Welp, we at the Hartley house had a hell of a weekend. Three days of hard labor, topped off with a little terror and a trip to the hospital.
After 2.5 years of having a child in the house, our “stuff” has exceeded our capacity. We can’t throw anything out, you see, because we’re going to need it for the next child, but in the meantime, we need more “stuff” for the current child, and have nowhere to put it. We could get rid of some of our older “stuff”, but that means spending months we don’t have sorting it all, to decide what to get rid of. As a stopgap measure, the decision was made to erect an 80 square foot storage building in the yard to house the “temporary” overflow. I believe this means we have officially become a Typical American Family ™.
Pursuant to this plan of action, the Hartley clan spent the long weekend assembling the aforementioned shed, a Home Depot monstrosity comprised of several hundred parts and tens of thousands of fasteners (hyperbole only just barely required for this description), all of it primarily composed of sheets of incredibly thin, sharp sheets of metal. The work was endless, thankless, frustrating, hand-slicing (yes, we had gloves), and supremely boring to a two-year-old, who vacillated between “helping” by moving things that were needed to places that were unexpected and hindering by producing an astonishingly productivity-hampering stream of sundry noises, questions, demands, leg-entanglements, and outright bawling!
By day three, we asked one of Dashiell’s babysitters to come and take him off our hands for a few hours, providing us the time and peace we needed to finish off the job. This seemed like a smart move at the time. However, after cajoling said babysitter into bringing him back outside to play, the boy managed to work himself into a playtime frenzy that involved darting recklessly from place to place while chasing a ball.
Needless to say, one of these dashes (no pun intended) led directly through our construction site, into the now 90% completed shed, over the eminently toddler-tripping door-track, and via an all-out power-dive into the unfinished rear-wall floor frame, which as previously mentioned is composed of diamond-edged sheets of doom-metal. As might be expected, much of this observation was realized by the adults present long after the fact. What we actually experienced at the time was a brief blur of motion accompanied by a crash and followed by shrieks of pain and abject terror. This was, by far, the most terrifying moment of my life as a parent thus far.
I immediately jumped down from a ladder and scooped him up, bringing him to Momma for examimation. On initial inspection, he had a welt on his forehead from where he had slammed his face into the wall, but seemed otherwise unharmed. As I have learned, however, Dashiell is quite capable now of telling us what may be wrong with him, so I asked him to “show me the boo-boo”, upon which he help up his clenched hand, opened it, and provided me with a new most terrifying moment of my life as a parent thus far. For lack of better description, as the hand opened, blood tumbled out of it, as though he were holding a cup that he had tipped too far and was spilling all over us. In a split second, I was drenched with it, and galvanized by the terror I saw in his mother’s eyes.
In less than a second, as near as I can tell, Daddy had clamped down on the hand to staunch the flow while Mommy had snatched up the boy. Thus entangled, we ran for the house, climbed a flight of stairs, dodged toys and babygates, and got to the kitchen, where the bright lights and first aid supplies live. The first thing we found was that the direct pressure was, in fact, preventing more bleeding, which downgraded the terror alert from “someone could die” to “OK, take a breath and get a look at it”.
What we saw, in the brief moment I removed pressure and replaced my hand with a wad of paper towels, was a half-inch long gash in the inside of the primary joint of our boy’s right pinky. It was deep; Deep enough I began to worry the tendons might have been cut (I’m not a doctor, but it happened to me when I was eight, so I have some experience). I managed to get him to flex his hand, proving there was no fully severed tendon, but the screaming that followed did little to allay our fears!
Now less panicked, we cleaned up a bit and drove directly to urgent care. This turned out to be a mistake. After spending fifteen minutes driving the wrong way (we discovered) to our doctors’ urgent care facility, and another fifteen answering questions that could as easily have been answered during or after an examination, in an act that has me seriously considering the need for a change in family doctors, a nurse told us, “Oh, well, if it’s a cut that might require stitches, we can’t do that. You should go to the emergency room…” The nearest emergency room, of course, was ten minutes from the house in the opposite direction from urgent care.
And so began our little slice of hell, wherein an hour and a half from the original accident, we began the waiting…
We actually got in and examined rather quickly. The PA determined that in fact the tendon was undamaged and that sutures would be utterly traumatic, and thus unnecessary for such a young child, so she stuck him back together with super-glue. We were told to wait right there (on a gurney in a hallway, since they had no beds available) for a nurse to come and put a protective bandage over the hand to prevent picking etc.
Two hours later, I found myself begging a random nurse to find it in her heart to finish up my child’s treatment, if for no other reason than so that we could stop covering his ears to protect him from the terrified crying and moans from nearby beds. Just as I finished this request, the woman in the bed parked next to us in the hallway stopped breathing and was whisked away to the “crash cart”, while my son tried to look around us to see what the commotion was all about.
I should perhaps point out at this point that both my wife and I lost our mothers to terrible diseases that involved years-long hospital stays while we were still in college, and have rather raw feelings about hospitals in general, and specifically about this particular hospital, where my father passed from cancer six weeks before our son was born there. We were both absolute emotional wrecks at this point, our now perfectly happy and curious son actively trying to determine what was wrong with Momma’s eyes.
I was literally moments from beginning a furious tirade at the nurses’ station (one which would obviously have been misplaced, but try telling that to caveman-daddy-brain), when a nurse bustled up to us with copious apologies, wrapped the bandage, and gave us our discharge papers.
We went to McDonald’s for dinner. Dashiell chose. Incomprehensibly enough, it went a long way toward making everything better. Also, he is now addicted to pencil-top trolls, a fad I had assumed died somewhere in the early nineties!
As a side note, our son was little affected by this whole thing. By the time we were at the “hopipal”, he had decided he needed no help holding the paper towel clenched in his hand, and was happily running around the waiting room asking for snacks and climbing things. He charmed every person he met, and although in clear pain, only even cried during treatment when the saline syringe they used to irrigate the wound first opened its seal, spraying out with a pop that startled him.
We got him home, put him happily to bed, curled up together, and cried and shook far more than he had.
This morning, when I woke him up, he asked me if we could go back the the doctor, because he wanted a matching bandage for his other hand. When I told him he didn’t need to go back to the doctor, he asked if we could go to a different doctor then. I love my boy…