It’s funny the things that go through your mind when you are sitting in an emergency room once the crisis is over. I think that’s when instinct ends, and reality hits. For as the parent in charge, it never occurred to me the seriousness of the situation, and mom mode just took over. Calm. Cool. Collected. Everything’s fine, just be calm….for her. Hold her hair back while she vomits, rub her back as she cries, smooth her hair as she panics. Be the one in charge as she looks at you with big, scared eyes.
I spent many hours of last night in the emergency room with my daughter. And it was only when she was sleeping in the hospital bed and I was left alone with my thoughts that I was finally able to get off my heightened sense of mom mode and sink into my chair over all that could have gone wrong.
Sunday night is bath night in our house. Time to get ready for the beginning of the school week. Summer was in the shower, I was folding freshly laundered towels, Lucas was playing with his millions of Legos, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and new pictures of Sonic the Hedgehog I had just printed out for him off the Internet. America’s Funniest Home Videos was on the TV, mostly for background noise, as both of us were too busy to watch. And as Lucas was talking to me about something or other, I heard a loud bang from the bathroom. I hushed Lucas and listened. And then I heard the unmistakable cry from my daughter.
There are many different sounds of crying that come from your child. There’s the one when they’re heartbroken. There’s the one when they’re angry. There’s the one when life is unfair, and they can’t have their way. There’s the one when their younger brother is just too much to handle. And then there was the one that came from the bathroom. Scared.
I ran into the bathroom and whipped open the shower door. There stood my daughter, blood on her wrist, a panicked look in her eyes. I didn’t even take a moment to be scared with her. I asked her what happened and she told me she had fallen and hit her head. A quick check to her head revealed an extremely large lump in the back. The blood ended up being a small cut on her wrist, nothing serious. But the lump was huge. I gently moved her back under the running water and finished washing her hair with as much care as I could not to irritate the growing lump. I then dried her off with a towel still warm from the dryer, and wrapped her up in her robe. She was crying the whole time, her body red from where the shower had beat her up.
It was supposed to be bed time, but I told her she was staying up with me. I made tea for all three of us and we sat to watch a Disney movie. In between crying from her aching head, she complained of not being able to see out of one of her eyes. I mentally took note, but to her I just told her she would be ok and to just not mess with it. She leaned into me on the couch, only drinking her tea to get down the pain medication I supplied her with. After 45 minutes, I determined that it was bedtime, and she would be ok. I figured I would check on her every couple hours, but her apparent exhaustion was needing to be relieved by some sleep. Of course, sleep petrified her. I could hear her crying in the bedroom, and I kept the TV low so I could run to her if she started to throw up.
Somehow I knew that this would be the order of things. Or maybe because this wasn’t the first time she had hit her head so hard that a concussion was suspected.
Sure enough, I heard her cry again, and I was already running for a pan when she called out that she thought she might be sick. I held her hair back as she vomited repeatedly in the bowl. Yup, it was time for the emergency room.
My parents came home from their day out at about the same time I had made this assessment. I had just gotten her dressed into some warmer clothes. Lucas was already asleep in bed, oblivious to the bright bedroom light or the panic in his sister. I took turns in getting everything together for the hospital, and holding back her hair and rubbing her back as she threw up. I left Lucas with my parents and drove cautiously to the hospital as she continued throwing up.
The emergency room can be a nervewracking place to be at night. Well, really at any time. My mind was still not focused on the seriousness of the situation, but wandered to what we might encounter. Many years ago, when I had driven myself to the emergency room right before I had found out that my third baby had died inside me, I had been in the same state. I never focused on me. Rather, I saw the seriousness of those around me. One in particular was a mother calmly holding her child who lay still in her arms, apparently unable to wake up. That scared me. And as I entered the ER with my own daughter, I wondered what sort of horrors I would see. This time, with my daughter weakly leaning against me, I saw a shaking young teenager holding a bloody towel to his head, blood spattered all over his pants. And several Spanish families sat in the waiting room chairs. One Spanish man smiled sympathetically at my daughter and me, and offered us the chairs next to him. I gingerly sat down, Summer leaned up against me. I put my hand on her leg and gently pet her, hoping that the bloody boy didn’t frighten her too much.
