Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 ~ Day 227
Gratitude for Five Fingers

It's funny how life works when you're an overly protective mother.

You spend all of your time worrying about how you're going to protect your children from natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis) or getting bullied or shot at school by some random misanthrope...

...and then when you're least expecting it Life smacks you with something out of left field that never even registered on the long list of worries.

I woke this morning, much like any other day, a little bit bleary-eyed but relieved because I knew that my eldest son would be at Summer camp all week in the mornings. This is his little brother's last week at summer school, so I've been ardently planning how much work I would get done with both of them out of the house and only one little girl who is easily distracted with crayons and a ream of paper.

In fact, I felt so optimistic about the writing I would do today that I bustled happily around the house giving breakfasts, getting lunches made, helping the boys pick out their clothes and keeping the family on schedule.

Things were going so well that our elder son was already buckled into the back seat of the Pathfinder with his lunch box when I sat down on the couch to log into my work email account. The younger boy just needed to find his socks and get his shoes on, and then Presto! we'd have a quiet and productive house with two little men happily on the way with their Daddy to camp and school.

"I can't find my socks!" called out the little guy, and he went back to his room to search for a matching pair.

Just then, his Daddy came back in to help him get his show on the road.

"Come on, little Man,"
he said - "You can put your socks and shoes on in the car today."

screamed our little boy. "I WANT TO PUT THEM ON HERE!!!"

"We're really running late,"
my husband replied. "Look, I'll help you."


my husband sighed. "Let's go." He picked up my son's lunch box and stepped out the front door, holding our four year old by the hand.

What he didn't realize - until it was too late -

and it makes me feel nauseated just to type this

- was that our son had jammed his other hand into the other side of the open door, the hinged side.

"Bye hon!" my husband called and slammed the door firmly shut.

Suddenly and without warning I heard the most blood curdling scream of my entire life. The door swung back open.

My world swung upside down.

There was my son - treasure of my heart, love of my life, good little man - holding his hand up in the air screaming at the top of his lungs. There was blood spraying all over our living room floor. And there, as I could clearly see from the couch, were the top of his fingers - severed, just holding on with skin but clearly deeply lacerated.

Just typing it makes me feel so, so ill.

I'd better hurry ahead to get to a happier part of the story, because reliving this morning really doesn't help my adrenals (stress glands).

I don't know how I assessed the situation so rapidly but somehow within two minutes I had thrown off my pajamas, thrown on a totally non-matching sweater, pants and shoes, grabbed my purse, keys and cell phone, and googled to find the number of our local urgent care to find out if I should head there or to the local children's hospital emergency room.

Thankfully urgent care answered on the first ring.

"Is it bleeding?" the nurse asked when I described the injury.


"Take him to the emergency room,"
she responded.

"Got it."

My husband, quite shaken, volunteered to take the other children for the day and told him over and over, "I'm so sorry little man. I'm so sorry." Shock and disbelief were written all over his face.

Within 4 minutes of the accident my boy and I were in the truck headed toward the freeway, my buddy strapped in with a towel around his hand and his arm elevated above his heart.

It was just him and me, just the two of us against the world. Just the two of us racing to get him the care he needed to save those precious fingers.

I'm so glad I didn't know the extent of the damage yet because I might not have been able to drive as smoothly to the ER if I'd realized how badly he was cut. Most of it was hidden under the towel. Thank goodness, I knew enough to have him keep it elevated.

I would say it took us 35 minutes from time of injury for him to reach the ER. I realize that would never be enough time to save him from a life-threatening injury so at this point I now know the situations in which we really just need to call an ambulance. Thankfully today wasn't one of those times.

All along our drive I soothed my boy and helped him to try to breathe through his tears. He cried very hard in the car at first and began to turn cold and clammy. I drove faster.

We talked and I told him again and again just how MUCH we love him. I told him I was taking him to the right place, the place where people knew exactly how to care for an owie like his. I told him that we were nearly there.

I told him that God was watching over him. And it was true! There was zero traffic on the road between our home and the hospital. Only one stoplight the entire way.

"God is Love, Mommy."

"That is right, honey. God is Love and Love is here in this car with you right now."

At last we reached the emergency room: a bleeding boy wearing only one sock, his mismatched, unbrushed, unwashed mother struggling to hold his hand AND carry his lunchbox, a purse, a cell phone, his shoes and the car keys. We left our truck with the valet in front of the ER and completely forgot to give the poor guy the keys... he had to come running after us.

Again though, we were so blessed.

There was no other child or family in the waiting room at the ER. We were the only people there. Within moments they ushered us back into a room to take his weight and assess the injury.

