Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our first serious injury

At the tender age of five, Ethel has had her first serious injury.  I'm not the kind of mom who calls the doctor at every turn, or worries about every cut or bruise.  My kids are pretty rough and tumble, and have weathered many a scratch and scrape.  Friday's incident, though, was one for the books. 

Friday was a day like any other.  We got up, got dressed, had breakfast, Mommy worked, the kids played, it was a fine day.  It was about the third day of total sunshine in a row, so we were all in pretty good moods.  After lunch, I got the kids settled in for their respective quite times and welcomed a friend who stopped by for a short visit.  Just as we settled in the living room and started to chat, we heard a thud from upstairs, followed quickly by a scream and cry.  Ethel.  Great.  I headed upstairs, figuring I'd find her having tripped, or even having fallen wrong after jumping off a stool in an attempt to fly like a pteranodon.  That's not what I found.

She was braced by her hands over a stool, facing the floor near her window.  Her green stool was beneath her, toppled over, and her wooden stool lay on its side beside her.  She's obviously fallen.  As I approached, I noticed a drop of blood, and as I turned to her I could tell her nose was bleeding.  Nose bleeds aren't uncommon in our house, although these days they're more common for Fred than Ethel.  Needless to say, I wasn't surprised that she'd hit her head on something and caused the bleeder.  I scooped her into my arms and rushed her into the bathroom.  I grabbed a washcloth and helped her hold it to her nose, then I got her seated on the stool she uses when she brushes her teeth.  She told me her head really hurt, and so did her lip.  I focused on the nose bleed and soon realized she'd hit her upper lip in the fall and it was swollen, so I got a washcloth soaked with cold water for her to hold to her face.  Assuming it was the usual nose bleed, I did as we always do and applied pressure on the nose to get it to stop.  She kept saying her head hurt, then she shook and told me the back of her head was stinging, and as I went to rub the back of her head, assuming it was just a goose egg injury, I felt nothing but sticky wetness.  The back of her shirt was covered, sopping, with blood.  This was more serious than I thought.

Thank the heavens for my girlfriend, G, who had come by.  I called her upstairs realizing that I needed some help to stop the bleeding from the nose, and now the back of the head.  It was pouring out, my hand was immediately soaked, and when I looked down at my shirt, my shirt was also blood stained from carrying her into the bathroom.  My poor baby, she was bleeding seriously, and I was starting to lose my focus and my cool.  G held a washcloth to her head and I went down and got a bag of ice, and Ethel was so good.  She cried and cried, but accepted G and her kind, soothing words of comfort.  G was able to look at the wound and saw that it was open, and in her determination as a former medical assistant, it needed to be looked at by a doctor.

Holy hell, what do I do?  I've never been in this kind of situation!  Should I call 911?  With Fred napping, I had a logistic issue on my hands.  In a matter of probably less than two minutes, G said she'd stay at the house, I would take Ethel to the ER, and I called Daddy and told him to come home right away.  While G comforted Ethel and held the washcloths to her head and face, I rushed around and called Daddy, called my neighbor to say I might need her if Daddy can't get home or something, and G was amazing and kept both Ethel and I from going over the edge.

This might be a good time to mention that I don't handle bodliy injuries well.  I really don't handle even the mere mention of an injury all that well.  I remember when I was in 6th grade my father had brain surgery for a leaking aneurysm.  He came home donning railroad tracks across his head.  As we sat on our screened in porch at the house, welcoming well wishers and friends, he discussed and described his 6 week ordeal in the hospital.  All he had to do was talk about what happened, and even though it was a bright sunny day, it suddenly started to get dark.  The ringing in my ears got louder (I have Tinnitus to begin with), and I felt a little tingly.  Same thing happened when I walked into the hospital when we visited him.  Same thing happened when a friend of mine showed me their arm cast after breaking it on the play ground.  Ya, I definitely couldn't be a doctor or a nurse.

So, faced with having to get this done on my own, essentially, fight or flight definitely took over.  I got myself composed and gathered a change of clothes for Ethel, a towel to put behind her head in the car, and loaded us up.  I had to be strong for my little girl, and I had to get her to the hospital to make sure she was OK.  Logically, I knew that G was right, and she would be fine, but a mother always worries.  I gathered my purse, our jackets, and couldn't help but feel that I was imposing on G.  She said she could stay, she said she'd wait for Daddy or a neighbor or whomever came to relieve her.  Still, I felt guilty, and felt so badly that I wasn't more together and had to lean on her calm and her wisdom to handle this.  Why was I letting these thoughts into my head?  Why would I feel guilty about this?  Ugh, my damn mind!!

