What I learned from my kid's concussion

What I learned from my kid’s concussion


July 25, 2017

Mom shares lessons after daughter’s fall during a donkey ride.


It had been a great afternoon. For January, the weather was warm and the sun was out. I was with my daughter, who was at a horseback-riding birthday party for one of her sweet little friends. I was enjoying watching them have fun.

Then I used the Y word – yes – one time too many.

We were finishing up for the day and were almost back to the car, when the girls spotted a miniature donkey. The owner told them they could ride it if they wanted, and I said yes.

Now this donkey looked cute, but had been quite ornery during the trail ride with the horses. He had been under the horses’ feet, kicking at them and running away. The donkey was no bigger than a large dog and I thought it didn’t look dangerous compared to the big powerful horse my daughter just rode. What could possibly happen? I told myself this was fine.

I certainly didn’t want to be that mom who said no.

When my daughter hopped on the donkey’s back, everything was fine, but that all changed in a flash. The animal went from a complete standstill to a gallop. I watched it happen as if in slow motion as my daughter was flung off backwards. With her feet in the air, she landed hard on her head. Her body crumpled down around her. I still can’t get that image out of my head. Immediately she looked up with a blank stare, jaw dropped — she was completely stunned. Hoping that was the worst of it, I picked her up, all 9 years of her, and carried her to the car while she silently cried.

In the car, heading for home with all the girls, I got scared. My daughter complained that “everything was flashing” and asked when that would go away. Her head hurt; she whimpered. Thank goodness we have an friend who is an emergency room doctor. I called him, and he echoed what I already knew in my gut: a probable concussion. He said to take my daughter to the emergency room at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as soon as possible.

As we arrived home, my daughter said she had to throw up. We ran straight to the bathroom and she was sick. While this was happening, my husband was getting our van ready for me to drive into Nashville. With two other children at home sick, we decided that he would hold down the fort and I would go to the ER because I had witnessed the donkey accident. My husband put our daughter in the van, sending her off with a kiss, stuffed animals and a bucket. Off we went to the emergency room.

It was actually a blessing that she was vomiting. Because of that, we didn’t have to wait. The staff had proof that this little girl most likely had a concussion and needed to be seen quickly.

After that, everything was a blur. But you know what I do remember? The staff. They were so calm, but they were working quickly to get my daughter the care she needed. They were incredibly gentle with her. They were skilled, compassionate professionals. They even sent in a child psychologist to talk to her and tell her what was going on.

After a few hours, a CT scan, IV fluids and some rest, they judged it was safe to discharge her. The diagnosis was a bad concussion — my fear confirmed.

My daughter recovered nicely. Three weeks later, her play schedule was still a little lighter than usual. She missed things like the trampoline, biking and her RipStik (one of those fun skateboard-like toys that works like a snowboard on wheels), but things could have been so much worse.

 I learned some lessons from my daughter’s concussion:

  • Vomiting is a common sign of a concussion. Click here for others.
  • Just like in kids’ cartoons, a hard bump to the head can make someone “see stars” — strange visual effects, like the “flashing” my daughter talked about. If your child complains of seeing such things, that’s another sign that they need prompt medical attention.
  • Never ignore that gut feeling that tells you something is not safe for your child.
Needless to say, we don’t really like donkeys anymore.


(For information on protecting children from concussions, click here.)


The post was written by Kelly Hancock, who writes the popular money-saving blog, FaithfulProvisions.com. She’s also the author of “Saving Savvy: Smart and Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending in Half and Raise Your Standard of Living … and Giving.”