Thursday, January 13, 2011

OMG (a.k.a. Tough kid, sissy mama)

When people ask me what's new, I usually say, "Nothing." And I'm usually thankful to say that. Boredom is often the opposite of chaos in my life, perhaps in other lives as well, and I'm happy to embrace boredom much of the time because I prefer it to the alternative.

We got the alternative Tuesday night.

It was a totally normal night. I was nagging the "boys" about bedtime, and finally managed to make my husband understand that the next morning our child would need to rise at the same old time, and that he needed adequate sleep in order to tackle the day with success, etc. My son ate a quick snack (pizza-flavored Goldfish crackers and water) and I herded him into my bedroom to get his clothes off and into the hamper so that PJs could be donned.

Apparently, after I left the room, the kid had an undeniable urge to run, naked but for socks, and see his father in the living room; when he didn't show up, I had to call out and remind him to stay on task and come in for pajamas and tooth-brushing. I was selecting the pajamas from a drawer when suddenly, I became aware that my child was running from the living room into his bedroom. I saw him approaching from the corner of my eye, not really registering the speed with which he came, and a second later there was a loud thump. I glanced up in time to see his feet literally flying out from under him, up in the air—and then saw him hit the floor, landing right on his back.

Now, there have been a few times when my son hit the wall—with his head, or his foot, or his back end when he was crawling around in a clownish manner. So, we'd seen similar situations before; panic did not immediately ensue. He lay there for a second, and my husband and I both scurried over from opposite directions to ascertain the damage. Marcus was still on the floor, and he seemed to have hit not only his face, but also the back of his head when he fell; our home is tiny, and the space in that little hallway outside bedrooms is quite unforgiving.

I was totally unprepared for what met me at close range: my son's forehead was gashed, straight up and down, and blood was spilling out in spurts. I thought I would be sick, and one look at his dad told me he was feeling the same. We sat him up a bit, I grabbed a washcloth and we held it on the forehead, and all the while Marcus was huddled there unclothed, red splashes landing on his bare legs, crying full tilt. Todd remembered to tilt his head back a little, to minimize bleeding, and when the washcloth did not stem the flood, we grabbed a dry hand towel to better soak up the mess.

A minute passed, I threw a blanket on my boy (can kids go into shock from a gash? no matter, it's winter and he's naked), and we worked up the nerve to take another look at the cut. This was the OMG moment, people: it was unspeakably horrific. It looked like a hockey injury. The giant slash running between my child's eyes could have come from a skate blade or a big, sharp stick; it could have been carved in with a knife. It was a perfectly straight line, because (we've since determined in hindsight and re-enactments) he hit it squarely, somehow, on the frame of his bedroom door.

Todd and I both stared at it, trying not to reveal in our faces just how awful it really was. In my head, I was screaming, "OH MY GOD that is so DEEP! I can't believe it! He needs stitches! Holy CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!" but on the outside, I was trying to remain calm and tell my son that everything would be okay. He kept saying, "It hurts," and I was thinking, no *!?# it hurts because I can practically see your SKULL in there!!! But I couldn't say that. So I murmured useless, soothing phrases, and Todd and I spoke with our eyes. Yes, we agreed, yes; we must go out on this snowy, slippery night, to the nearest hospital, right now.

We resigned ourselves to our fate, put some zip-up PJs on the wailing child, fashioned a headband made from destroyed T-shirt in order to secure the blood-soaking cloth, and got ourselves into the car, praying for safe travel, for quick treatment, for the best possible scenario. Thankfully, we made it out of our snow-covered driveway, and the roads were passable.

Let me take a moment to rave about Suburban General Hospital in Bellevue. The folks there were wonderful: quick, thorough, calming and friendly. We were the only ones in the ER, and they saw to us immediately, talking through what had happened, chatting with Marcus who had since stopped crying and was looking quite pitiful. One look at the depth of the cut and they knew it needed stitches; no skin glue for this one. To their credit, they were honest with my little guy, and told him (not all at once, but as needed) what they were going to do. There were three of them prepping him; a matronly type wrapped him in a sheet tightly, to immobilize his arms, but she talked with him as she worked, joked a little, made him as comfortable as possible. The assisting nurse, an affable fellow who was blind in one eye, was warm and friendly with all of us and put everyone at ease. The doctor who washed, gave numbing shots, and stitched was confident, very capable, and worked with speed.

