I unwittingly began life in the early days of September 1949, my parents subsequently celebrating my birth on May 8, 1950, some nine months later. Definitely, my mother’s pride and joy, I cannot recall much to be unhappy about in the first several years, even evoking envy in the hearts and minds of my horde of barbarian cousins, who were not sibling-less as I am. It has not always been a sleeping child’s joyful dream; some periods were downright horrific.
I can recall dimly, walking with Alice, my loving mother, up Huntington Ave to River Street. I was approximately four year old at the time. There was a three-foot high stonewall marking the lot boundary of a stately old home, standing sentinel on a maple and elm treed corner property. It would be demolished to make room for a contemporary, ugly, brick, three-story apartment building by the time I reached adolescence. It was the very definition of urban sprawl.
I must have been in high spirits that day, envisioning myself as invincible in my cowboy hat and boots with my cap guns slung low on my tiny hips because I attempted to leap up onto the wall but misjudging the distance, I fell backward striking the sidewalk with the back of my head. The blow rendered me senseless. According to Alice, my eyes rolled up into my skull giving her paroxysms of fear, thinking that her baby boy was dead or worse.
Reportedly, she ran with me clutched to her chest, my short arms, and legs loosely flailing and flopping the several blocks to a local physician’s office, conveniently located in the first floor of his home; doctors did that back in the early 1950’s. It was either that or wait for the Police to arrive, assess the situation, and realize that their best course of action was to drive the hysterical mother and the son of a Boston Patrolman to the nearest Emergency Room, two towns over. Instead, I was seen immediately by a local practitioner and released into my mother’s care.
However, how skilled a doctor was he? What experience did he possess in treating head injuries in young children? The answer has been lost to the vagaries of time. It might have been more fortuitous for me, had my Mother waited, the Officers intervened, and I had ended up in the ER; but we will never know. It is one of life’s little crossroads; I did not get a choice in which direction to go but did have to live with the consequences.
A head injury, especially one that results in a loss of consciousness, should never be taken lightly. A concussion at such an early age would be treated very differently today than it was sixty-odd years ago. Maybe there was some treatment, even back then, which could have mitigated some of the troubles that I would experience later in life.
Hindsight right, none of this really matters, right? Well it sure matters to me! I cannot help thinking how my life might have been different had anyone, any adults, educators, or therapists, I saw so many therapist, had noticed that I was a bit off. You see a brain injury is insidious, it is the silent illness, and although it causes a significant amount of damage, a BI shows none of the outward signs that otherwise would trigger the attention of the medical profession. I would have been better served had I fractured my skull. You see, I also have a congenital brain anomaly; I was born with a colloid cyst blocking the third ventricle causing chronic, periodic obstructive hydrocephalus, the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain resulting in increased cranial pressure; not a good thing.
Some children are born with great bone structure, a fabulous singing voice, superior intellect; some are born into a wealthy family like our infamous, current President; I was gifted with a cyst. Which might have been found at age four had I been taken to an emergency room, or later by anyone of dozens of educators and counselors, if they had been aware, cared, or bothered to notice; but they did not?
“Someone with a colloid cyst will most frequently have no symptoms at all – the slow pace of growth of the cyst allows the brain to compensate for its presence for a long period time, sixty years in my case. That’s one of the reasons why a colloid cyst is often diagnosed in what’s called an incidental finding – the cyst can be spotted on a CT or MRI scan done for other reasons, such as a work up for headache, sinusitis, or a minor head injury.”
< http://weillcornellbrainandspine.org/condition/colloid-cysts/symptoms-colloid-cyst >
At age sixty, after two divorces, multiple career changes, and more heartache and headaches than I feel like sharing in this piece, I finally crossed paths with someone, a Nurse Practitioner, who recognized my symptoms for what they were, and directed me to the medical care I so desperately needed. A neuro surgeon from Lahey Clinic surgically removed the cyst; however, the procedure left me somewhat compromised but free from the debilitating effects of hydrocephaly. By the way, the person who saved my life was just one of many Healthcare Professionals whom I have met at the crossroads, fortuitously for me; however, I cannot help but wonder, what might have been; had my four-year-old propensity for jumping led to the emergency room instead of some GP’s office.
Dennis Caristi is a sixty-nine-year-old Brain Injury survivor who often incorporates his recovery experiences in his writing. He has written four books, a Cookbook and Family Anthology. The second is Novella about Genetic Engineering gone awry. The third and fourth efforts are Urban Fantasies about Environmental disruption.