The ride to the hospital was over just over 20 miles and seemed to take forever in the afternoon rush hour traffic. Turns out, the ambulance took Miles to the Children’s Hospital at Palmetto Richland. I guess this is why they bypassed the closer Lexington Medical Center. Given his physical size, I tend to forget he’s legally still considered a child.
I actually found a great parking space near the emergency room entrance and headed in.
Pass the Message
Remember the Pass the Message game you played with a group as a child? Everyone sat in a line and whispered a secret phrase from one end to the other. The goal was to end with the original phrase. Usually, the result was something totally unrelated to the original message and pretty funny. Something similar played out as the word spread about the accident.
On her ride to the hospital, Angie called a co-worker friend. She explained what happened and asked the friend to coordinate a work sub for her the next day. The friend then called their director and one bad cell phone connection later word had gone from “Miles has been in a bike accident and HE doesn’t look good”, meaning he was scraped and bloody to “Miles has been in an accident and IT doesn’t look good,” meaning he might not make it. Not quite as funny as Pass the Message.
We discovered this when an assistant pastor called Angie to check on Miles and to tell her the senior pastor was on the way as quickly as he could. I suppose this was the Baptist equivalent of the Last Rites sacrament. Fortunately, the confusion was quickly cleared, and the big gun was called off. The youth pastors still showed up, sans Last Rites directives.
Rinse and Repeat
Angie let me in the secured Children’s Hospital Emergency Room area and led me back to a small holding room. Miles was laying on a gurney, still wearing a neck brace the EMT placed on him at the accident scene.
The sources of the blood were clearly visible now, a large gash on the left cheek bone, presumably cut by the sunglasses and a long, wide gash just underneath the left side of his chin, courtesy of face versus car. I didn’t think stitches would be possible on that one. Thankfully, the bleeding had almost stopped.
I spoke to Miles. “Hey, son. How ya feeling?”
“My head hurts. Shoulder is killing me.” I was thinking broken collarbone at this point.
“Yea, that was quite the blow.”
“What happened?” Miles asked me for the second time that day.
“You were hit by a car.”
“Was it my fault?”
“Does Emily know?” Emily was his girlfriend.
“No, Mom talked to her parents. She’s at tumbling practice. They’ll tell her after practice.”
“Is my bike OK?” He asked. We later told Emily she should feel special – Miles asked about her before his bicycle.
“No, it’s broken in two. Looks like you’ll be getting a new one.”
Angie then proceeded to tell me it was now my turn to answer these questions for a while. Apparently, he was looping these same questions over and over.
“How many times have a I asked this?” Miles asked, having overhead Angie’s comments.
“Fifty-seven,” I said
“No. I don’t know. A few, I guess.”
After a bit, they finally took Miles away for an MRI. I’m not sure why, but I went along and sat outside the MRI room, as they scanned Miles’s head and neck for damage. I texted friends who would want to know that was going on. After a few minutes, we returned to the room and waited on the results.
Still on the gurney, Miles recognized the voice of a new visitor in the room. “Hey, Mr. Troy.”
“Hey, Miles. How ya feelin’?” Troy moved to where Miles could see him.
“I’ve been better. What happened?” Miles asked once again.
“You we’re hit by a car,” I answered.
“Was it my fault?”
“No,” I assured him again. “And I now have the highway patrol report to prove it”. The patrolman from the scene had come to the hospital to deliver the paperwork, after he completed the interview with the driver of the car.
And so it continued. The same questions repeated every few minutes. By the end of the night, it may have really been 57 times.
Soon, we received good news on the MRI. Head and neck were fine. Now, I wanted to know about the collarbone now. They needed to do an X-ray of the collarbone and his right knee,which was pretty swollen by now. They took him away again for the X-rays. I did not tag along this time.
I had resigned to myself his collarbone was broken. I just couldn’t figure out how we’d deal with that scenario. Tri season would definitely be over and summer workouts to prepare for fall cross country season would likely be impacted. The bigger problem would be dealing with a 17 year-old’s mental state.
They returned Miles to the room, and we waited.
A neurosurgeon came by. He talked in a heavy Indian accent. I think he was there to officially give us the concussion diagnosis, even though Miles had told me that lying on the road. He gave us information on concussions and the recovery process. Angie and I had trouble understanding him, but he and Miles carried on a conversation just fine. Go figure. Apparently, Miles could now interpret tongues.
We waited some more.
The primary doctor we’d been dealing with returned with his sewing kit. He used 10 stitches and beautifully repaired the jaw gash. I’d have lost that bet.
At this point, Miles was getting hungry, but they wouldn’t allow anything to eat, in case surgery was necessary. He was also getting very sleepy due to meds, and they encouraged him to sleep. While Miles dosed off, Angie and I sat in the little room and ate subs a friend delivered earlier. I did, at least. Angie didn’t feel much like eating.
Finally, we received word on the X-rays.
All bones, including the collarbone were OK. Hallelujah. They had some fancy medical term for the shoulder being out of alignment and causing the pain, but a sling was the solution for that.
At this point, the ER had done pretty much all they were going to do and wanted to admit him for overnight observation. Now we were just waiting for a regular hospital room.
Cruel to be Kind
Thinking I would have to work the next day, I went home for the night around 11 pm, with Angie and Miles still waiting for a room in the main hospital. They finally moved after midnight.
When I arrived at the hospital with his chicken minis and sweet tea, there was bad news. They still wouldn’t let him eat. Apparently, someone thought there was a slight chance he’d need surgery and wanted an empty stomach, just in case. Nurses had paged a doctor about this, but that doctor had not returned the calls yet.
I felt bad putting the food and tea on the table beside the bed. For two hours, the chicken logo taunted Miles. Finally, he received the all clear to eat. Houdini could not have made the minis disappear any quicker. His appetite had returned but not his memory. He wasn’t repeating the same questions from the night before, but he had virtually no memory of the events from the end of school the day before until he awoke that morning.
We had some additional therapist visits, including a physical therapist and someone who performed some memory tests. He passed all the tests well enough to be discharged but we had a follow up scheduled with a concussion and sports injury specialist.
On June 5th, we arrived back at the USC Sports Medicine clinic to see the concussion specialist again. It had been 17 days since the accident and a very long two weeks had passed since our first visit with the clinic, when doctor’s orders had been no driving, no video games, and worse, no swim/bike/run. This had been OK for about the first ten days, but now Miles was feeling much better and cabin fever was starting to weigh heavily on him.
We hoped he would be able to take the computerized concussion assessment test and at least be cleared to drive and resume some light physical activity. First, they had him fill out a questionnaire about on-going symptoms. When the doctor read Miles was still having headaches and not sleeping well, he would not even administer the test and wanted us to wait another two weeks. We convinced him to recheck in a week, but I had a 150 pound mad hornet on my hands.
It was a quiet ride home from the doctor, and Miles soon settled down. I think deep down, he knew he needed more time.
So we waited another week.
On June 12th, we returned. A better week of sleep and no headaches allowed Miles to take the assessment test. They took him off to the computer and after more than 30 minutes, he rejoined me in the exam room. We now waited on the result.
He passed. The shoulder was almost 100%, too.
The doctor said he could start with 30 minutes of easy exercise that day and GRADUALLY increase over the week. If headaches developed, he was to back off.
We went home and within 15 minutes of arriving home, on a borrowed bicycle, Miles set out for his first ride in over three weeks. I was right behind him.
To be continued…Click here for part four.