Mother raises ‘Golden Hour’ awareness after losing son
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Last New Year’s Day, Huntersville resident Kristi Dunn lost her 19-year-old son, Tyler, to a tragic accident that she feels could have been prevented.
Through circumstances that may forever remain unclear, at some point on New Year’s Eve, Tyler was hanging out with his friends when he suffered a head injury and subsequently blacked out.
“Tyler called me an hour or two later and told me his head had slammed on concrete,” Kristi, a former paramedic who now works as a nurse, said.
“But there were no visible injuries externally, and no one ever let me know he was unconscious. He smelled like he had been drinking, but I did a mini-neurology exam by checking his pupil response and soft and sharp touches, to which he told me the correct answers.”
Dunn stayed up with Tyler lying on her lap until 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day, monitoring his condition.
“Tyler had no idea he had been unconscious, so it’s not like he could have told me,” Dunn said. “But if I had known, we would have gone to the emergency room.”
She left him sleeping in his room and retired to the living room couch for the night. At 11 a.m., she found his lifeless body in the hallway facing his little sister’s room.
“If I didn’t check on him, that would have been negligent as a mother or anyone with ER experience,” Dunn said. “I want it to be known that if ever faced with this situation, call 911 or the parents and make them aware of the incident.”
In the year since his passing, Dunn has made it her mission to spread awareness of what is often referred to as the “golden hour” – the critical time period immediately after head trauma has occurred.
“I truly hope you see some merit in Tyler’s story” she said. “My goal is to reach any kid, teen or young person who has to make a split decision, which could save a life. If there is a lesson to learn, I think his death can teach a lot of people of the simple way a life could have been saved.”
One local neurologist further explains the crucial term.
“‘Golden hour’ is the hour following any type of head injury where you want to take action,” Dr. Ki Jung, founder of Northlake Neurology, said. “Within the first 60 minutes, you want to get evaluated by a medical professional. It could be a primary care doctor, a neurologist or someone in the emergency department.”
In Tyler’s case, there was a delay between the time of the incident and him notifying his mother of what happened.
“From the onset of his head injury until the time I saw him, he was past the ‘golden hour’,” Dunn said. “The likelihood of him ever being himself decreased by every passing minute.”
Jung offers advice on how a person should react in a similar circumstance.
“The key is, number one, accurate assessment of the level of the urgency,” Jung said. “Number two, if it doesn’t appear to be urgent, the key there is to clinically observe the patient. As a parent, you’ll want to follow up on your child’s injury; really watching and monitoring over the next several hours. That first hour really is that golden hour, but even at 120 minutes, or even at three hours, you’re going to want to re-assess and keep an eye on that person. You want to make sure that they’re acting and functioning normally and that nothing is changing about their overall health.”
Tyler’s death had a devastating effect on his family and close friends, many of whom are still reeling from the tragedy.
“I used to live across the street from Tyler,” Spencer Call, Tyler’s childhood friend, said. “We were like brothers from other mothers. When we found out that we had lost him, it was like another family member had been ripped from our lives. My mom sometimes still cries.”