“Last one in’s a rotten egg!”
**BANG! … Immediate crying**
It was a Sunday afternoon, the day of the AFC Championship game. Tighe and Tess and I had been sitting on the living room couch finishing lunch and watching…the NBA maybe? Tighe had just answered a phone call—I could tell from the tone it was business related—and Tess was climbing on his head, trying to take the phone, “I wanna talk!”
But at the sound of the crying, I jumped up and ran to the front foyer, to it’s source, Sam.
He was sprawled on his belly on the hardwood floor, screaming and holding his chin. Nate and the neighbor twins, boys aged 8, were all surrounding him uselessly to a chorus of “I didn’t do it!”
I scooped Sam up and saw blood flowing from his chin. I ran him to the kitchen and grabbed a handful of paper towels. “Lemme see, Sam!”
I don’t know a lot about medical emergencies and I tend to get slightly queasy at the sight of split skin, so I grimaced as we pulled away the wad of paper towels.
“Boys, are your mom and dad home?”
“Yeah, they’re home!” the twins said in unison. They live across the street—mom is a physician and dad is an anesthesiologist. In the year and a half we’ve lived in this house, we’ve called on their expertise several times, probably more than our fair share. We also have another doctor—internal medicine, I think—diagonally across from us, a nurse two doors down, and a dentist next door. We picked the right neighborhood.
Tighe was still wrestling with Tess over the phone, so I cradled Sam like a baby to my chest and carried him down our front steps, across the street, and up their front steps. He had totally collapsed his full weight against my chest, but given that he’s so tall and I’m so short, his toes were practically scraping the sidewalk as we made our trek to the neighbor’s house.
“It’s pretty deep,” she said, pulling the paper towel away, still bouncing her six-month old daughter on her lap. “And pretty wide. Yeah, I think he’s going to need stitches, and it takes a lot for me to recommend stitches.”
Which I knew to be true from another one of Sam’s injuries that she said didn’t need stitches, and she was right—it healed on its own with only the slightest of scars.
“I’d do it myself, but I have no way to numb it and I don’t think he’d sit still for it,” she went on, “See how the fat layer is oozing out?”
She leaned back so I could take a peek, but I averted my eyes to the baby instead.
“Did he get new shoes or something? Because he fell twice while he was playing over here this morning.”
Her husband was pacing back and forth, putting in calls to all the local emergency rooms, inquiring about wait times and whether or not they take kids.
“Um, his shoes are kind of new,” I replied, thinking back. “Maybe three or four months? I think he’s just…Sam.”
Her husband put down the phone. “I think Children’s Mercy in Overland Park is your best bet. It doesn’t sound like they’re too busy.”
I thanked them for their help and Sam and I walked back across the street, my arms around his shoulders and his palm firmly holding our paper towel wad against his chin.
“Well! We’re going to the hospital, Sam!”
Tighe carried him to the car while I grabbed his insurance card and a pack of fruit snacks. He hadn’t even eaten lunch!
As I drove to the hospital, I glanced back at Sam in the rear view mirror. He was calm, his forehead leaning against the window, his palm still committed to holding down the paper towels.
“Sam, would you rather listen to music or talk radio?”
Personally I wanted to listen to sports talk. The Chiefs were playing the Patriots that night and I knew a little Tom Brady-bashing would cheer me up. But Sam requested music, so reluctantly I switched stations.
In reality, I was the one who needed to calm down. Sam looked like he was about to fall into a peaceful sleep, but I was almost shaking with adrenaline and panic. I’d only been to the ER twice in my life—once when I miscarried right after we were married and once, a few weeks before our wedding, when my dumbass brother—love him so!—had drunkenly walked off a stone wall the night before and torn all kinds of ligaments. My parents were out of town, so I got to sit with him while the doctors adhered a large grey boot that he would wear for months, including in all our wedding photos.
So, when we pulled into the ER, Sam was as calm as can be, and I was nervously fumbling for my ID, fixated on the great parking spot I got.
“But seriously, Sam, that’s really gonna pay off when we walk out of here later and we only have to walk about 20 yards to the car,” I was saying as we were called back into triage. They had taken his bloodied wad of paper towels and replaced it with a neon pink band-aid. His blood pressure was 104 over 72. I wondered what mine was while the nurse explained to me how common chin lacerations are in kids.
Meanwhile, Sam was about to begin the best day of life.
It started with stickers and nurses who knew just how to interact with kids who might be a little bit scared. And with parents who might definitely be a little bit scared—especially at the prospect of watching nylon stitches being dragged in and out of Sam’s raw skin.
“Mom, if you feel faint, there’s a chair right behind you.”
Before they got started, a Child Life specialist came in the room to talk to Sam. She brought in a doll and all the medical equipment that the doctor would need and using the doll, showed him exactly what they were about to do to him.
Not that Sam was bothered at all. By any of it. He was busy playing with the wooden puzzle that was fastened to the wall. And then by the fancy remote that could either change the TV station, raise and lower the bed, or call the nurse. By the time the numbing gel took effect, he didn’t have a care in the world.
Eventually, two nurses, a doctor, and a Child Life specialist came into the room. One nurse held his head still, one nurse was responsible for his legs—anticipating flailing limbs, I guess—the doctor would be doing the stitching, and the Child Life Specialist held the iPad, which had a special showing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just for Sam.
It turns out the nurses weren’t really necessary. The screen so enraptured his attention that we all probably could have tickled him and he wouldn’t have even flinched.
“He’s being so good,” the doctor kept musing.
Finally he tied the fifth and final stitch and remarked, “Sam, you’re so good, can we do anything else for you while you’re this still? Appendectomy? Tonsils?”
“How about a nose job and liposuction?” I said.
Sam’s finger immediately shot up to the iPad and hit “pause.”
“Yes, I’ll take a Lego section,” he said as if he was asking the waitress to add some bacon to his sandwich.
“No, not Lego section—LIPOSUCTION!” I clarified, ”It’s when they suck excess fat from your—you know what, never mind.”
A short time later, we were ready to go. After they had billed our insurance, of course. I was gifted a packet of discharge instructions and some extra packets of antibiotic ointment, and Sam was gifted an Incredibles 2 puzzle, more stickers, the syringe they used to clean the wound, lots of praise and hugs from the nurses, and a chocolate milkshake. Okay, the milkshake was courtesy of the McDonald’s drive-thru and my credit card, and that was only because his jaw was too sore to eat the fruit snacks I had in my pocket. The point is that Sam was making out pretty well.
“This was fun, but we will NOT be back!” I quipped to the nurses as we headed out the double wide automatic doors.
Eleven days later—on Sam’s birthday—we were back.
To be continued…