Natasha Richardson, an actress, died yesterday from a head injury sustained on the beginner's slope while taking a skiing lesson at a ski resort in Quebec, Canada. It shows how fragile we are, doesn't it? A simple fall, she was seemingly fine until an hour or so later. Then she collapsed, slipped into a coma, became brain dead and died. All within three days.
This has elicited a lot of talk on the TV about helmets and the need for them when a head injury is possible while pursuing some activity. That does make sense to me. Skiing is dangerous, you do fall, and head injuries are quite possible. One would think that helmets would be mandatory when taking lessons. Especially if one is first learning, as it is implied by the reports on Ms Richardson.
It also got me thinking about all the head injuries I have sustained throughout my years. Any reports that I was dropped on my head as a baby cannot be verified as no one in the family would ever admit to these.
The first one I recall was when my brother threw a small rock at me as I was walking away from him. I was 4, I believe. It hurt, but not badly, broke the skin and there was some bleeding. My mother held a pad to my head then had me hold it until the bleeding stopped and nothing more happened. No concussion, no coma, no brain damage (that anyone is aware of).
The next one of note was when I was fifteen. I was walking home one afternoon from school and I coerced a younger (smaller) kid to give me a ride on his bicycle. There are a few ways to do this: Sit on the seat dangling your feet while the peddler stands in front of you and pedals, Sit sidesaddle on the handlebars, and sit on the handlebars using the axle nuts on the front wheel for footpegs.
I chose the last option. We went along just fine for about a block when the toe of my shoe caught in the spokes and we tumbled forward. I mean the front wheel stopped and the back of the bike came up and I landed directly on my head on the sidewalk. No blood this time, no concussion, no known brain injuries.
The next, and last, one of note requires a little background information. When surfing, there is something that occasionally happens called "pearling". It's short for "pearl diving" and means the nose of the surfboard was forced down into the water at the base of the wave. The result of this is the surfer gets separated from the board, staying in the water, while the board pops back up out of the water. In most cases, where the waves are smallish, the board only pops up a few feet at most. When the waves are larger, the board can pop up quite high and come down rather hard on whatever is below. Some of this is avoided by the use of "leashes" where the board is connected to the surfer's ankle. We did not have leashes in my day, the boards were much bigger and no one had thought of these things.
We also did not have surf helmets then. Nor was it likely any of us would have worn them if we had. In any case, we had some decent surf one day and the waves were fair sized, about 6 foot. I pearled on one especially strong one and found myself underwater and no longer attached to my board. Usually, you can just relax and float to the surface to find your board had already come down a few feet away. And this is what I did. Except just as I began to break the surface, the board came down edge-wise square on the top of my head. The force pushed me back down into the water a good two feet or so and, basically, "rang my bell."
I continued surfing the rest of the day. No concussion, no apparent brain damage.
The last one of note happened in the Navy and involved a hatchway. There are two kinds of hatchways; one vertical, one horizontal. Horizontal ones are the ones are accesses between decks, vertical ones are accesses through bulkheads (walls). I had been on liberty (in Sasebo, Japan, I think) and had been drinking, heavily, as I was wont to do in those days. After returning to the ship, a few of us sat on the mess deck eating some moldy bread with some purloined peanut butter and telling jokes or lying about our exploits on liberty.
I got up to stagger to my compartment where I intended to pass out for a few hours before reveille and headed for the hatchway. Normally, one steps over the bottom of the hatchway and ducks through the opening since these opening are about 5 feet in height and start about a foot from the floor. Instead, I placed one foot firmly on the bottom and stood up within the opening slamming my bean on the upper edge. I promptly sat down while I listened to the bells ringing in my head and the laughter of my shipmates. I then got up, made it down to my compartment, managed to pass out in my rack (bed) until the next morning. Again, no coma, no concussion, no known brain damage.
It is the luck of the draw, I suppose, and you may never know.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago