It hurts to comb my hair today.
It's neither traumatic nor a brain injury, but it pains me nevertheless. See, I was walking around in my kitchen with my head turned at an angle to the rest of my body because I was trying to see if the odd-colored spot on my kitchen tile floor was a trick of the light or some stubborn stain that wasn't wiping up. The problem with walking around one's kitchen with one's head turned at a funny angle is that one can't see where one is going, and if one isn't coordinated, which this one isn't, one is bound to run into something.
The something I ran into was the sharp corner where the kitchen wall ends and the hallway begins, and it just so happens I ran into it with the top-right side of my head.
Like Cousin Eddie, if I dent that part of my head, well, my hair just ain't gonna part right.
Even though I was only walking, I hit that edge blind with no hesitation or slowing down. It was a hard enough blow to make my teeth clack together and my jaw vibrate, and caused enough immediate pain that when Jason asked me, "Are you okay?" the only response I could throw out was a gruff, "No!" and a walk back to our bedroom to check that none of my teeth had cracked when my jaw smashed shut. Jason later checked me for blood and signs of trauma and I headed to the gym. No worries.
When Natasha Richardson took her fatal fall on the ski slope this winter, a lot of people were wondering how someone could have a grave head injury and not know it. I even read blogs where people were criticizing her decision to send the ambulance away. But I could remember when Ainsley had taken her tumble on the school playground last year and how, until the pediatrician at Children's Hospital ER pulled her hair back to expose a scrape and a bruise, we had no idea that her lethargy and vomiting were due to a concussion and not due to what we were afraid was an elbow fracture. The scariest part of a head injury is that even if you're not knocked out, even if you get up and shake it off, the damage could be done and you won't feel the most alarming of the symptoms until it's too late.
About a half hour after I hit my head, while I was in may car driving to the gym, I realized that I was getting a headache. The pain extended into my cheek and jaw which had gotten slammed shut after the blow. Did I stop what I was doing? Did I give a moment's thought to going back home where someone could at least watch me for signs of an injury? No. Why? Because I'm a mom and I have things I want and need to do and I know my own body well enough to know nothing seriously was wrong. And because it I didn't hit my head very hard.
Which is probably very close to what Natasha Richardson was thinking.
When I worked out and didn't die, I knew for sure I was okay. In the shower after, I realized it hurt to shampoo; that's when I felt the swollen, bumpy ridge that formed where head met sharp edge.
But as Ainsley's pediatrician told me once: a bump isn't so troubling. It's when you hit your head hard and there isn't a bump that you're in trouble.
Later when I tried to check our voice mail and got frustrated because the password I was punching in brought back an error message, and I realized it was because I was typing in the password for our old carrier which we haven't used in something like two years, I had another moment of doubt.
"Crap. Did I do something to my head? Was this momentary confusion just me being tired and scatter-brained, or do I have a little head thing going on? Oh, wait, Mike Rowe and fishermen." I got distracted by Deadliest Catch like a bird catching sight of a sparkly piece of tinfoil.
This morning with a sore head, and a burgeoning migraine no doubt triggered by the mildly hard knock, I'm only a little worse for wear. But next time (and I know myself well enough to know that there will be a next time) will I be more vigilant? Will I again tell myself that the bump on my head is nothing, since it was nothing this time? And will I be right?
Because it only takes the one time of being wrong.