Writing a novel – head injury medical help

posted 3 years ago in Wellness
Post # 2
Member
3044 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2016

It isn’t very likely, just because of how head injuries work and how memories work. Memories are formed in a fairly central part of the brain (very close to where our olfactory receptors process what we smell, which is why you can catch a whiff of something and immediately remember something else that happened in the past when you smelt that). Head trauma usually bruises parts of the outside of the brain. For instance, when you get hit hard enough in the back of the head, your eyes go dim for a split second sometimes – your vision centres are back there. 

Concussions are generally caused by quick acceleration or deceleration of the brain, which makes it slosh against your skull casing and bruise. If you fracture the skull, you tend to get straw coloured liquid coming out your ears, eyes, nose or (far less likely if the person survives) mouth. The damage is far away from the areas where memory is stored.  if you have an impact injury that affects long term memory, you will have other brain damage as well and it will probably be fairly permanent. Short term memory loss is only for a max of about 20-30 seconds immediately prior to the injury. It is relatively common.

I’ve had about three head injuries in the last few years, all from impacts, and none broke skin. Two of the three ended with me in hospital getting an MRI to check for swelling (swelling can occur hours to days after the event) and one I figured I was okay and just made my boyfriend keep an eye on me in case I started getting concussed. Two ended up with slight black eyes, the impact was on the front of my head. The one with the impact on the back of the head (slipped backwards when I was curling) left me with slight whiplash for a few days. Someone else in our small town who slipped like that while skating got up to “skate it off” and ended up as a vegetable less than a week later, according to all town gossip.

For her to need stitches there would need to be something that actually breaks skin. If it is a skull fragment, she’s dead. The basketball floor will be clean, so no stitches.

depending on the fall height your character is far more likely to end up with spinal cord damage than head damage and the spinal cord damage is far more serious/life threatening until the brain starts swelling. If she fell from 20 feet, that is an automatic someone calling the ambulance because it is a life threatening injury guaranteed. If she landed on her head or neck from any height, it is a call to the ambulance because spinal damage is suspected. A first aider/trainer would immediately support her head and neck in the position she fell because there is a serious artery running up your neck that can get very easily damaged where it enters the skull. If she has nerve damage in her spine (from a bruised or cracked vertebrae) it can take months before she will have any feeling or control over body parts underneath that. She may have permanent injuries, or she may learn to walk again weeks/months later.

 

 

 

Post # 3
Member
410 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

The human brain is very complex, and really anything can happen when it comes to memory loss. Sometimes, they don’t even understand why someone loses their memory from a blow so minor. I know somebody who had a minor head injury, and lost her memory for several months. Like literally, the last thing she remembered, she was six years old, and then she woke up in the hospital age 25. Strangely enough, she remembered everything she learned between age 6 and 25, just nothing of events that happened. I think you could get away with her waking up in the hospital. 

Post # 6
Member
410 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

cooperlove:  It is really odd. I’ve seen a couple cases (I’m in med school) and also, a good movie to watch that was based on a true story is The Vow. That was a true story, and in that case the doctors had no clue why she would lose her memory for so long.

Post # 7
Member
1131 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

I agree with the first and second posters – that falling on a gym floor is unlikely to lead to short-term memory loss or a total loss of consciousness to the point where the vicitm wakes up in the hospital – but the brain is a mysterious thing.

If I read that a cheerleader fell and cracked her head, was woozy for a bit, claimed that she was just fine but to her embarrassment her worried coaches called an ambulance anyway, then later at the hospital she suddenly fell briefly unconscious and had to be watched, receive an MRI, and medicated overnight due to some unexpected brain swelling, and when she woke up after THAT she had some short term memory loss, I would read that as fairly realistic.

 

Post # 8
Member
3044 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2016

ohnatto: I would see that as more realistic as well.

 

cooperlove:  I didn’t, actually. Once they knew it wasn’t a cracked skull, they sent me off with my boyfriend who promised to keep an eye on me and make sure if I worsened he would bring me back.

 

is there a specific plot reason why your character has to not remember something? I can see a head injury as a way of making it so that a key incident occurs where no character has to be the “bad guy” in either dropping the ball or outright lying about what they will do… But that seems to be a way of leaving all the characters to be perfect and blameless. Stories where people have flaws (that lead theM to do things they shouldnt, or not do what they said they would do) are almost always more interesting than huge twists of fate intervening!

Post # 9
Member
9949 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2013

Kill her off, but have her supertitious mom put a bell in her coffin JUST IN CASE…so she turns out not to be actually dead, and she rings the bell…and when they dig her out, they find that her dead not dead experience has erased her memories.  Maybe instead of a bell a phone.  For some reason.  Perhaps she needs to fake her death to erase her student loan debt (she’s an OLD cheerleader, okay!) and so she fakes her death and then comes back, but instead of being all, “Oh I know I am supposed to be dead and here is my new life,” she’s like, “Oh shit all I know is this one cheer where I’m like, YOU CAN SINK THIS SHIP, HEY! Who am I???”

Are there books with cheerleaders as the main characters?  Young adult novel?  

Post # 10
Member
958 posts
Busy bee

I ended up with epilepsy after getting hit in the head during a fight.  It wasn’t a super hard blow (I think – I don’t remember getting hit, really, just know it happened, I lost a bit of time, but as far as I know I didn’t fully lose consciousness because I didn’t fall down), and it was to my jaw, but it threw my head back.  I had whiplash, and now I have a herniated disc in my neck, migraines, and seizures.  So yeah, the brain is a weird thing.  (Of course, it’s possible that this blow was simply “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” since I’d been hit/kicked in the head quite a few times in fights before, and had my head knocked back into walls and the like – I had a dangerous job at the time.)

Post # 15
Member
1157 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

I had a huge tree limb fall on me, giving me a concussion, a broken neck, and a head wound. Here’s what it was like: 

I lost consciousness, but I don’t know how long (I was by myself). No longer than 30 seconds to a minute, I would guess. Generally, the longer the loss of consciousness, the more serious the brain injury. I can’t remember the period of maybe a few minutes before the accident, and I had some short-term memory loss afterwards (e.g. I kept repeating myself), for maybe 6 or 8 hours. There are some patches in my memory from the 24 hours afterwards that I lost, but FI has filled me in on. I was aware of what had happened and what was going on, but not 100%. I actually allowed the people who dragged the limb off of me to help me up and move me, which you should NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES do with a head/neck injury. I know this, but I was pretty out of it. 

Someone called 911 and paramedics came quickly. They put a neck brace on me and strapped me to a backboard (“collared and boarded”), and when I got to the hospital they brought me straight to CT. After they brought me back to the trauma bay, my boyfriend (now FI) arrived, and they told us that I had two fractured vertebrae. After checking me out neurologically (reflexes, motor, skin sensation), they cleaned and closed my scalp wound (the cut was about 1.5″ long). They didn’t shave my hair, they closed it with staples. They use a staple gun, which is exactly like a carpentry one, but the staples are very shallow. It hurt, a lot. To my knowledge, sutures aren’t used to close scalp wounds- they use either staples or skin glue. 

They kept me overnight for observation, and in the morning released me with a brace I was to wear 24 hours a day for three months. It went from my chin to waist and looks like this: 

… as well as a smaller hard cervical collar. PM me if you want any more details!

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