The only reason we probably had choices and didn’t head straight away for a CAT scan was because he had his helmet on.  More than once, he said “with that kind of impact, if he had not had that helmet on, this outcome could have been very different”.  As it was he still had a concussion.  And he was badly beat up from his body meeting the road at that speed.

The first hour he is so out of sorts and I wonder how this is going to turn out and would he be okay?  He is in and out of it.  Completely not his normal self.  My mom keeps me grounded and keeps talking to me and we talk to him and we watch and wait.  For several hours.

He finally turns a corner and we go home on strict limitations to his activity and super close watch on his demeanor.  We wake him all night every two hours to make sure he can wake up.  In the morning, the pain of waking up completely undoes him and in doing so undoes this mama too.  He is nauseous and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g hurts him to tears.  He can’t moved from curled up on the couch.  It breaks my heart.

Dressing wounds also makes my list of “things I did not expect to learn to do”.  But I do it because that is what a mother does.  And it honestly hurts me physically to have to pull gauze out of open spaces of skin that want to grow new into the bandages.

I spend a RIDICULOUS $60 on bandages, bandaids, non-stick gauze and my kitchen counter looks like a Red Cross clinic.  Never again will you find me out of stock when it comes to these necessities.

The days pass and two nights I hardly sleep.  I keep rehearsing our conversation and spilling over with thankfulness that it went down the way it did…

Me:  “I sometimes felt like the dorky mom always making my kids wear helmets, when the neighbor kids mom’s don’t make them wear theirs’.”

ER doctor:  “Well, if you hadn’t done that though, you might not be heading home right now.  Things could have very differently.”

Me:  “Sign me up for dorky mom.  Any day of the week then.”

I can hardly eat anything for several days after.  All the sores and pain and trauma leave me sick to my own stomach even though I’m not the one injured.  But it feels like I am.  And that’s what else no one could make you understand before you are a mother.  When your child’s heart or body is broken, it actually feels like it is you who is broken and sometimes even I think we feel worse than they do.  The whole phenomena is something I’ll never wrap my mind around and forever be thankful for.  The way these little people grow my heart is totally beyond me.


Beth Stedman

Oh, Karissa, my heart broke reading this and it was all I could do to fight back tears for your boy. But also tears for you and all of us momma’s who walk around with our hearts outside our bodies.


Beth, I totally thought of you while I wrote this…indeed we do and I wouldn’t want it any other way But easy it is not, that’s for certain.


I kind of know how you feel. Joey had surgery a few weeks ago. It took longer than expected and we were nervous. He was in pain for about 2 days and then wanted to get back out on his bike and scooter. Kids are crazy. Running and playing 2 days after surgery? Your situation sounds so scary, not knowing how it was all going to turn out. I am sure you were a great comfort to your son through all that.
I missed you at Kim’s shower. It would have been fun to carpool and catch up.