Only now did I learn the extent of the damage.

Both nails torn off. A deep laceration on the middle finger. Possible fractures to bones in both fingers.

"Okay." I repeated calmly. "Okay."

Then the doctor began to describe what they would need to do to treat him. An x-ray. A 30 minute surgery. Anesthesia.

My record screeched to a halt.

"Um," I said... and then I firmly denied the general anesthesia.

"Is that actually necessary to sew him back together?"

"No, but we believe in keeping our patients pain free."

"I understand that, but as his mother, I am not going to accept general anesthesia for this. This situation is bad enough without adding additional risk. Is there a way for you to do it without? My kid is very tough, and I'm not comfortable with the risks that come with general anesthesia."

The doctor and nurse consulted - it was pretty clear that I was not budging and they wanted to make sure my boy got fast treatment. "Yes," the doctor said. "There is another way. We can do a digital block or a block of the hand. He will need to be wrapped in 'the papoose' though, he won't be able to move at all."

"Fine, we've had the papoose before and I'm fine with that."

We proceeded to the back room.

From that point forward, everything went seamlessly. X-rays were taken. A fracture in the middle finger, none in the first finger. Should heal on its own in about three weeks, as long as the hand stays splinted.

I lay in the hospital bed holding my bed and cuddling him while they turned on PBS kids for him to watch his favorite cartoons while he waited. After a little while the team of doctors and nurses came in and we carefully wrapped my sweet boy in the papoose, then they gave him an ulnar nerve block until he could no longer feel his fingers.

His big hazel eyes stared deeply into mine and filled with tears when they gave him the numbing medicine but after it was done, he completely relaxed and spent the next thirty minutes watching television and checking my face to make sure that he was okay while the nurse and I bantered about raising children to keep the atmosphere feeling lighthearted and jovial around him.

The ulnar nerve block worked fantastically. He felt nothing at all, and didn't cry or even whimper for the entire surgery. He was the bravest kid I've ever met. At one point in the surgery his doctor said out loud, "I am LOVING this ulnar block right now. This is fantastic!"

The surgery did last for about 30 minutes as they'd said. The doctors irrigated his wound, took off the nails, sewed up his fingers, and then glued his nails back on. (New nails may or may not grow back but frankly... in the grand scheme of things, who cares.)

Finally they wrapped him into a splint and gave him antibiotics. After a lot more waiting, they (darling, angelic women that they were) gave him two toys and a popsicle to thank him for being such a stellar patient.

My husband, who felt absolutely terrible about the entire thing, had followed in the other car after taking our eldest boy to camp. He sat patiently in the waiting room with our two year old daughter during the surgery and then came in to visit our little patient as soon as he was allowed to. His remorse was palpable - the poor guy. He wouldn't hurt a fly on purpose, he's the gentlest soul and the least violent person I know. He adores our kids and would NEVER put them in harm's way intentionally. This was a hard morning for him.

Just as I'd hoped and promised our little boy though, we were on our way home by lunchtime (just after 12pm). The rest of the day has been a swirl of homemade strawberry pancakes, playing with our boy's brand new "Finn McMissile" remote control car, eating burgers, watching Star Wars (while his big brother enjoyed Surf's Up on the laptop) and figuring out how to eat a bowl of chocolate ice cream one-handed.

Not the healthiest menu perhaps, but comfort food was highly necessary for all of us today.

Slowly, slowly, life is setting back to normal.

A few things have changed, obviously. First, no more swimming lessons for now. He isn't even allowed to bathe for at least three days - at least, not that arm. Next, he (a right-handed boy) is learning how to use his left hand for all of his needs. Watching him try to manage a hamburger with his tiny left hand was pretty poignant this evening. He's such a trooper, no matter how many times it dropped he continued to tell us how yummy it tasted to him.

Summer school isn't possible until he's had his wound check with the orthopedic clinic on Wednesday afternoon - and unfortunately Thursday is the last day of school until September. I'm hoping to be able to bring him to the end-of-summer ice cream party.

So unlike the quiet week of writing I'd originally planned, it appears that I will have two little buddies by my side every morning and three in the afternoons. So much for getting work done...

I couldn't be happier though.

When things like this happen you realize so fast just how important some things are, and just how little other things matter. I already knew that my three kids were the most important thing in my world - but seeing my son bleeding all over our house reinforced to me that NOTHING but the well-being of my family is even remotely important to me. Not even my own health or life.

My kid is okay tonight ~ sleeping peacefully, fever-free ~ with five full fingers on his right hand.

For this, I am so humbly and vastly grateful.

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