I Have Some Things to Report: Part II (a skull fracture)

by | Jul 17, 2017 | Printables, Tierneys Unmasked, Travel | 24 comments

And now back to the continuing saga of what we’ve been doing for the past seven months. In Part I (here) we learned that I don’t yet have a good grasp of what goes into to painting a room, despite having painted like . . . thirteen of them now. Also, that breaking tailbones is not fun.

Speaking of broken bones . . . we’ve really been surprisingly free of them around here. All these kids riding bikes and scooters and ziplines, and climbing trees, and jumping on trampolines, and we had NEVER had a broken bone. We’d had two nursemaid’s (dislocated) elbows. For the first one, we went to the urgent care, for the second the husband just watched a youtube video and fixed the kid himself right there in the church parking lot. And we’d needed stitches three times (once in France). We didn’t take care of any of those ourselves. Although giving myself stitches IS on my bucket list. (I have a weird bucket list. It’s mostly dystopian.)

But other than that, over fourteen years, eight (at the time) kids, never a broken bone, never a trip to the ER. I guess when we do something, we like to REALLY DO IT, ya know?

The husband was out of town (in my experience, husbands are usually out of town for this sort of thing). The kids and I had just finished eating dinner out on the patio and I had gone back to the computer to work on the book. Betty was getting the girls ready for bed. The boys were SUPPOSED to be doing the dishes. Often, when the boys are supposed to be doing the dishes, they are instead having dishtowel battles. This time, when they were supposed to be doing the dishes, unnamed brother A picked up a three-foot length of three-quarter inch diameter PVC pipe he found in the yard and winged it towards unnamed brother B. Ya know, like ya do. Brother B deftly stepped out of the way like a bull fighter, and Frankie got javelined square in the forehead.

Brother A came running inside to get me, distraught enough that he couldn’t really articulate anything. I came out to find Frankie standing there bent over at the waist with blood pouring out of a cut on his forehead. It was pretty clear he was going to need stitches. Just then Jack got home from baseball practice, grabbed a couple towels and put some pressure on the wound and offered to go to the ER with us. (He’s always been SO good in a crisis.) We gave Frankie a sucker to try to calm him down and off the three of us (and my seven month belly) went to the closest hospital ER.

When we got there we were triaged to the front of the line. They took a look, he answered their questions. They agreed that he needed stitches, wrapped him up like a mummy, and sent us back to the waiting room for a few minutes.

Jack, who hadn’t eaten dinner, went to the vending machine to get some chips, oreos, and soda (dinner of champions) and I thought Frankie was just resting on my shoulder. But when Jack offered him some soda, he was unresponsive. His eyes were open, but he just wasn’t there. It had been maybe thirty minutes since the injury at that point. The nurse was just on her way out to get us, so she took us in a wheelchair to get a CT scan instead of stitches. While in the machine, he started having a seizure. First it was just a twitch on his face, then it was his whole body.

That’s when things got crazy. They cut him out of his clothes, and put in an IV, which he didn’t respond to at all, then they pulled the curtains and Jack and I were standing out in the hallway. My worry was tempered a bit by frustration and disbelief that all this could have come from something as silly as a piece of PVC pipe.

I called Jim (again) and told him what was going on, and he got up and left his conference dinner and got in an Uber to the airport. I called my friend Micaela and she went over to my house to be with the other kids, and my parents, who left a fancy gala dinner in San Diego and headed up to L.A.

The hospital we were in didn’t have a pediatric trauma center, so they called for an ambulance. There just happened to be one there, that had just dropped someone off, so they loaded us in and off we went zig zagging through evening L.A. traffic. Jack in the front, where he got to operate the siren, and Frankie and I and some very nice firemen and paramedics in the back. It was in the ambulance that I learned that he had a displaced skull fracture. That means a whole piece had been broken loose and been pushed inward, increasing the pressure on the brain which resulted in a post-traumatic seizure.

