I’d just picked the kids up from school, and set to move house on the weekend, we were loading up the trailer.
Getting home around 4.30pm, my husband, Simon, took over from Addie and Levi, who raced outside to play.
Loading the mattresses onto the trailer as the sun went down, I heard a cry
Glancing up, I saw Addie running towards me, a panicked look on her face. Just behind her, Levi looked equally worried.
They must've had a fight, I figured.
Racing into my arms, Addie hugged me tight around my waist.
Cuddling her, I cradled my girl’s head.
What’s that?! I thought, as something sharp poked into my arm.
Looking down, I could see a stick stuck in Addie’s hair.
Taking a closer look, I noticed blood running down her neck and the front of her shirt.
Tentatively, I touched the end of the 10cm stick.
It’s lodged, I panicked. My baby girl had been impaled!
Hugging Addie’s head tight against my belly, I caught Simon’s eye.
‘I need an ambulance now,’ I mouthed.
We had to keep Addie calm and still, so I sat her down on a mattress.
‘What’s wrong, Mummy? Is it stuck?’ she asked me. ‘It felt like something banged my head.’
I didn’t want to scare her, so I had to play down the truth.
‘Yes baby, the stick is stuck, but just in your hair and skin. Mummy can’t move it. We need doctors to take it out in a hospital to be safe,’
I soothed. ‘I need you to be super calm, still and brave for me, okay?’
‘I can do this, Mum,’ she said, taking a deep breath.
Thankfully, she wasn’t in any pain.
Just then, Levi came closer to have a look.
Seeing the stick lodged in Addie’s head, he went as white as a ghost.
He mustn’t have known, I realised.
‘I’m a murderer, I’ve killed my baby sister! Mum, I’m so sorry,’ he said, frantically, running off.
My heart broke.
It turns out, Addie had run in front of Levi just as he’d thrown a 60cm stick at a wall, trying to break it into kindling for the fireplace.
‘Addie, look out!’ Levi had screamed, making her turn her head at the last moment.
As the stick struck, a little side branch lodged into Addie’s skull, the big stick breaking off and falling to the ground.
It was a terrible accident.
And, in fact, Levi’s warning had saved her from being impaled through the face.
‘Stay with Daddy,’ I told Addie. ‘I need to go and check on Levi.’
Searching upstairs, I found my sweet son crying, riddled with guilt.
‘Addie will be fine,’ I reassured him.
When the ambulance arrived 25 minutes later, the paramedics asked Addie how she was doing.
‘I’m good, thank you. How are you?’ she replied politely, giving them a good giggle.
While Simon stayed home with Levi, I got into the ambo with Addie to head to hospital, where a team of specialists were waiting.
All bandaged up, Addie even smiled for a photo with the stick in her head.
At Emergency, Addie had three CT scans to assess the damage.
‘Can we talk?’ the doctor said afterwards.
Taking me into a private room and closing the door, my knees went weak.
It isn’t good, I thought, petrified.
‘It’s gone through her skull,’ the doc said gently.
Bursting into tears, I wanted to vomit.
Viewing the scan, I saw the stick had fractured her skull, piercing the meninges, a series of protective layers over the brain.
Raced to a bigger hospital about an hour away, my precious Addie was wheeled into theatre.
Thankfully, I was allowed in until she was put to sleep, holding her hand and kissing her until her eyes fluttered closed. Leaving that room was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Two hours later, my phone rang.
‘The surgery went well – Addie’s in recovery,’ the neurosurgeon told me.
‘Mummy, is the stick gone?’ she choked out, when she woke up four hours later.
‘Yes, baby it is,’ I smiled.
As my little girl rolled over and went back to sleep,
I finally exhaled.
The docs said if I’d tried to remove the stick myself, it would’ve been fatal.
We could have lost her, I thought.
The next day, the doctors checked Addie’s reflexes and cognitive awareness.
My little trouper passed with flying colours.
By 7pm that night, I had to tell her to stop jumping and sit down on the bed!
‘Addison, stop being a stick head,’ I joked, as she burst into giggles.
‘Addie, I think you should stop doing the same thing and branch out,’ I joked, on a roll.
For two days, she was monitored closely and given antibiotics through an IV to ensure infection didn’t set in.
Nearly two months on, Levi is still deeply affected.
‘I think I felt 10 out of 10 guilty,’ he said. ‘It is not every day you see a tree in someone’s head.’
But he has nothing to feel bad about.
Tough as nails, Addie’s even kept the branch as a memento – she wants to frame it and give it to the hospital staff!
Playing with sticks is banned in our house now.
But, we’re beyond blessed that we still have our gorgeous girl.