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Monday, March 17, 2008

Real Life ER.

Just like the television show, without George Clooney, of course. As the mother of three boys, it's shocking I haven't been there more often, really. That might be because when our emergency room co-pay went up from fifty to a hundred dollars, I told the kids they were allowed one freebie but after that, they'd have to pay. A hundred dollars is a lot of money, yo.

I was relaxing on my bed doing Sudoku puzzles yesterday when Baby J woke up from his nap. At the same moment, O. came inside with our neighbor, an eighth grader who's kind enough to shoot hoops with the kids. The neighbor had his hand pressed to the back of O's head. In the understatement of the year, my sweet son said, with no dramatic inflection, "I'm bleeding, Mom."

"Let me see," I said, expecting a little scratch I could patch with a Band-Aid and a kiss.

The neighbor lowered his hand and...AAAAAGGGHHHH!!!! Blood, literally, poured from my child's head. I freaked. In a very calm and sophisticated way, of course. I grabbed a towel for O. to press against the back of his head so his brain wouldn't fall out, told the neighbor he was keeping the little kids and ran out the door to go to the hospital. I called 911 in the car to inform whoever wanted to know that I would be driving through town, wildly honking my horn and carefully running red lights. And speeding. All of this was thrilling to O., who knows me as a decidedly un-NASCARish driver. The 911 operator wasn't very interested and told me I could pull over and wait for an ambulance. I was halfway to the hospital by then, so I hung up on him. I didn't get pulled. I didn't even see a cop. Why does that only happen when you're breaking the law for a good reason?

We got to the hospital in record time. I am such a good mother that I didn't even take the time to explain how to drive my beloved hybrid car to the valet. The other people in the waiting room got out of their seats to stare,
à la Appalachian Emergency Room. The receptionist didn't seem too alarmed, which made me feel better. She was more shocked by the fact that I volunteered a copy of my insurance card and my debit card than she was by the blood streaming from my son's head.

I felt very proud of myself by the time we went back to be seen. It's rare that I'm the sort of mom who's organized and on top of things, but the receptionist made me feel so clever for having my insurance card and being able to pay. Gold Star!

Then the nurse came in and looked at me with pity while I tried really hard to answer all her complicated questions. I got the feeling these were things other mothers knew, or at least had written down somewhere.

"When was his last tetanus shot?"

"Ummm...whenever it was supposed to be?" She decided to throw me an easy one.

"Does he have a regular pediatrician?"

"Yes!" I glowed with pride, sure my answer was correct.

"And who is that?"

Bingo! Another easy one! I even knew her first and last name*.

"Are you employed?"

"No, well yes,, no?"

I teach Pilates once or twice a week. That doesn't seem like a job compared to "nurse," "doctor," or "receptionist." I'm going to start saying "writer." Given my apparent ditziness, I'm sure she wasn't surprised to learn I was unemployed.

"And where did all these come from?"

This was directed at O., who I suddenly noticed had bruises and cuts all over his legs. One by one, he explained them. Some were from football, some from soccer, one from skateboarding and, oddly, "this one is from people kicking me in the ankle." I'll have to ask him about that one. I'm glad they didn't ask me that question, because I had no idea.

"When is the last time your son washed his hair or took a bath? And why are his clothes so dirty?"

Actually, she didn't ask me that, and I'm glad, because I wouldn't have known the answer. He looked fine before we left the house, but looked pretty filthy under the harsh lights of the ER. I also noticed he had yellow paint in his hair, which must have been there for a while, because it looked familiar. When we were alone, I asked how long it had been there. Since January. I'm really glad they didn't ask about the yellow paint and I promise to be more vigilant about his hairwashing habits.

After all those questions and my woefully inadequate answers, I was embarrassed to ask if I could leave him and go to my Yoga class. I missed it, but I did get to go to the gym later. I know you're all relieved to hear that!

And, oh yeah, the patient is doing just fine. All in all, it was a pleasant experience and I know he was looking forward to telling his friends about it (and showing off the stitches), because he couldn't wait to get to school this morning. He was disappointed all the blood came out of his shirt. The people in the ER were so nice**. They even gave us a suture removal kit so we could beg my brother-in-law, a gastroenterologist, to take the stitches out rather than going back to the ER. He'll probably ask what he always asks when people want medical advice,

"Um...I'm not sure I can help. Exactly how far is that from the bottom?"

Ha ha. I hope he'll do it, although I would like to go back to the ER, dressed nicer and with a cleaner child, to prove I'm not a complete flake. Maybe next time...

Namasté, y'all!

* Shameful admission: When I went to the hospital to have Baby J, I gave her name as Dr. "First Name of a Dermatologist I Saw One Time, Five Years Ago" "Correct Last Name." I won't make that mistake again!

** As an aside, we make some alternative health choices. I know a lot of people who make those choices have had bad experiences with doctors, but I want to say that we never have. I know they don't agree with the choices, but they've always been respectful. Advice: If you make weird choices, but are confident (not defensive!) about them, no one will question you. And if you aren't confident about your choices, why on earth did you make them?


Lizzie said...

Even I noticed the yellow paint - more than a month ago. But you are still a pretty good mom and it's not like it was a face tattoo that had escaped your notice.

Tracee said...

Oh gosh you crack me up!! When I force my kids to cut their nails, I calmly explain it's just so other mom's will not think i neglect them, even though we can know i do and i don't care how long your nails get. hehe. And I, shame on me, actually went to my yoga class after my then 4 year old conked his head on a wall corner at then 7 year old's tae kwon do class. Came out of yoga, straight to the urgent care center, where dh had taken him shortly after i fled the scene. just for the record, i really didn't think it was that bad, but the doctors disagreed and put two staples in my poor guys head. ugh!