Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: It was a freak accident. Donald McCracken was playing ball with his kids when a fly ball hit his 7-year-old daughter, Morgan, on the head. After a little ice and some TLC, she seemed fine. She even went to school the next day and got an A on an assignment.
Two nights later, however, Morgan complained of a severe headache. Her parents rushed her to the nearby emergency room. The ER doctor said it was the flu, and wanted to send the girl home. But Morgan's parents weren't convinced.
What the scan revealed was astonishing: an epidural hematoma -- the same injury that killed actress Natasha Richardson in 2009. (An epidural hematoma is a leakage of blood into the skull that causes life-threatening pressure on the brain.)
Little Morgan was rushed by helicopter to nearby Cleveland, where emergency brain surgery was performed. "I knew it was bad when she had to get there by helicopter in six minutes, instead of the 30 minutes it would have taken to get to Cleveland in an ambulance," Connie said.
Morgan miraculously survived, and today she's a happy, healthy little girl. Connie told CNN that it was because of Richardson's high-profile case that she knew to take her daughter's injury seriously, even though Morgan had shown no signs in the past 48 hours that anything was amiss. "Because of Natasha, we called the pediatrician immediately," Connie said. "And by the time I got off the phone with him, Morgan was sobbing, her head hurt so much."
None of the typical warning signs of epidural hematoma were apparent with Morgan. Her speech wasn't slurred; she didn't have double vision; she seemed OK. If a child like Morgan can seem perfectly fine after a head injury -- only to be in danger of dying hours or days later -- how is a parent to know whether her child is truly OK? There are things you can do to be prepared:
Don't take any head injury lightly. If your child has a head injury (even a seemingly minor one), watch them carefully. They might seem fine; they might walk and talk like normal. But watch them closely for any signs that something is off.
Know the warning signs. If your child seems dizzy, confused, vomits or complains of a headache, head straight to the emergency room.
Be alert to sudden changes. If your child has a mild headache that suddenly becomes much more serious or is suddenly sleepy out of the blue, take that as a warning sign that the brain might be reacting to a serious problem.
Know the location of the trauma center nearest you. Trauma centers are best at handling epidural hematomas. Know where your local certified trauma center is, and use that hospital (if it's close to you), because they're most likely to have the best available resources for treating a brain injury.