This was the first fall that rattled my brain that anyone in my family remembers. My mother still talks about it to this day. She was in the next room when it happened. The possible anoxic brain injury I sustained as an infant is another frequent topic of conversation, but she wasn’t there when that happened, so this is the one she brings up the most often.
The house where my family lived, till I was 10 years old, was small. Realtors would call it “cozy”. There were three bedrooms upstairs, and three rooms downstairs – living room, dining room, kitchen. Upstairs and downstairs were connected by a short flight of stairs – about 10 carpeted steps and not very steep – that had a landing near the bottom and a few more steps angling into the far corner of the dining room.
I remember standing at the top of the stairs one afternoon… and then I found I was at the bottom of the stairs, lying in a dazed heap. I couldn’t figure out how I’d gotten there. I was dazed and rattled, and I didn’t feel right. I got up and went to stand in the middle of the dining room, to “check in” with myself and see if I was alright.
I knew I wasn’t badly hurt. I could move my arms and legs and fingers and toes. I wasn’t in pain at all, that I could tell. So, I knew I was basically okay. Still, everything felt weird and far away, like I was at one end of a long, narrow, dark tunnel, and the rest of the world was at the other end…. Or like I was encased in a thick translucent bubble in the middle of a fog. Everything outside my “bubble” seemed foggy and distant, including my mother’s concerned calls from the kitchen. It was the strangest feeling — I was there, but I was not there. I could move my arms and legs, but I felt completely disconnected from my body, like I was moving it by remote control. I wanted to respond to the distant calls, but I was so confused, so dazed, and so wrapped up in figuring out if there was anything wrong with me, I wanted the voice in the distance to go away.
My mother had heard the racket and was alarmed. After calling out to me and hearing no response, she rain into the dining room to see how I was. She tried to touch me, to see if I was alright, but I pulled away and wouldn’t let her near me. She frightened me, coming that close to me so quickly, and I couldn’t stand the feel of her touch. Her touch felt like a slap — like a sudden flash of lightning and a thunderclap on an otherwise clear summer’s day.
She kept saying, “Are you alright? Are you alright?!” But I couldn’t answer her. Her voice echoed in my head and hurt my ears almost as much as her touch hurt my arm. It sounded like I was deep underwater, and she was calling to me from far above.
All I could say was, “It was me.”
She kept trying to check if I was hurt, and everytime she made contact with me, it hurt. I pulled away – away – away – and remained silent. I just wanted her to leave me alone.
She did leave me alone after a few minutes, and I remember standing still for a while longer, until my body felt like it could move on its own, without me commanding it. Then I walked away. After that, my memory fades to nothing.
I think this was the first of the really significant hits I took, when I was a kid. It’s certainly the one that can be testified to by someone other than myself. My mother has an excellent memory for these kinds of things — possibly because of guilt she feels at why it happened, or how she handled it afterwards.
There was nothing she did that caused it. We kids were always racing up and down those stairs, sliding down them, and generally treating them like our “jungle gym”. We weren’t allowed to slide down the banister, which was for the best. If I had been, I likely would have fallen off it – and hurt myself badly in the process.
To say that my sense of balance was “poor” would be an understatement.
Not that it slowed me down, all that much. I just kept pushing through.
4 thoughts on “After the Hit – Falling Down Stairs at Age 7”
After this second TBI for my daughter, she had a dazed look and was slow to respond to questions. I would find myself repeating the question and the way you describe your first experience reminds me of how she seems to remember this too. She tells me she would hear my questions and she answered them in her mind, but didn’t realize she just had a blank facial expression and didn’t actually verbalized anything.