Eventually I was at the window filling out the paperwork. Halfway through, Summer began to throw up again. By this time, there was nothing left in her stomach, and I felt for her as I saw her painfully lurching forward. I left the lady at the counter and sat with her, encouraging her as she continued to gag. The seriousness of it caught the personnel’s eye, and they whisked us right away to a room all too familiar to our accident prone family.
Of course, the ER is never a quick process. We spent about an hour in this waiting room getting her stats taken. They had trouble taking her blood pressure, and the poor girl had to go through repeated attempts of squeezing her arm right off from a faulty blood pressure cuff. Her temperature was rather low and her body trembled from the shock kicking in. They wrapped her in warm blankets and gave her a teddy bear that she hug tightly as if she were 5 and not 9. Finally, they gave her some medicine to help ease the urge to vomit, though she still lurched repeatedly with every movement she was forced to make.
Even more time taken, we finally got her over to get a CT Scan. She heaved a couple more times before we could place her on the bed, and I was made to stand outside while she had her brain scanned. The first time we ever did this, the man had allowed me to remain in the room, monitoring her from a glass room that viewed where she was at. This time, a lady was at the controls, and I was placed outside the room with no view but a heavy wood door.
I think this is when I first started to get out of mom mode and into the reality of, “what if things went wrong?”
My fears turned to my daughter, how she would feel alone in that room without her mom. Would she want to vomit again? Was she safe without me watching her? What if the CT scan revealed something awful? I think that last thought crept into my head for the first time at that point, never having entered my head before since the time shen I heard the bang in the bathroom. Suddenly I realized that she really could have a concussion, and what did that mean if she did? And worse, a thought that never occurred to me until now, what if she had cracked her skull on that hard tile?
Her CT scan was done, and I rushed back to her side. She still was nauseous, and throughout the wait for a transporter to bring us back to her room, she vomited several more times. We then spent the next several hours in the recovery room. I turned out the lights and gently prompted her to sleep, which really didn’t need much prompting. I then sat back in a rocking chair in the room and rocked.
And this is when the mind starts to wander. We had already been there for an hour and a half. It was just after midnight. We would be there for several more hours. Idared not leave the room to be able to call my folks about the process. I didn’t want to leave her. Besides, a security guard sat outside monitoring an inmate, or some kid on house arrest, and I didn’t trust the situation at all. Thoughts of what ifs and oh my god filled my mind. Thoughts that pertained to the situation at hand, and what if that crazy guy across the hall snapped?
I also had plenty of time to think about my life at hand. For once there was no distractions from people, electronics, cell phones, computers. There was just me. And while that was terrifying, it was also necessary. And I wryly smiled as I realized that God had granted me a recent prayer of mine in his own way.
The one thought that stuck with me was the miracle of hospitals. Here was this place that many different people came to when they were in trouble. These nurses and doctors knew the many different ways to treat these people. If I were to put it in crude terms, it was like an auto shop, each person coming in for repairs. But it was so much more complex than that. Here were people that were not made by people, but created by God. But these doctors and nurses had become so skilled at assessing the different ways to fix the ails of people, and this was apparent by each different need I saw addressed by person after person wheeled by the door to our room. One lady was whisked by with an IV in her arm. The bleeding boy was rolled to his own CT scan. Doctors and nurses remained calm and humorous with each other in between being serious and dedicated to those who needed them. I thought about what it must have been like hundreds of years before, versus the knowledge we have now about the human body.
And still, I was reminded of the connection we all share as mankind, and the opportunities we have to strengthen that connection as these doctors and nurses were doing by aiding those that needed them.
It was almost 3 am before I got the word on how Summer was doing. The CT scan turned out negative for any damage to her brain or skull. The only concern was the hematoma, that could just be reduced by icing it. The doctor checked her reflexes, I filled out more paperwork, and we were finally on our way. I drove slow to avoid hitting the many daredevil deer, raccoons, and rabbits on the way, still narrowly missing a rabbit who jumped in the way. Summer was wide awake, and we chatted about her hard day, a day that didn’t start with the fall (but that’s a whole other story). I tucked her into bed, and finally collapsed myself, only to get up 3 1/2 hours later to get my son off to school.
This wasn’t our first trip to the emergency room. I’m willing to bet it won’t be our last. Summer’s fine, her head aches a little, she won’t eat yet, but she’s up and watching a movie after sleeping in briefly. I think I’m headed for a nap myself after a long night.