My eight-year-old’s eyes open and he mutters something.
I lean in, past the I.V. “What?”
“Four eyes,” he whispers.
“I have four eyes?”
“Weird,” he says, and then his eyes flutter shut and he immediately starts snoring. Only to wake again, moments later, to puzzle over my second head.
We were in the ER last night–once again on a Sunday–only this time I drove, and it was my fifth child in the back, clutching a bloody towel around a wound I didn’t have the stomach to examine. I told him to hold it under running water for a minute and his big brother helped him apply pressure.
After which I led him up the stairs to have his father look at it.
Because I could not.
I used to work at Lethbridge Regional Medical when I was fifteen years old. I watched things like the washing out of a gangrenous sore the size of a cantaloupe on an old man’s leg—wounds that were open to the bone. I found eye surgery fascinating.
My kids know better than to show me their paper cuts and finger wounds.
Ridiculous. How can just thinking about the cut on my son’s finger send me into world spinning nausea and a cold sweat, no matter how determined I am to not think about it?
I didn’t even look at the kid, and I still didn’t think I was going to make it out to the van. I made him hide his hands under a towel while I fastened his seatbelt. I guzzled Gatorade in the waiting room. When the PA said they were going to do a digital block I asked for a garbage can.
I watched my six-year-old’s face when they put three blocks in his big toe a few years ago and it was the most horrifying expression I’ve ever seen—a child that age should not know there is that kind of pain in the world. (Jab a big old needle into one of your digits, now "fan" it one way–without taking it out, and then lift it a little and rotate the thing 180 degrees or so the other way. Repeat several times.) And that son was/is tough.
This kid is my tender-heart. If it was any other kid I’d probably just have them cram the needle in, wiggle it around, and get the job done.
“Can’t you glue it?” I ask the PA.
“It’s really deep. I’m surprised he didn’t sever the tendon.”
“If it’s just cosmetic, I’m okay with a scar,” I say.
I’m keeping things light, talking code words for needles and stitches with the PA. The nurse is a forty-something male with long hair and an enormous belly. He’s talking stitches like we’re on a football field with an 18 year old quarterback. Like it’s all fun and games. My son begins hyperventilating on the table. I actually think the nurse wants to punch him. Or me..
Fortunately, the PA (much to redneck nurse's chagrin) gives us the option of using some sort of conscious sedation.
Meaning the kid’s eyes are open, but his brain is chemically separated from his brain stem. He doesn’t feel anything, and he doesn’t remember much. And he thinks I have four eyes.
We’re in the ER until midnight. I have no idea how many stitches he has, but it took the PA a good half hour to put them all in.
Is there such a thing as behavior modification therapy for cowardice? Do you think I could overcome it with enough exposure? In a real emergency, would my survival instincts take over?
I am so not cut out to be the mother of sons.