Not adequately prepared for a blow to the head


I felt awful today. I woke up with a sore throat and a headache. This wasn’t a hangover; I had a sore throat and a headache yesterday as well. Well, maybe having three pints last night didn’t do anything good for my sense of well-being. The day ground slowly down on me, my attention fluttering between one spreadsheet and another, never approaching anything like joy, until at last I could go home.

Returning home, I found that we had been presented with a complimentary package of three N95 breathing masks, from Singapore Power, Singapore Post and Temasek Cares. I think this was in response to last summer’s haze; this time round, every dweller of the public housing blocks will be able to breathe easily. Or at least free from 95% of particulates above a certain size. "Stay Prepared", the packaging advises, as if it’s every person’s responsibility to avoid breathing in the fumes floating in from overseas.

I like receiving free stuff, but at the same time I know that expatriates like myself are meant to be incredibly rich, and so it feels a bit odd to be the recipient of such respiratory munificence. Still, with a spring in my stride I made my way down the hallway to our flat, happy to see the cheery face of my daughter as she stood at the doorway, waving me home.

This refuge from the trials of the day didn’t endure for even five minutes.

I had just got in the door, put down my bag and greeted wife and child, hopeful of an easy evening and being able to organise the final parts of our US trip, when our daughter launched herself across the floor, tripped on a bottle she’d just discarded, and went head first into the edge of the coffee table, while we looked on aghast.

Dented, she was, and not happy about it. A visible imprint down her forehead and onto her left eyebrow where the table had caught her. Immediately she began to wail, while we began to worry about concussion and damaged babies.

The trouble with assessing concussion is that you check for things like confusion, inability to stand, difficulty speaking, and so on: none of which are helpful in diagnosing infants. (Or else you’d be in Accident & Emergency on a permanent basis.) There was no blood, and although she showed some bruising, her skin wasn’t broken and there was nothing wrong with her eyes. A few minutes of hugging and on the breast and she had stopped wailing and was back to her normal self, so we didn’t rush out to the hospital with her, but spent the rest of the evening in a heightened state of dread, especially when she aimed herself at other hard surfaces in the flat.

(I don’t think there are any surfaces in the flat that aren’t hard. This is the dual advantage and disadvantage of the tropics: no carpet to grow mouldy, but also nothing to soften the blows.) The terrifying mark from the table vanished within moments, leaving only a dirty big bruise, and as she maintained her usual demeanour, we felt confident enough to feed, bathe and bed her as usual.

This is a problem for parents: how do you juggle worries that your little one may need medical attention, versus the distress they’ll feel if you cart them off to hospital for three hours to get triaged? This time round we watched her for a few minutes, and because her distress passed quickly and she reverted to normal behaviour, we inferred that this wasn’t too severe a blow, but still sat around exchanging guilty glances for the remainder of the evening.

She woke a couple of times to yell, as per her standard M.O., then went back to sleep again, and then we spent the rest of the night checking on her, and fighting a series of increasingly unintuitive websites to book travel. I hope tomorrow has less grind, less drama.


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