The death of Natasha Richardson is the definition of tragedy – sad, senseless, shocking. It’s just horrible and a lot of us are haunted by it. In fact, as parents, we maybe a little too haunted by it. How so?
“It’s a wake-up call,” announced a mom friend of mine on a field trip last Friday.
“Wake-up call to what?” I asked.
“Parents now know that when their kid gets hit in the head and says they’re all right, they may not be.”
“So we should take our kids to the emergency room every time they hit their head and say they feel fine?”
“Well, if Natasha had done that, she’d be alive today.”
Very true. That’s what the experts are saying: The actress suffered the kind of head trauma that initially doesn’t feel that serious. But then the blood starts pooling and can cause death if not drained almost immediately.
How I wish Ms Richardson had been operated on instantly! But one very unusual death preceded by an equally unusual lack of symptoms does not mean that every symptomless head bump must be assumed fatal until proven otherwise. To think that way would make it almost impossible for us to let our kids ride bikes, or play tag, or even pillow fight. Because at some point, someone is going to bump his head. (And yes, I hate it when they do.)
So I asked a doctor when a parent should worry about a head bump. These are the warning signs, said he: Nausea, dizziness, passing out, blurry vision, personality change or headache.
If any of those occur, you should probably get your child checked out, fast. But if your kid feels all right and seems all right, maybe you don’t have to immediately assume the worst.
I’m not a doctor. Just a mom who knows that whenever we hear a tragic story on the news — especially when it’s repeated a million times — my generation has a tendency to assume the same thing could easily happen to our own kids, no matter how remote the real danger. (Think: Kidnapping, or school shootings.) “Just to be safe” we do everything we can to prevent it – sometimes smothering normal childhood in the process.
I’m sure the next time one of my sons hits his head, I’ll be more worried than before. (And believe it or not, I’m a worrier!) But I also hope I can summon the courage to let them rough-house and play and even snowboard (ugh), despite this newfound fear of a bump that doesn’t seem too bad. — Lenore
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