At age eight, my normally obedient, sunshiney child—the peacekeeper of the family—suddenly began flying into fits of rage followed by vacant staring and pacing. I called our pediatrician, who sent us to a child psychiatrist. Later, my son would begin hearing and seeing “ghosts.” He was misdiagnosed with a psychotic disorder, placed on antipsychotic drugs, and spent the next 10 years of his precious childhood in and out of mental hospitals.
What we did not know was that exactly three days before the sudden onset of his bizarre symptoms, while in the care of his older siblings, he had sustained a violent blow to the front of his skull, after which he landed on the back of his head several feet away on a concrete floor. He was unconscious for about an hour, blood and fluids leaking from his nose, mouth, and one ear. This was hidden from me because his brothers were afraid of getting into trouble. He has since been properly diagnosed with a frontal lobe brain injury and is slowly improving, but he will never be the same.
Since sharing my son's story, I have heard from many families with similar experiences. Their children have been diagnosed with everything from autism to ADHD to bipolar disorder, all after an unreported head injury. In some cases, an abusive parent had repeatedly bashed their child's head against the wall; the abusive parent was still in the home but the other parent was afraid to report the injury.
What will it take to get health professionals to probe for hidden head injury in patients who suddenly develop abnormal behaviors?
Overland Park, KS
THE EDITOR RESPONDS
We hope your story will compel readers to report head injuries to their doctors. Please look for articles on concussion in the coming year—the American Academy of Neurology has released a statement about concussion in sports. You can read about it on the “Breaking News” section of neurologynow.com or at bit.ly/AANConcussion.