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Bringing up Mommy: When trouble pops up a world away

You never want somebody else’s face to pop up on a video call from your daughter’s cell number.

Especially when she’s 4,000 miles away. Especially when you’ve always worried that this particular 21-year-old moves too fast, expects too much of herself and never, ever slows down. Especially when the conversation begins “I don’t want to worry you, Mrs. Hook. Emily’s fine. But…”

It was Emily’s friend, Michaela, on the phone that day, telling me she and my daughter had been out running on a trail in Switzerland where the two are studying for the semester. When Michaela realized she hadn’t seen Emily for several minutes, she turned to find her friend 200 yards behind her. Face down. On the ground. Not moving. Michaela told me she was able to rouse Emily, who was nauseous and confused as she came to. But Emily couldn’t stand up for 20 minutes, or recount what caused her to fall or where they’d been earlier that day. An hour later now, her head hurt and she was in the bathroom of their dorm room, throwing up.

I haven’t been a soccer mom, nor Michaela a soccer player, all these years for nothing. We both know a concussion when we see one.

“Yes, I’m taking Emily to the hospital,” Michaela said.

I was oddly calm as Michaela relayed these events happening an ocean away, possibly because I’ve been a mother for 25 years, because my daughter’s clear-thinking friend knew to start the conversation with “Emily’s fine.” Thanks to the magic of texting, I was able to stay with Emily through her overnight hospital visit. I even received a surprisingly robust thumbs-up photo from my daughter, who did end up being “fine,” just like Michaela said, according to the team of doctors who ran brain scans and heart scans and blood tests. While they determined Emily fainted for unknown reasons on the trail and they wanted her to see a cardiologist and to spend at least seven days recovering from head trauma, she was well enough to be released the next morning.

But released to whom?

I was certain she needed me to come to her. I could hear the borderline hysteria in her voice, echoing across her vacuous, institutional dorm room. I could see it in her Skyped tears. This child who moves at the speed of light was being required to slow to the speed of a meditating monk. Even though her professors were emailing her about missed exams and classes. Even though she had lost her wallet during the crisis and needed to call all over Geneva, in French, looking for it. Even though she was scheduled to fly to Denmark in four days. Even though she didn’t have her Ibuprofen-giving, cool-cloth-providing, make-you-lie-down-and-rest-your-brain mother anywhere near.

I lay awake two nights wondering whether I should a) believe my husband or b) pawn off one of our cars for air fare.

And then something wonderful happened.

Emily survived. Nay, she thrived. Partly, it was because of the surrogate moms and guardian angels she allowed to come to her rescue. Friends made cards. The director of the college helped with professors and follow-up doctor visits. A colleague of my husband’s took her into her home in a neighboring French village.

Partly, yes, too, it was us. Using Skype, Facebook, Facetime, my daughter and I worked together day-by-day to arrange and rearrange the many demands on her head so she could rest it.

But mostly it was Emily.