Monday, March 15, 2010

Yo Adrian, Where's My Popsicle?

Surely, there is no lack of material to expound on when you've got kids. Take, for instance, the trip to the emergency room I made with my youngest son, Carson, about a month ago. Emergency room runs aren't unusual when you're a parent. I have one friend who I'm pretty sure has his own parking space at Kennestone Hospital by now. But fortunately, for Meredith and I, other than one time when Emerson got really sick as a toddler, we haven't had to make the all-too-common emergency room dash--until a few weeks ago.

Meredith and Emerson were out of town. I was alone with my boys over Valentine's weekend. It was Monday night. The end of an adventurous guy weekend shared by the Howard men. About an hour before Meredith's scheduled return, I had just finished bathing the boys and was preparing Carson's bed to tuck him in. All of a sudden, I heard it--BANG!!--a thundering thud coming from William's room. After only a second of silence, Carson started crying. It wasn't an unusual cry. I figured it was just another bump or bruise; par for the course when William and Carson play together. Given that William's tone seemed rather casual when he called to me down the hall, "Daddy, Carson hit his head," I didn't expect to find much more than a red spot and a few tears. Only that's not what I encountered. When I stopped what I was doing and turned to make my way down the hall, I was met by Carson holding his forehead with one hand, half of his face covered in blood. The little guy had discovered the hard way that if you are going to run and jump into your brother's bean bag, you better make sure you actually hit the bean bag rather than sailing over it and slamming head-first into the bedroom wall. Immediately, I knew it was a bad injury. Trying to stay calm, I slowly peeled back Carson's hand. What I saw made my heart sink. Carson had cut his little head open all the way to the bone. Knowing I had to appear calm so as not to worry my dazed little guy, I grabbed a towel out of the bathroom, wiped away the blood, and began applying pressure. Then my mind started racing. "OK," I thought, "I'm alone with two small boys, one of which now has to go to the hospital. I need to keep applying pressure to this cut. My wife is out of town. And, in the midst of all the blood and mayhem, William won't stop asking me if he can have some Goldfish. What do I do next?" Knowing I just needed to keep moving, I picked Carson up, told him he'd be fine, and instructed William to follow me. All the while, William kept wanting to play twenty questions:

"Where are we going, Daddy?"
"I've got to take Carson for a little ride."
"Do I get to go for a ride, Daddy?"
"I don't know yet, William, let's just go."
"I want to go for a ride, Daddy. It's not fair if Carson gets to go for a ride and I don't"
"William, your brother is hurt. Let's go."
"Where are we going? Huh, Daddy, where are we going?"
"Next door to the Stuteville's, William."
"Do I get to play with Lucy?"
"Do the Stewdabills have Goldfish?"

And so it is with fatherhood. You're kind of like a hostage negotiator or someone who tries to talk prospective suicide jumpers off of a ledge. You have to master the art of carrying on conversations and working out details in the midst of crisis. Defusing a four-year-old's feelings of exclusion from what he views as a late-night joy ride without drawing any more attention to the severity of his wounded brother's injury is a tricky, but necessary, daddy skill.

Fortunately, my life-saving neighbors, Joel and Terri, were home. They allowed William to spend the night. Terri stayed with the kids while Joel gave up his evening of relaxing at home to drive Carson and I to the hospital. I held Carson, kept pressure on his cut, and talked calmly and encouragingly to him the whole way. All the while he looked back up at me with his swollen little face. He looked like the lead role in a toddler's production of Rocky. I half expected to hear the words, "Yo, Adrian, I got blood on my footie pajamas" come out of his mouth at any moment. Of course, the highlight of the ride to the emergency room was when Meredith called. Amongst the excitement I heard my phone ring. Given that Joel was driving, Carson's bleeding was under control, and I had a moment to catch my breath, I decided to answer it. It was Meredith. "Hey, how's it going?" I heard her say. The moment created an interesting dilemma. Do I tell her the truth and let her know that her baby boy is hurt, I've got it under control, and we're on our way to the emergency room? Or, do I lie and say, "Oh, it's going fine?" Lying is obviously not right. But the truth was going to cause great concern for Meredith, who still had roughly another hour of road trip ahead of her before making it home. Knowing her son was hurt and she couldn't get there was liable to drive her nuts. Heck, I was already going to have some serious explaining to do when she got back regarding how I could let such a thing happen on my watch. Did I really want to get into it on the way to the ER? Given that I probably wouldn't beat her home anyway, I opted for truth. At first Meredith thought I was lying. "You're kidding," she said. Once I convinced her that making up stories about my son gashing his head open and spilling blood all over his brother's wall was not my idea of good humor, Meredith's mommy instincts kicked in and she started grilling me with questions (not accusingly, but simply wanting the details). I finally convinced her that all was under control and got her to table her inquiries until later when I got home. All things considered, she took the news about as calmly and understandably as any mommy could.

When we finally arrived at the ER, I rushed Carson to the front desk... only to be told that I needed to take him down the hall to the pediatric ER. So, running faster than most middle-aged white boys on a Monday night, I headed down the hall with my son to the children's ER. I arrived at the window and told the attendant, "My son cut his head all the way down to the bone. He needs stitches."

"You'll just need to fill out these papers," the woman replied.
"I'm sorry," I responded, "but are you going to step out from behind your little counter and come hold my bleeding child while I write my name on your little form and check off whether or not my kid has a peanut allergy?"
"Oh," she said. "Just have a seat and I'll fill this out for you as best I can."
"Thank you."

I have to say, other than that duh-huh request, the staff at the emergency room did a pretty good job. Due to the nature of Carson's injury, they bumped us to the front of the line and got us in fairly fast. The doctor was also decent with Carson--not great--but decent and well-intentioned. I've encountered some doctors that, while brilliant, make you feel about as comfortable as an inflamed hemorrhoid on a transcontinental flight. This guy wasn't bad at all. He did a good job of explaining things, saw us relatively quickly, and tried to be understanding of how my son was perceiving everything. After about a half-hour in the ER, Carson didn't even seem to notice that he was hurt anymore. He sat there on my lap in the examining room with a bandage wrapped around his head, waiting for his stitches, watching The Incredibles, and wondering when he was going to get that Popsicle the nurse had promised him. During the actual stitching, I held Carson's hand and talked to him while the doctor worked his sewing magic. I'm not a guy who normally likes to witness surgical procedures. I wasn't sure how I would react to the sight of my son's wound be stitched up. But when it's your kid, it's amazing what you'll do and what doesn't bother you. My focus was solely on my little man. I could tell he was scared and confused. But I just kept smiling, reminding him of that Popsicle that awaited him, and told him he was doing great.

A few stitches and one orange Popsicle later we were out of there. It only took about 90 minutes from the time we arrived until the time we were released. Pretty good for an emergency room experience. And so, one of the last parental rights of passage has been crossed in the Howard home. We've had our first (and probably not our last) batch of stitches. Given Carson's personality and bold nature, I fear he might become a regular at the ER. He'll probably even get one of those discount cards like they give out at coffee shops (after ten serious injuries, the eleventh is on the house). Hopefully, though, we can catch him before he parachutes out of a window or decides to answer the ever persistent young boy question: What DOES happen when one hits a large hornets' nest with a plastic baseball bat? Regardless, two things are for sure: (1) With three kids, life never gets boring; and (2) You should never live too far from the nearest emergency room.

1 comment:

  1. I'd also suggest mapping out any Urgent Care or other Emergency Rooms in the area on your GPS. ;)
    I have Children's Healthcare on my speed dial.