I didn’t witness this or her first concussion, but when I got the phone call from the school about this second one, when someone slammed a locker door into her head with force, my stomach dropped. My intuition told me this was a life-changing event and at the time I knew I had a minimum of 3-4 weeks of uncertainty ahead of us. Here we are still dealing with all of these other costs besides just the physical symptoms from that blow to the head. The school never completed an accident report, they never investigated the incident (gut feelings tell me this was not an accident), and no one is willing to step forward as a witness to this incident and my daughter, though being able to walk to her next class, is an “unreliable witness” because of the injury affecting her memory. We just move forward anyways, because whether intentional or not, the only ones we would hold back if we held onto anger would be ourselves.
We try to see the bigger picture and how an unexpected detour can lead us down a path that we were intended to travel all along. My daughter starts a new school today as the traditional one failed her, denying that she has a problem and not assuming any responsibility for the cause or the solution to help her overcome challenges. They tend to blame her and won’t ever recognize that TBI can be disabling in ways that are not visible (such as the light sensitivity, the auditory problems, the migraines, the fatigue, the word-finding difficulty, the balance issues, etc.). She has such a high intellect that she has been able to draw upon and so they only see that her grades are stellar and she has completed advanced classes. They refuse to acknowledge any symptoms she has from the injury and the true need for documented accommodations to help her cognitively, socially, and mentally. Even when her balance is poor, they deny ever seeing her stumble and grab for a support or walk into a door frame because her spatial perception has been altered and she doesn’t see the door frame. Many other examples, but suffice to say, without a lawyer involved, none of this will ever be examined by the school administration.
Rather than stay in that unsupportive environment, my daughter has chosen to pursue independent study, similar to homeschooling. Proud of her for making this choice, and amazed at the goals she has set for herself. Now that she won’t be in an environment that overwhelms her senses, she can better reach her full potential and have breaks whenever she needs them to be able to find the balance that works for her brain. She plans to accelerate completing the objectives and begin a community college early. SATs were going to be a challenge for her anyways if she never had documentation from the school that she needs the hat and glasses to survive in that environment.
We choose to focus on what she can do, as well as what we need to do to improve her health and well-being. The guilt she has experienced while being in that environment has been unhealthy and seeking a lawyer currently would likely only reinforce that guilt, drain our finances further and possibly create a hostile environment for her younger sibling who is still in the traditional school environment. As you have said many times in various posts on this blog, the true costs of a TBI are more than just dollars in health care expenditures and a “mild” TBI is certainly not mild but substantially impactful in a variety of unacknowledged or under appreciated ways.
Thank you for continuing to post and providing a forum for those who have experienced TBI or are impacted by it because a loved one has suffered this type of injury and life-altering course. Sometimes all we have is each other and no one really gets it unless they have been through this themselves.
Thanks for writing all of that. People can be such … problems. And school administrations especially. I just don’t know what’s wrong with some people. But you’re right – you are better off just dealing with it, and not letting anger and bitterness get the better of you.
I am 77 yrs old and this year I have been experiencing some episodes of blanking out, not blacking out, but have been taken to hospital twice by friends. I was in a CAR ACCIDENT in March, but the injuries were slight. I did have a brain scan which I presume was negative. My first episode was one month later…..the doctor is treating me like it is TIA’s but I am beginning to wonder. After the last time, Dec 10, I seemed normal but my Chiropractor called me later in the day to tell me that she was concerned because I had appeared confused at her office. I did not remember paying her; however, I did go on with my day, meeting friends for lunch, shopping, etc. Now my doctor has suspended my drivers licence. I have been feeling like my-self is slipping away sometimes…..strange feeling. This is starting to lead to some depression. I have download your memory test and will be working on it.
Thank you for writing. I’m sorry to hear about the challenges you are facing. I’m not sure if doctors can tell TIAs are happening, unless they have a brain scan to look at. If you had an accident prior to these episodes, there might be a connection. I am not a doctor, but confusion after a head injury (even if it looks minor) does happen. I myself have been confused in situations – I’m not sure others noticed enough to want to check up on me. I guess not. Hopefully, you will find some resolution to your confusion, as time goes on. I hope the memory tests help – and that you can continue living your life.