My 6 year old daughter, A, broke her neck on Friday.
Friday started out as a normal day. I took the kids to school, went to Target, went to Costco, and went to the gym (did my first real swim since SuperFrog, 40 laps). I picked D and A up from school, came home, then took them to gymnastics, like I do every Friday (well, A does gymnastics, D just brings his DS and plays games while she's in class).
Halfway through the gymnastics lesson, I looked down (I was in the parent observation room above the gym, where I was reading and waiting) and saw her teacher bending over her while she lay on the floor. She had been on the long trampoline that goes the width of the warehouse. I ran downstairs and asked what happened. He said that A said she was too tired to get up. I tried to get her to stand up, but she couldn't; she was like a heavy, limp rag doll. A said "potty", so I scooped her up and ran to the bathroom. There I put her on the floor and again, she couldn't stand...she collapsed on the bathroom floor. Neither he nor I witnessed what happened, so we assumed she fell.
At this point I freaked out. I picked her up and ran to the front desk, holding her. I kept asking her what was wrong, what hurt. She kept saying "I don't know." At one point, she said she felt "squiggly", and she also said "I'm allergic to jumping" but other than that she told me nothing. I had no idea if she was in pain, or what. I told the staff to get ready to call 911 if I needed. Again, I tried to stand her up, and this time she stood, but collapsed. Finally, on another try, she stood and was able to walk a few steps.
At this point, I called my husband. J works just a few blocks away from the gymnastics studio, and was over in a few minutes. When he came, I had A walk from me to him, about 10 feet away. She was able to do so, but was walking really off-balance, almost like she was drunk. We made the decision to take her home and go from there. D and I talked to her the whole time; I was worried about a concussion. We took her home and asked our neighbor, who's a physician's assistant, to come over. He checked her pulse and eyes, etc and said while she seemed ok we should call the doctor, which we were going to do anyway. J also started to notice that A couldn't turn her neck. J called our pediatrician, and the nurse told him to take A to the emergency room at Children's Hospital. So I loaded up the kids in the car, and, with J following behind me, drove down.
An xray showed that her neck looked irregular. They weren't sure if it was broken or a congential defect, so they wanted to do a CT scan, which we did. They wanted more information after that, so she had to have an MRI (with anesthesia, etc). Finally, at 2:30 in the morning (we'd gotten to the ER at 5:00 in the afternoon) we got our answer: yes, her neck had a congenital defect in C1 (called os odontoideum, or dens) but the ligaments around it broke (or something like that....to be honest, even though it's been explained to me about 3 times so far I still don't quite understand it all). So we were admitted. They speculate that this piece of bone has been moving for a while, and her fall, if there was a fall, was the icing on the cake to cause trauma.
Saturday was a blur. She had to go into surgery to put a halo on her head. If you don't know what that is, look here (scroll down until you see Halo Ring Brace). This device is literally screwed into her head in 6 places: 2 behind each ear and one over each eyebrow. It is really freaky looking. She will have to wear this halo for 3 months, along with the vest that it attaches to. The vest never comes off, nor does the halo, until they actually remove it. Tomorrow she goes in for a second surgery to fuse her C1 and C2 vertebrae together, which should prevent this from ever happening again.
While this has been traumatic for all of us (and A is still in a medically-induced coma and doesn't even know about the halo yet, although I tried to tell her beforehand), I am very happy. Why? Because according to every doctor and nurse I've talked to, this kind of injury usually leads to paralysis. Her spinal cord was not damaged at all. I don't understand how, especially given that I was having her walk, and transported her to the hospital (trust me, had she not been walking at the gymnastics studio I would have called 911, but since she was walking it never occurred to me that she had a neck injury) but even with all that she is able to use all four limbs. She will be ok.
Today the gymnastics owner called, and apparently another instructor witnessed the whole thing. A didn't fall after all. She went down the trampoline (as usual), jumped on the big cushy mat at the end with both feet (as usual) and bounced on her tush to slide off the mat (as usual)...only this time when she got to the floor she crumpled in a heap. So she didn't fall. It was the bouncing, and this would have happened at some point in her life regardless, apparently sooner than later. I'm just glad it was there, on a padded floor, where I was right there and HER SPINAL CORD WASN'T TOUCHED.
So after tomorrow's surgery, she'll have the halo on for 3 months. While this will be a hard 3 months, I have to keep perspective that she had the tracheostomy for 4 YEARS...and that when she got the trach they didn't know how long she'd have it (they told us she could have it for one year, or maybe the rest of her life). Knowing that this is short-term helps.
I will update later when I can. In the meantime, please hold my daughter in your prayers for a good surgery and a speedy healing and recovery.
I am you
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