Our local mountain bike team is in season, which means Oconee Heritage Park sees a flurry of kids on bikes twice a week. I am in a family of bike riders, as my husband, Brandon, and our twins all enjoy mountain biking. Brandon and I are volunteer coaches for the Oconee High team with the Georgia Cycling Association.
A couple weeks ago during practice, our son, Aiden, had a crash on his bike causing him to hit the ground hard. So hard that it knocked the short-term memory right out of him. Thank goodness Brandon was not far away, saw it happen, and rushed to render aid.
As he approached, Aiden complained of his head and began to panic that he could not remember anything, ushering in a panic attack. Brandon got him calm enough to start the journey out of the woods since Aiden was physically unharmed, only having a couple scrapes and bruises. It was on this journey to the parking area that Aiden started to repeat questions and phrases that he just had in conversation with Brandon. This was the first indication that a concussion could be at play.
Meanwhile, I was with another group of student athletes, and since it was near the time for the end of practice, we headed to the pavilion for stretching and core exercises. Once there, a fellow coach asked me about Aiden and how he was doing. My blank expression told him that I did not yet know about his crash, so he filled me in.
Even though it was the end of a 2-hour practice and exhaustion had set up residence in my legs, I managed to pedal as fast as I could our van, where Brandon had Aiden laying down. As I approached, Brandon stopped me before seeing him, getting me to calm down and warning me about the frequent repeated questions Aiden was asking. I was so glad for the heads up so I could put on my “game face” and be strong for Aiden to keep another panic attack at bay.
Aiden asked the same questions on repeat. They were:
“Are we at practice, or a family ride?”
“Did I crash on the switchbacks?”
“Are the Younts here (a fellow bike team family)?”
“Is it Tuesday or Thursday?”
We answered all his questions, then he would say,
“Okay, I am with you now; I’m here.”
We learned this was the reset phrase, as just after it, he started with the same questions, as if he had not just asked them. With this, we took him to the Emergency Room to make sure that there was no swelling or bleeding on his brain, as his head must have taken the brunt of the fall.
Aiden’s crash was at 7:45pm and we got home from the Emergency Room close to 3am. In all that span of time, the questions remained on repeat every 2-5 minutes. To say that my mom heart was terrified is an understatement. During the intake at the ER, Aiden passed all the initial screening questions for concussion. He was correctly able to answer who the president is, what year it is, and some basic math problems. He also had no physical signs of concussion. His only symptoms were the repeating questions, not being able to remember the bike wreck, and not remembering anything from the past couple days.
Once the hospital band was placed on his wrist, a new question loop ensued. Each time the band caught his attention, he would stare at it as if he did not know how it came to be on his arm, then his eyes would focus in on the date, and he would say,
“It’s July 12th?! I missed the 4th of July?!”
We would assure him that he did not miss it. He would ask if we had pictures, we would show him, and then encourage him to close his eyes and give his brain a rest. That lasted for about 30-60 seconds, and then we would repeat all of the above; over and over and over. This was when we realized there was more memory loss than just the past 2 days. Aiden also did not remember going to youth camp, which took the memory loss back even further.
After some time passed, Aiden’s name was called out by hospital personnel who arrived at the waiting room with a wheelchair, and took Aiden for a CT scan. Finally, I could let my calm resolve go, and I leaned my head on Brandon’s shoulder and just cried. It was such a surreal experience and all the emotions bubbled over. I dried myself up in time for Aiden to return, to no avail. He looked right into my eyes, and said, “Awe, mom, you’ve been crying”, then he placed his arm around me and assured me that it was all going to be okay.
This role-reversal took me by surprise. Since the ER was so backed up, we were in the waiting room for hours. As one day gave way to the next, Aiden placed his arms around us, and prayed aloud. When I did not have the strength or resolve to pray, Aiden did. He prayed that God would heal him, bring comfort to Brandon and me, for the doctors, and for those around us. I was so amazed by him and his faith.
Aiden also sang praise songs to God right there in the waiting room. He sang quietly and it was beautiful. He sang lines from songs that said, “lead me to where my faith is without borders” and “you are a good, good Father.” I joined him in the brief songs before he caught sight of the hospital band, causing him to ask about Independence Day again.
These actions blessed me so much. Our child was living out his own faith during a very uncertain time. Aiden could not remember the day, his bike crash, youth camp, or 4th of July, but he could remember to pray and he remembered that even through a concussion with some crazy memory loss that God is good, and that in the end, it would be okay.
This is what faith does. It shows up when you need it most. Believing in the redemptive love of Jesus is an incredible hope and comfort when unknowns are faced. Having a community of faith means that when one is down, another can assist, just as Aiden did for me.
We are currently in concussion protocols and praying for Aiden’s complete healing. The CT scan was clear, most all memories have returned, and he is making great strides. He has not been mountain biking since, but we are hopeful he will be back in the saddle soon.
Aiden’s trust is in Jesus, and I hope that his example of faith in an ER waiting room is as refreshing to you as it was to me. Hebrews 11:1 describes faith this way, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” If you have not yet experienced this kind of faith, it is my hope that you will not delay another moment without it. For once you believe in Jesus as the resurrected son of God who died to redeem the sins of the world, a whole new world of faith is available to you. Once this happens, you just may find yourself being the one to pray and sing praises to God in the most unexpected places.
Side Note: if you are a cyclist, please check your helmet often. Dry it out after rides. Replace padding that has broken down. Check the manufacture date to ensure your helmet is not too old. After an impact, replace it. The only damage on Aiden’s helmet was a popped-off screw where the visor attaches to it. Interestingly enough, on a brain map, this is the area where the temporal lobe is containing the association area of short-term memory. I’m so thankful that the helmet did it’s job and that it wasn’t worse. No helmet can prevent concussions, as there is no way to keep the brain from moving inside the skull, but you can avoid other serious problems by a proper-fitting helmet that is well cared for.