The Great Lizard Race

The lizard skitters along the road, no cares in the world. Sure, there are people here but they mostly leave him alone. Besides, they can’t catch him. A few of the little ones have tried.

A boy appears along the road. The boy sees the lizard. The boy remembers the conversation over dinner the night before. Specifically, the part about the lizards. His family had commented on how fast the lizards were. I bet I’m faster, he thinks to himself. And then, on the kind of whim that only young boys seem to have, he decides to prove it. He takes off running.

The lizard doesn’t know he’s been challenged to a race. He only knows one of the not-so-little-but-not-full-sized people is running roughly toward him. He picks up speed accordingly.

The boy steps it up a notch. He is faster than the lizard. He knows he is. He runs alongside the lizard, gaining ground. He’s winning! He’s winning! He knew he was faster!

Suddenly, the lizard leaves the boy in his dust. The boy doesn’t know what happened. He was winning. And then he was on his back, dazed and confused. He rolls over and struggles to his knees. He sees a rock nearby. He crawls over to it before attempting to stand.

Once on his feet, he sees a concerned woman nearby. “That was quite a crash. Are you OK?” she asks.

He stares back at her blankly. She asks again. He mumbles his response before heading off to find his mother.

At least, that’s how we think it happened. We have to fill in the blanks because my son Daryl, the great and mighty lizard racer, doesn’t remember anything between winning the race and the second time the woman queried him.

When he walked away from the woman, she assumed he was embarrassed and trying to act tough. He entered the room where his sister and I were working on our stained glass projects. He was sweaty and agitated. I could tell something was wrong but was unsure whether he was in physical or emotional pain.

“Mommy,” he started shakily. He looked back behind him and then turned back. His words came out in a rush. “I was racing a lizard and I ran into that white thing out there and… and… and… my head really hurts! It hurts so bad!!”

He grabbed his forehead and burst into tears.

Jane hurried to get some medicine out of her backpack while I gently moved his hand to check his forehead. There was nothing there. No bump or bruise or abrasion. I found a nasty line of bruising on his right forearm, but nothing even remotely tender on his forehead.

“You said you hit your head?”

“Yes. It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!”

This was not like him and I was confused. I glanced out the window. “What did you hit your head on?”

“That white thing out there.” He motioned vaguely out the window. I didn’t see a white thing that he could have hit his head on. I gently pulled him outside and asked him to show me.

He pointed to a white barrier, about three feet off the ground, that was essentially permanently across the road between the buildings at the camp and conference facility we were staying at.

“Honey,” I said patiently. “There’s no way you could have hit your head on that. Especially not at the same time you hit your arm.”

“Well, maybe I didn’t hit my head then. But it really hurts!”

“Maybe you didn’t? Did you or didn’t you hit your head?”

“I don’t know!”

I was confused and a little concerned. I sent him back to our room to tell his Daddy and then went back into the stained glass room to gather my things for my basketry class that was starting in a few minutes.

When I came out of the room, my husband and son were standing nearby and my husband was trying to get a handle on what happened.

“So you were chasing the lizard and then…?”

“I was racing the lizard.”

“Ok. And then what happened?”

“I don’t know. I think I hit my head.”

We exchanged glances. I ran my fingers through Daryl’s hair. He winced. I checked the back of his head, where I could see that a portion of his scalp was red.

“Did you hit the back of your head?”

“I don’t know.”

“What did you have for lunch today?” my husband asked, after checking the abrasion on the back of our son’s head.

“I don’t know.”

“Daryl,” I said sharply, getting worried but hoping he was just playing it up for some sort of perceived benefit. “This isn’t funny. It’s very serious. Don’t think that it’s better to act like you don’t know what’s going on. You won’t like where this is headed if you can’t answer our questions. So please don’t play it up. What did you have for lunch?”

“I don’t know.” Lunch had been less than two hours earlier. Each ‘I don’t know’ statement was delivered the same. He wasn’t getting irritated or defensive. He was just calmly and a little distractedly answering. This didn’t feel right.

“What did you have for breakfast?” my husband tried.

“I don’t know.”

“What day is it?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Shoot, honey!” I said. “Jane couldn’t tell you what day it is. It’s summertime! Daryl, what did we do yesterday while Daddy was at his meeting?”

“We waited.”

“Yes, we waited at first. But then we went and did something. What did we go do?”

“I don’t know.”

“You and Sissy and Hal and I. We all put on our swimsuits. What did we go do?”

“I don’t know.”

I looked at my husband. We were at least a half hour from the nearest hospital.

“I’ll take him back to the room and keep an eye on him,” he said.

So I went with Jane into our basketry class, where I sat down next to a woman who turned to me and asked, “Is your son OK?”

I glanced up sharply. “Did you see what happened?!”

“No, but I heard it. I thought he was on a skateboard or something – it made so much racket.”

“No, he was just running. Racing a lizard. What happened? Where was he?”

“Well, I don’t know, but I guess he ran into that road barrier. He didn’t get up right away. He crawled over to a rock first.” She would later decide that she was pretty sure he had been on the far side of the barrier, crawling under it to get to the large rock. This led us to believe that he had likely run into the barrier, flipped over it, and landed on his back, hitting the back of his head.

With a pediatrician and two nurses attending the conference with us, not to mention my husband’s own past emergency medical training, we decided that we did not (yet) need to take him to an emergency room. In fact, he seemed to be doing better that afternoon and soon returned to his own sketching class, with Dad in tow to keep an eye out for further symptoms.

For the rest of the week, he’d complain of headaches if he was too active. He felt a little nauseous the first day. We nixed his participation in the high-ropes course on the last full day and grew irritated with him when he reported a new headache after spinning on the tire swing “really, really fast”.

It’s hard to get kids to take brain injuries seriously.

But he rested as much as could be expected and limited his screen time and tried to take it easy. It’s been three weeks since the concussive conclusion of his lizard race. He’s doing much better.

And he’s learned to grin sheepishly when folks ask him if he’s seen any lizards lately.

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