I got Ethel buckled in, still crying, and I could see the fear in her eyes.  She was afraid, and I didn't blame her, so was I.  I called my mom.  I promised to let her know when we were done.  I drove.  Somehow I didn't let my impatience get the best of me, but almost did when I had to wait to turn left to get to the ER.  Seriously, why does that ambulance driver have to sit there for that long in the turn lane?  Seriously, there were three chances that I counted, just GO!  Anyway, we made our way to the parking garage, then to the ER entrance. 

I found my way to the pediatric ER, where we able to sit to wait our turn.  The nurses at the desk didn't seem phased by the crime scene I was holding in my arms.  I guess you get immune to that kind of thing when you work in that field, but, really, I had a young kid in my arms with blood all over herself.  You couldn't look concerned?  Eventually they called on us and a friendly nurse took Ethel's vitals and applied a numbing gel to the wound.  From there, I just remember the male nurse who walked us into the ER, carrying my purse and the bag with Ethel's clothes, and his nonchalant stride, his casual demeanor, and how nobody that we passed even so much as winced at the sight of my poor little girl covered in blood.  That walk was the longest walk ever.  Holding my little girl in my arms as we were slowly walked into our bay in the ER.  This isn't how it is made to appear on TV or in the movies.  Then again, most of those mothers run into the ER screaming for help, crying not to let their baby die.  Obviously, this siuation is drastically different than the movies in more ways than one.  I guess I was pretty calm on the outside, too, despite the fact that my body was shaking and I felt like I was either going to puke or pass out at any moment. 

Ethel was rather dazed by this time.  We got to our bed, and I sat her down and the friendly nurse showed us the TV, which kept Ethel company throughout our visit.  She was tired, shocked, scared, and hurting.  Poor thing.  Still, she was so brave.  With a huge upper lip and a loose bandada of gauze around her head, she was quite a sight.

We were cared for by a very kind, gentle nurse practitioner named Carrie.  Oddly, Ethel looked like a scene from the movie by that very name, so it was rather fitting.  All joking aside, the nurse talked Ethel through everything she did, from rinsing her hair out, to numbing the area, then finally giving her staples.  Yes, the gash is an inch long and she got four staples to secure the wound.  Oh, my poor baby, she was so scared, but so good.  She laid on the table, I held her foot and leg and she cried.  Her despair lasted no longer than a minute, and Carrie helped her sit upright, and I gave her a great big hug.  I declined the chance to view Carrie's handy work, explaining that I would end up the next patient if they let me look at it.  No way.  I will take her word for it that it is a straight wound, should heal fine.

The doctor soon followed to give us the final check, and she looked at Ethel's swollen lip.  She confirmed that her teeth and gums were intact, albeit a little bruised.  Her frenulum was slightly torn, and there was a nice gash in the lip, but she said that by avoiding acidic or satly foods, and keeping it clean, it would heal up just fine.

Daddy and Luke got to the hospital about an hour after we got there, shortly after Ethel got her staples.  She was resting comfortably on the bed, and we both had frozen popsicles.  Carrie picked up on my paleness, you see.  Apparently, I appeared with it for a while, but soon my body and mind gave in and I knew that if I didn't stay seated I would be laying on that bed before we could say "staples".  I sat and Ethel and I enjoyed our frozen pops together.

With instructions to apply a given ointment to the wound, and to give freezy pops for the swollen lip, we were given the OK to head home.  I collected my still bloody baby from the bed, and we departed for home where I changed her clothes and she played quietly until dinner time.

I am still pretty uneasy, and really can't look at the staples if I don't have to.  I have done so, though, a couple times when I've applied the ointment to them to keep the area from drying out.  I washed her hair Saturday morning, and got it as clean as I could, although the immediate area could still use some work. 

As it turns out, this all happened when Ethel stood on a stool trying to reach a stuffed animal from the toy net that hangs in her room.  The stool fell over, and she fell and hit her head on a wooden stool, and I still haven't pieced together exactly how she fell (in what direction, etc) or what her lip and head actually struck.  Still, I am thankful that she is OK and her injuries weren't worse. 

She is recovering fine, and even upon returning home from the hospital, she was not the slightest bit uneasy about going in her room, seeing the blood stains on the floor, or talking about what happened.  Today, though, she doesn't want to go to school this week and is afraid to eat anything that's not soft, for fear of her lip hurting.  She's a trooper, though.  What a strong kid.  While she's seemingly fine, I am still weak and uneasy at the thought of what happened.  Mostly the idea of the gash in her head, which just makes me queasy. 

We'll go to her doctor on Thursday to get the stitches out.  What a scary experience.  Now we're on the road to recovery.