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First Person: If you fall and bang your head, call 911

One Friday evening in October, the week before Halloween, I was helping my daughter pack for her return to California. It was the usual mother-daughter argument over who’s in control and who’s right.

Suddenly I put the suitcase down abruptly and turned to leave the room. I tripped on a metal piece coming out of the old wood floor, a piece I have wanted to have repaired for some time.

I went down on my head, face down, and also hit my elbow, which is still bruised. I was stunned and couldn’t move for a minute. Then I got up very slowly and started walking to the bedroom to lie down. I wasn’t dizzy. But my head hurt a lot.

My daughter said: “Let’s call 911!”

My husband said: “If she goes to the ER and she’s not bleeding, she’ll have to wait hours! Why doesn’t she just rest?”

My head felt like…. I had fallen on it. It really hurt but I wasn’t dizzy. Finally Molly won and called 911. The operator told her to make sure I didn’t move, that I didn’t drink or eat and that I didn’t fall asleep. Within 15 minutes, the ambulance had arrived and the young woman attending me checked my blood pressure while her partner took blood from my finger. She gave me a quick check and then asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I answered: “Do I have to?” She answered: “No, but I suggest you do.”

I asked her about wait times at the various hospitals and she started calling around to see who could take us.

Now you may not know this, but you don’t have to pay for the ambulance (about $200) if you don’t go to the hospital. So there’s no reason not to call 911 if you do fall, even though you may think you’re okay. The point is…. you never know. Look what happened to Natasha Richardson. She died three hours after falling on the ice while skiing. She refused to go to the hospital and probably died from internal bleeding.

Although the paramedic, Marie-Pierre, didn’t mention that accident, she did warn me that things can happen later, such as internal bleeding, and it’s best not to take chances.

So off I went with Marie-Pierre, her partner, and Molly all bundled up in the ambulance all the way to the Royal Victoria where I was seen by a residence in five minutes! I was lucky. The ER there happened to be all but empty this particular Friday night.

After a neurological exam that I passed with flying colours, the resident consulted with the ER doctor and they decided that although I had a hematoma, (which is basically a lump), I was sent home with a list of more serious symptoms such as vomiting and seizures, and told to return immediately should I experience any of them.

The sheet also listed possible symptoms I might experience in the days to come, and I have experienced all of them: mild confusion; short term memory loss that manifests itself in starting a sentence and not knowing how to finish it or forgetting how to spell certain names or words; slugglishness and trouble getting out of bed in the morning; bad headaches and inability to cope with more than one activity at a time. I am normally a huge multi-tasker.

So when I had to redo the layout for this issue and move from 32 pages to 36, it was quite a mess. The office was strewn with ads and old and new pages. I kept counting and recounting the column inches for the articles. I misplaced pages, mixed up numbers etc. In the end, it looks fine, doesn’t it? That’s because I was back to myself on Saturday the day our designer, Kim, started the layout.

I guess you know why I’m telling you my story. I want you to learn from it. When you fall on your head, don’t get into bed and go to sleep. Call 911. And go to the hospital if the paramedics even suggest it.

It’s not worth saving $200 for the ambulance fee if something does happen later.

Ten days later after experiencing multiple symptoms my doctor diagnosed me with a concussion. The lesson? It’s important to follow up with your doctor if you experience severe headaches, drowsiness, lack of concentration, mood swings, and… I can’t remember what else, because I have short-term memory loss. You will be told to take it easy and refrain from all heady activities.

By the way, some friends and family reacted with this question: “Wasn’t it overkill to go to the hospital?”

What do you think?

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