The road ahead of us
On March 26, 10 days after her 9th birthday, Catherine went outside with her best friend, Jordyn, and they were riding their scooters. Just regular Razor scooters, nothing fancy or motorized.
I was on the phone with Jason when Jordyn came and knocked at the door. She said that Catherine had fallen off her scooter and needed me. I hate to admit this, but my first thought was, "Jeez, that kid is such a wimp. She needs to toughen up!" In my defense, she does have a tendency to be over-dramatic when it comes to getting hurt.
So I hung up with Jason, threw my shoes on, and walked up to the area where she was. While they were riding on our street, it was quite a ways up there to get her, so my next door neighbor, who was leaving her house anyway, offered me a ride. I told her how I assumed that Catherine was over-reacting, and then said, "Now watch, when we get up there, there will be a bone sticking out of her leg or something."
No bones sticking out, but she did have a big ol' red knot on her forehead where she'd apparently come in contact with the street. She also had a skinned up knee that was bleeding a bit, but luckily, her jeans had not torn, therefore, it was a clean injury and I was thankful that I wouldn't have to clean dirt and sand out of it.
I knew she wouldn't be able to walk all the way home, so I walked back home and got the van and drove it up to her. The lady who lives in the house she fell in front of, waited there with her. When I came to pick Catherine up, the lady told me that Catherine was complaining that she couldn't see anything. That was the first thing that scared me. I actually had to walk her to the van like a blind person, and tell her to lift her leg up into the van. She was totally confused and had no idea what I was talking about.
We got home and I tried to clean up her knee. At this point I already knew that we'd be heading to the ER, but I wanted to get this taken care of. I tried to get her to take her jeans off so she could put a skirt on so that it wouldn't rub on her knee. She started taking off her jeans and her underwear. "No, leave your underwear on, just take your jeans off." She kept pulling her undies down. She just wasn't understanding what I was telling her. I finally took her jeans off her and helped her get the skirt on.
All I really needed to clean up her knee was a wet paper towel. I brought one out from the kitchen and she freaked out. She didn't want me touching her knee, she said she could do it. She'd put the wet paper towel on her knee, but nowhere near the blood, and say, "How's that?" because she couldn't see what she was doing. It became clear rather quickly that the knee was not going to get cleaned up, and considering how "out of it" she was and how nothing she was saying was making any sense, getting her to the ER was more important.
Again, I had to walk her out to the van like I was leading a blind person. Thoughts of me doing this for the rest of her life ran through my head at this point. I had no idea how bad her injury was, but I knew it was bad enough to scare the crap out of me.
On the way there, she kept saying how tired she was, and I could see in the rear-view mirror that she was closing her eyes and swaying back and forth, like there was just no possible way she could stay awake. I kept telling her not to go to sleep, and that we'd be at the doctor in a few minutes. When we got there, I had to do the whole leading her around thing.
We walked in, and the ER was really busy. I was surprised, because it was only about 6pm. I walked up to the front desk and informed them that she had fallen off her scooter, hit her head, and now can't see. At this point she was complaining again about how tired she was, and she was having some trouble standing there, so a guy brought over a wheelchair for her to sit in. While I was filling out a form with her name and address, she started saying that she had to go to the bathroom. Being that she was so "out of it" I didn't know for sure that she wouldn't just go right there while sitting in the wheelchair. I kept saying, "Just a minute, Catherine. We'll get you there in a minute. Don't pee right here!" She was getting defiant, and was trying to stand up. The guy at the front desk who was getting us checked in got a phone call during all of this. I waited patiently for about 3 seconds for him to get off the phone so I could ask him where the restrooms were. The ER was under construction, and the walls were all boarded up, so I couldn't really tell where they were. Catherine was getting more and more agitated by the second, so I finally just shouted, "WHERE ARE THE BATHROOMS???" A nurse heard the commotion and came over to see what was going on. She pointed out the bathrooms to me then waited for us to come out. Again, Catherine had no idea what she was doing in the bathroom, so I had to help her.
We came out and sat down with the nurse who helped us. After seeing how Catherine was acting, we got moved to the top of the list and left all of the other patients in the waiting room, in the dust. They brought her back to the area where they keep the scale, and tried to weigh her. She still couldn't see to get up on the scale by herself, so I was trying to lift her foot up and put in on the scale. That wasn't working, so the guy who originally brought us the wheelchair tried to pick her up from behind and set her on the scale. She screamed at him, "OW YOU'RE HURTING ME! STOP THAT! LEAVE ME ALONE!" This is totally not typical behavior for her. While she can be stubborn, she's not rude. At one point, she looked him straight in the eye and called him "Mom." Every minute that I spent with her I got more and more scared, because her behavior was so erratic and the things she was saying made no sense at all. The things I was saying made no sense to her.
There was a small TV mounted on the wall in her room inside the ER. Hannah Montana was on. I said, "Look Catherine, Hannah Montana is on." She said, "What's Hanna Montana?" Then she tried to say it again, and couldn't even form the words.