They took us to L.A. County Hospital . . . which was good and bad. Good because they have a LOT of experience with trauma. But bad because it’s in a sketchy part of town and the hallways of the ER were lined with shirtless tattooed dudes on gurneys. The lady on the other side of the curtain from us was explaining to a police officer that she didn’t know how her teen-aged son got his gun shot wound, because he never tells her anything. Super sad. I’m still praying for her. To get into the main entrance, you have to go through a metal detector, and there are signs on the first floor directing you one way to the cafeteria and the other way to the prison. Because in addition to a top notch pediatric trauma center, they’ve got a prison.

But really, they were great. We were met by multiple pediatric neurologists and neurosurgeons. It really was amazing. All we could do at that point was wait and see if Frankie had any more seizures, and would therefore need immediate surgery. I was really glad MY teen-aged son was with me (and GSW-free). All those aspects of his temperament that made him tough as a toddler and a little kid, make him really helpful as a teenager. He filled out forms and answered nurses’ questions and kept me company for some very long hours.

Eventually, my friend Jennifer came through the metal detector to pick him up, and bring me my medicine and my charger, and she also picked up burgers and brought those too, because she is an awesome mind-reader.

After a couple hours of observation, they brought us to a room upstairs in the pediatric unit. They finally stitched him up, and Jim arrived from the airport just in time to go with him to his second CT scan. They wouldn’t let me and the belly even go to that wing. He opened his eyes and seemed to recognize Jim, but still couldn’t really talk and was very disoriented.

Then it was just more waiting.

I had shared the picture of Frankie with his head bandaged on social media, because I thought he looked like the “injured guy” emoji, and at that point it was just a trip to the ER for stitches. If I’d known it was a serious injury, I think I probably wouldn’t have shared the picture, or anything, on social media. But I ended up so glad I had. It was such a comfort knowing so many people were praying for him and for our family.

The next morning, on the feast of St. Gianna Molla, pediatrician and mother, Frankie woke up at about four in the morning. He didn’t have any memory of anything after getting in the car at our house, but he was pretty much himself already. He was excited about getting to eat jello, and about the red light oxygen sensor on his finger, which he liked shooting at people.

He spent the day in the hospital, getting an EEG, watching movies, and playing with toys and games that the candy striper brought. Jim and I spent the day with him, just kind of bewildered that such a silly, freak accident could turn so serious, then completely resolve itself, over the course of one very long day.

The kids were very excited to have him back home. Especially unnamed brother A, who was kind of a wreck about it, even though it really was an accident. Fortunately, it’s all pretty much forgotten now. The only lasting effect was that the traumatic brain injury and the anti-seizure medication he was on, kind of reset Frankie to his original factory settings. All the impulse control we have worked with him to develop over the course of many years was right out the window. If he got it into his mind to make a weird noise every few seconds, there was just no stopping him from doing it.

We had a follow-up visit with another pediatric neurosurgeon at another hospital a week after his injury and they took him off the medication which helped a lot. He’s back to like 80% whackadoodle, which is better than 120%. And he’s got this cool, exactly 3/4 inch diameter, scar. Chicks dig exactly 3/4 inch diameter scars.

The doctor cleared us to go on our scheduled trip the next week to Destin, Florida to meet up with my mom’s whole side of the family for my cousin’s wedding. It was BEAUTIFUL. My kids are used to the gray water and brown sand of the Pacific. At first, Lulu thought the beach was covered with snow! And it was the perfect opportunity to spend some time being grateful for each and every member of my family!

Still to come . . . my to do list before baby, including item #1: finish book, and item #100: have baby.


  1. Jen

    Goodness, I knew about the skull fracture from IG but I was still holding back tears reading about it here! So glad he's okay. Also: 1) I'm with Rosie about Jack giving me hope for the future with my oldest son (he's just 5 but he's starting to be SO helpful), 2) you take the best pictures, and 3) I'm so glad you're blogging again!

  2. Lindsey Gustad

    Reading this, I couldn't stop thinking about the poor brother who hurt him and how traumatized he must have been by the situation!

