Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Not-So-Stoic ER Visit

When my oldest son was a baby, I was pretty trigger happy with the ER.  I remember taking him to the ER at six months old for a high fever.  And then once when he fell and busted his lip.  Both maladies have occurred another 100 times or so, and each time I laugh at my once naive first time momness.  I've gotten a much thicker skin now - with two boys, one has to.  Blood, bruises, and the biweekly fever and/or cold are all par for the course.

That being said, we are still ER frequenters.  Three months ago for a skin infection (on a holiday weekend).  Two months ago for a severe tongue laceration (aka, Braden bit through his entire tongue - gross).  One month ago for an x-ray for a sprained ankle.  I no longer approach the ER with anxiety; I do so rather with quiet resolution - Okay, here we go again.  Please let this be as painless as possible.  

But yesterday - yesterday rocked me a little.

We were visiting family in New York, and my husband and I were literally almost out the door (coats on, car packed) to have a night away in Manhattan, just the two of us.  We bid farewell to the kids, and just as we were headed towards the door, I looked back at Casey and watched as he fell backwards, slow motion, out of a barstool.  It was quite a bang and I knew right away it wasn't going to be good.  My husband ran towards him, and immediately we both saw blood.  A lot of it. Coming from a huge gash in his cheek.

Instead of heading to Manhattan, we headed to the local ER.

My husband and I both panicked at the outset, but by the time we arrived at the ER, we were calm and stoic and going through the motions.  I knew we were probably looking at stitches.  When we checked in, I requested he be seen by a plastic surgeon (as the gash was right across his right cheek).  They told me they would page the on-call plastics doctor, and we were taken to our own room with a TV and two beds to await his arrival.

Let me say this about ER's - generally, I am pleasantly surprised by how quickly I get in and out. Sure, there are times it takes longer than others, but I have never had a multi-hour (aka, 3 hours+ ER visit).  I arrive optimistic that we can get in and out.  After all, we're dealing with a two year old here.  Surely there is some sense of urgency?  So when they told us it would be up to two hours until the plastic surgeon would arrive, I silently expected, for no real reason, for him to arrive earlier.

That was at 9am.

Feeling optimistic.
Two hours passed by.  Then three.  Then four.  By 1pm, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, convinced that we were going to spend the entire day at a Long Island ER.  And what could we do but sit and wait?  I paced.  I cursed.  I gave dirty looks to the nurse passersby's. I lost it, a little. Casey, on the other hand, was as happy as a clam, and it was all I could do to keep him from climbing all over the beds, the chairs, and the hospital equipment.  Apparently the large gash in his cheek wasn't phasing him at all.

At 1:33pm, approximately 4.5 hours after we had arrived at the hospital, the doctor finally arrived. I was so happy to see him, I forgot to be angry.  I was still hoping to salvage our romantic night in Manhattan.  Lets get this done, yo.

The doctor explained that the stitches would be easy and straightforward, but that Casey would have to be very still.  How do we accomplish that stillness?  We hold him down.  I was assigned to the head, my husband to the arms.  I assumed position, and tried to soothe Casey with a calming voice.  Understandably, before he even got the first shot of Novocain, he was getting a bit upset.  Who likes to be pinned down to a hospital bed?

I rubbed his head, and tried to distract him.  Then the doctor took the needle, separated the wound, and began to give him shots straight into his bloody flesh.

And that's when I began to feel the blood rush from my head.

Mentally, I was fine.  I could understand logically what was going on.  Yes, it was gross and bloody and fleshy.  But this was my baby, and he needed stitches.  I needed to be there for him.  To be strong.  Stoic.  This was no time for me to get squeamish.  This was not about me!  This was about my baby and his pain and me comforting him.

Then I started to get a bit hot.

Then I felt my knees start to buckle.

Then the nurse commented that I "look pale."

And then I squatted to the floor, willing myself not to pass out and/or throw up.

Not my proudest moment.

At my notable absence, Casey started screaming.  Still squatting, I reached my hand up and held his.  Mommy's here, baby!  You're doing so great!  It's almost over!

Another nurse came in, brought me some apple juice, and took over the securing of his head.  By this point, Casey was pretty much silent and seemed resigned to his fate.  I was amazed at how brave he was, at how still he was.  And so ashamed at the fact that I couldn't be the same.

They offered to let me lay down on the bed next to him for the remainder of the procedure, but I refused to leave his side.  I remained squatted on the floor next to him, clutching his hand, while they finished stitching him up.  I figured it was the least I could do.  Once they were done, I did assume position on a bed, just like Casey.

My precious boy.
He awoke shortly after this picture was taken and was, true to character, once again bouncing off the walls.  The doctor told us that he should be fine, but that we should "take it easy" for the next couple of weeks.  Ha!  We'll see how that goes.

Instead of heading into Manhattan, we ended up heading back home.  We were all exhausted. Except Casey, who didn't seem to notice that anything of any real consequence had happened to him that day.  And I have to say, despite a bloody rag and a swelled up cheek, I think he looks as adorable as ever.

I, on the other hand, am still recovering and trying to forgive myself for how things went down.  I know it's not my fault, I know I couldn't help it, but still . . .   I feel like I should have been stronger. Calmer.   Cooler.  A little more like my little boy.

I have to say though, I now have a healthy respect for men who witness childbirth.  I don't know if I could watch that crap without buckling over.


  1. My husband is a lung transplant doctor who deals with all sorts of gross stuff in his job. Once he told me that his first time in the ER he fainted, which is just unbelievable and comical if you know my husband. He is the most capable, stoic man I (and many people) know. You can't help it, your body takes over and this was your baby. If you could have, you would have managed.

  2. I would have been worse than this! I think you did the best you could given the circumstances. It hurts us more than it hurts them :(

  3. So sorry for your little guy! I live in DC and we just went through more our less the same with our 3 yr old. We have also had multiple trips to the ER over the years so I am curious-where have you gone that has been relatively quick in and out? I am wondering if we should try a new hospital if God forbid there is a next time.

  4. @7:04 - We usually go to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda - they have a pediatric ER which rarely has a wait. :) We've also been to Sibley which has been surprisingly quick.

  5. I hyperventilated and almost passed out during my daughters surgery. I've since decided this is totally normal.


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