They took her back for a CT scan, and I went along with her. It was a struggle to get her to lay down on the machine so they could do the scan. She was scared. We tried to explain to her what we were trying to get her to do, but she didn't understand. She wouldn't stay lying down. I resorted to bribery and said, "If you lay down and let them take a picture of your head, I'll buy you a new Webkinz!" Her response was, "What's a Webkinz?" Anyone who knows Catherine knows of her obsession for stuffed animals, Webkinz in particular. She has 20 of them.
Finally we were able to calm her down enough to lay down and get the scan done. When we got back into her room, she was starting to come around a little bit. But for every moment that I could see the "real" Catherine coming back to me, there was a moment that she was still confused and obviously injured. I was starting to feel better because of this though. I was having fewer thoughts about her having some sort of permanent brain injury, and picturing Jason and me changing her diapers when she is an adult.
So as I'm feeling a little better about Catherine coming around again, the nurse came in the room and asked me, "Where is her Daddy?" I told her that he was at home with our other 2 kids. She said that I should call him and have him come in. I wanted to throw up. I was physically sick when she said that, because I thought that must mean the the scan showed some amount of permanent damage. She then told me that they were going to start an IV and that they were going to move her to another hospital. The doctor was on the phone making arrangements for the 2nd hospital, and they told me that she'd be in when she was finished.
The doctor, who was wonderfully calm during this whole thing, which, in turn, calmed me down, came in and told me that that scan showed no injuries from her scooter accident. Whew! That was such a huge relief and I was so thankful. However, she wanted to show me the picture from the scan they did. She said they found something that has probably been there since birth. She walked me over to the computer screen where I could see what looked kind of like an x-ray of Catherine's skull, from above. In the top right quarter of her skull, there was just a huge black, blank area. The doctor told me that it's a cyst on her brain. Again she told me that it's probably been there since birth, and has just grown. She said that she has made arrangements with the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, and that she's talked to the head neurosurgeon there. When I heard the word "neurosurgeon" I totally lost it. A doctor to operate on my daughter's brain. Again, I wanted to throw up. She said they'd take us by ambulance and that Jason could follow behind us in his car.
As scared as I was by this news, at the same time I was still so relieved that there was no permanent brain damage from Catherine's accident. I called Jason and told him a little bit of what was going on, so he made arrangements to drop Alex and Lauren off with some friends. He got there just in time to jump behind the ambulance.
We drove the 1/2 hour or so to the U and got her checked into the Pediatric ICU. The doctors and nurses all asked Catherine what had happened to her. Each time, she patiently explained that she was riding her scooter with her friend. They were riding down a slope on our street when she started going too fast and lost control. She didn't have her helmet on because she'd left it at school a couple of weeks prior, when they had a unit in P.E. where they were rollerblading. She followed their fingers, touched their noses, everything they asked her to do. By this time, she was completely back to herself.
I stayed with Catherine all night, while Jason went home to get some sleep because there was only room for 1 of us in her room. Jason was back by 7am because that's when the doctors were scheduled to come in and talk to us. The head neurosurgeon, Dr. Haines, showed us the picture from the scan they did in the ER the night before. This is the first time that Jason saw it. The doctor pointed out the midline of the brain and said that, obviously, it should be right down the middle of the brain. You could see that Catherine's midline was no longer in the middle, but was being pushed aside by the cyst. After asking us questions about how she is doing in school, if she has a history of headaches, that sort of thing, the doctor determined that there was no need for emergency surgery, but eventually something would need to be done. He suggested that we schedule surgery to drain the cyst sometime after the school year ends. That way she won't miss any school, and we can make whatever arrangements and plans that we need.
They did an MRI that morning as well, and her discharge papers were ready when we got back to her room. We had a follow-up appointment 2 weeks later and got to see the results of the MRI. It didn't really give them any information that they didn't already have, but it was really cool to see the pictures.
At the follow-up appointment, we were really hoping that Catherine wouldn't have to be in the room when we talked to the doctor about the surgery, but there was really no way to avoid it. She cried and cried, and by the time the doctor left the room, she was sobbing. She said she understood why she needs to have the surgery, she's just scared. Can't blame her for that! So it was left that the doctor's office would call us at some point to schedule the surgery to drain the cyst. We haven't heard anything yet, but I would assume that sometime in the next month or so we'll get a call.
She's ok with things now. She's told her friends and teachers at school about having to have surgery, so it's become kind of a "cool" thing for now.
So as it turns out, Catherine's scooter accident was really no "accident." We believe that it happened for a reason, and we are so thankful for that. If the cyst had continued to go unnoticed and grow, it could have resulted in permanent brain injury when it pushed just a little too hard.
We know how lucky we are. That she had the accident, that there was no permanent brain damage, that they found the cyst, that it wasn't cancer, and that she is not the little boy in the next room in the ICU, who was waiting for his 2nd heart transplant.
Please keep Catherine in your thoughts the next few months. I'll update when we have a date set for the surgery. Here are a few photos of her injuries from her fall.