  3. Lindsay Partridge

    I'm so glad you're blogging! Frankie sounds a lot like my oldest son, who is 7, and impulse control has been a hard-learned skill for him. I'd love to hear (read) more about what training has worked well for Frankie.

    • Kendra

      We talk with him about it, specifically. We have old Disney cartoons (and one of my newer favorites, The Emperor's New Groove) that have characters with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, and we talk about that with him as a way to understand good ideas and bad ideas. When he has a thought of something to do, especially if he's angry or upset, we want him to think about whether that would be a little angel idea or a little devil idea. And to NOT do the little devil ideas.

      There's a book I've found helpful called How to Really Love Your Angry Child. It's not about angry kids specifically, really, more like willful. It's out of print, but you can find it used on Amazon.

    • Tamara

      Hey Kendra, where did you find the old Disney cartoons? I think those would be helpful to my impulsive 4 yr old.

    • Kendra

      We have two of the Classic Cartoon Favorites DVDs, the holiday ones, volumes 8 and 9. I think the one I'm thinking of is in volume 8. They're both really cute though.

  4. the Mosi

    God bless you and your family, Kendra! Your children are all such a blessing and a source of hope. Thank you for sharing your life with us. They are all growing into such beautiful men and women, inside and out!

  5. Amanda

    So glad Frankie is back to his usual 80% crazy self 🙂 and that you had a great support system to deal with the craziness! I can't imagine coping with an ER visit by myself at 7 months pregnant! Thank goodness Jack was there to be your good-in-a-crisis sidekick! Your stories do a great job undoing the stereotype of teens being so rough. Nobody talks about how awesomely helpful and fun teens can be!

    • Kendra

      I agree! We had this family joke about graffiti and trash and anything else wrong in the world being the fault of "stinkin' teenagers. But I've been mostly pleasantly surprised by my two so far! They are helpful and fun!

  6. Torey

    EEG for monitoring brains/seizures. EKG for monitoring hearts.

  7. Unknown

    Cranky Frankie is 100% adorable and even more distinguished with a dueling scar.

  8. Kendra

    He really was great. I am now comfortable that I'll be in good hands when I'm an old lady!

  9. JennyU

    I was thinking the same thing about my bossy, choleric eldest and looking forward to a competent young man. Cute lil frankie in that head wrap.

  10. Alicia @ Sweeping Up Joy

    What twists and turns! So glad everything ended up all right. And your Venn Diagram made me giggle. The regular ER can be pretty interesting here in the rural Midwest. I can't even imagine LA…

  11. Adrienne

    I'm hoping for a future post on your unconventional bucket list!

  12. Bethany

    From an occasional reader of yours, just popping in to say my brother & his girlfriend work at that hospital! (LA county) It's a crazy place! But they do great work and help so many. I'm very glad your son is okay, blessings to your family!

  13. Angie S

    Thanks be to God that your little son is okay! I couldn't help comment, because I noticed you were at St. Rita's Church in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. We visit the Rosemary Beach area twice a year, for two weeks at a time. We have been going to St. Rita's for years. It's beautiful.

  14. Kris

    Wowza! What an experience! I've got 4 boys and we've had our share of stitches, but you win for sure! I also have one that struggled with impulse control. He's now a wonderful young man, about to be 19, and just entering his dream college, which I never thought possible with him. It's still a cross he bears, but he manages, and he's such a terrific person with a good heart and a very formed conscience. I'm so proud of him!

  15. Alea

    I think my oldest son and yours are long lost brothers or something. What you say about Jack sounds so much like mine! If you handled the whole thing as coolly as you explain it now, I'm amazed. I think I would have had several freak-out moments in there. Of course when the hubby's not around sometimes we have to keep our cool even when we don't think we can! Did your kids notice that the head x-ray (maybe ct scan? I haven't got to experience head injuries yet!) picture resembles darth vader?

  16. Lizzie

    So glad Frankie is ok. Just reading about it again here makes me weepy. You are all tough, and brave.

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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