Here's where I must confess that after they began to wash the cut, and I got a better look at just how horrible it was, I had to sit down and I missed most of the really gory stuff because I was fighting the simultaneous urges to throw up and fall down. I didn't see the stitching; I simply could not look. I saw the doctor's hands lifting, going down with the needle, pulling it up again, but I certainly wasn't counting; I couldn't watch for that long. (He got 5 stitches, according to his dad.)

But as much as a wimp as I turned out to be, my son was beyond stoic. The only crying he did was at home. When the doctor told him there would be stitching, and shots to numb the injury, his mouth turned down on the outsides—the telltale pre-cry face. Yet somehow, it never became full-blown. He set the mouth back to a normal line, he nodded or answered when asked a question, he allowed the nurse to hold his small, frightened face perfectly still while a man with a sharp object laced a nylon thread through his lacerated forehead. He never made a sound. Nothing.

The ER folks were impressed. I was speechless. What a tough guy. He was lying there, we were encouraging him and telling him it was almost done, and I was too sick to feel proud of him at that moment—but I knew, even as I fought the urge to hurl, that his behavior was pretty amazing.

Marcus bounced back just fine. When the procedure was finished, he stood with boots back on; since his face was still numb, he was in very good spirits. His dad and I? Both of us were sitting, ashen-faced, glad it was done but shocked it had transpired at all—and wondering which of us would be able to drive home. (Todd was; he thankfully did all the driving that night.) The amazing thing was the timetable from start to finish: On a treacherous winter night, my boy had run into a wall at approximately 8:45, and we pulled back into our driveway, stitched and bandaged, a couple of minutes after 10pm.

God is good. He put all the pieces in place, so that while my poor child had to go through that experience, it was as painless as possible. He didn't even miss kindergarten the next day (I'd been planning on keeping him home) because the weather turned very sour again, and the school district cancelled classes.

It's alarming to realize you are not nearly as tough as you would like to believe. Happily, my weakness was more than balanced by my offspring's strength. It would have understood if he'd cried, if he'd been a bit uncooperative, but it was as if he knew that his behavior would make or break the whole incident.

Thanks for listening, especially to my bragging about my boy; I try not to do that, especially here, but I feel it's more than merited on this occasion. And by the way: absolutely NO RUNNING in the house.

To quote Pulp Fiction, "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go have a heart attack."

P.S. Stay tuned for a future post about the bill. Haven't got that yet... but I'm anticipating ugliness, as our plan has a ridiculously high deductible.


Cari Skuse said...

I've been there Miss, as you can imagine. Carrick broke his arm falling off the back of the hot tub. I was the one who had to take him to the emergency room, since it happened on Memorial Day two years ago (Mark had been drinking, so he was out and had to stay with the other two). It was hard to see him in so much pain, but I was thankful for the care we got at the hospital (Passavant in Cranberry). It ended up that we had to go to Children's Hopsital the next day because he had a strange all ended OK, but it was a long process where he had to go through a cast and weeks of therapy.
I hope that Marcus heals up OK. It's usually more traumatic for the parent than the kids!
Oh, and by the way, he'll forget the no running rule again in no time! Sorry.

Facie said...

Oh, what a night (or a less than a couple of hours, fortunately).

You WERE brave. Under the same circumstances I am sure would not have done nearly as well. I am super proud of Marcus.

Good luck with the bill.

chris h. said...

Oh geez, Mel. I can't imagine. I have to agree about Suburban General though (where I and 5 of my siblings were born, mind you). One of the saddest events of the past year for us is that they closed the ER there in favor of an "Urgent Care" center that closes at 10:00 p.m.! You were so lucky you made it there before closing or the AGH ER (and the horrors of such) would have been your lot (or Passavant, I suppose). So glad the little guy made it through. Oh, and did you read Martha Stewart's blog account of HER stitches? Too much of that going around it seems. You and Todd were brave, too...not easy to see your little one hurt like that.

Athelas63 said...

sounds exciting! Kids do that. And yes, one of the hardest parenting skills is putting on the calm face and reassuring the child that "Yes, you're fine. It's just a little bump, but we'd better have the doctor look at it" when inside you're screaming "OH MY GOD ITS THE END OF THE WORLD." Well done - on everyone's part. Oh, It won't be the last mad dash to the ER, you know.

Mel said...

thanks, everyone, for encouragement--although I am NOT thanking anyone for the reminder that this will not be the last time... : (

chris, I had no idea about ER becoming urgent care at suburban--wow, we got there just in time! I saw all the docs leaving when we did, but figured it was just a change of shift. what a shame.

cari, sorry about the painful break of arm. good grief. always something. and you get it times THREE. yeesh.