(WARNING! GRAPHIC PHOTOS!)
It’s St. Patrick’s Day. All around, people are celebrating with parades, green beer and corned beef & cabbage. I’m not Irish, and have no connection to the holiday…if I hadn’t seen it on a friend’s Face Book status today, I’d have forgotten all about.
The date, March 17th, however, has meaning for my family, and for my son in particular.
Two years ago, Ben was finishing up his Spring Break. I had taken a couple of days off to spend with the kids and also to watch my cousin’s girls while Lisa went for her first chemotherapy appointment.
Ben had gone with our neighbor, J, to their family’s nearby church. The church had sponsored a camp during the week, so that kids would have something to do during the time off. Ben had been invited along.
They’d had snacks and each kid had a bottle of Coca-Cola. A glass bottle.
Like thirteen year old boys will do, Ben & J were horsing around outside. As they ran, chasing each other, Ben tripped over a raised section of concrete. He dropped the bottle, and put his hands out to break his fall. The glass bottle shattered and Ben fell on top of the shards of glass.
Instantly, J called the youth pastor and one of the church volunteers. Fortunately, the volunteer was a nurse. She immediately grabbed their first aid kit and put pressure on Ben’s wrist.
The pastor got our home number and called Dave, just as Dave was coming in from working in the yard. Dave told the pastor to go straight to the nearby hospital and that he’d call me. We’d meet them there.
Dave called and told me very little…only that Ben had been hurt and that we needed to get to the ER right away. As I said the first time that I wrote about this, I am really amazed that I didn’t get a speeding ticket. I drove like a madwoman, and got the hospital parking lot right behind Dave.
Ben, J and the pastor were getting checked in, and Ben was calm. I couldn’t see much, as the nurse from the church had lightly wrapped gauze around Ben’s lower arm.
Once they called Ben’s name, I went back into the inner sanctum of the ER, only to find that every available area was full of the sick and the injured. We live on the edge of Sun City and most of the people there were senior citizens, many who appeared to be suffering from the effects of St. Patty’s Day celebrations and the brown bottle flu.
We sat for approximately two hours before we were escorted to a curtained cubicle. The nurse assigned to us carefully unwrapped Ben’s arm and when I got my first look, my stomach dropped. The glass had cut one ghastly slice diagonally across his wrist and another across the base of his thumb.
They needed to explore the wounds and clean them out first, to make sure that there was no glass inside the cuts. A doctor looked at everything carefully and instructed the nurse to get some x-rays of the hand and wrist, then flush everything out and put some numbing shots into the hand.
I sat to Ben’s left, keeping up a steady stream of conversation, trying to distract him. I let him hold my hand and told him to squeeze as hard as he needed. The nurse began by gently swabbing around the wounds, trying to get the bigger pieces of gravel embedded in his palm out. When he moved to the cuts, Ben never made a peep. He just squeezed my hand and gritted his teeth. Tears fell silently out of the corners of his eyes, but he stayed silent.
Throughout the ordeal, I talked to Dave, to Isabel and to my mother. My mother could tell how close I was to hysteria, just by the register of my voice. She offered to come to the hospital, to be with us; but, I let her know that only one person was allowed back in the ER at a time, and that I wasn’t leaving. Even Dave was stuck out in the waiting room, anxiously pacing the floor.
Once the cuts had been cleaned, the nurse summoned the doctor. They put shots into three parts of Ben’s hand, and then the doctor began stitching. In the end, there were eleven big stitches holding the hand together. That hardly sounds like much,especially when you see what those thin threads were responsible for:
The doctor showed us the x-rays and said that nerves across the base of the thumb had been cut. He couldn’t say for sure how that would affect the hand, or whether there was any permanent damage. He just knew that Ben was extremely fortunate that no major arteries had been cut. It could have been MUCH worse.
Aside from the pain, Ben was upset that he wouldn’t be able to play football with his league team. They’d only had one game so far in the spring season and he’d been looking forward to a good season.
We were finally released, and we made our way out to the waiting room where J and Dave were waiting. Dave said that he’d take the boys to McDonald’s to get some dinner while I went to the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions we’d been given for pain medication.
Now that Ben was out of earshot, I could finally react. When I could catch my breath, I called my mother one more time. I let her know that we were all on our way home. Something about my mother’s voice is a trigger for me. The sound of her sympathetic voice unlocked the reaction that I’d been keeping so tightly wrapped all afternoon and evening. Suddenly, I was crying so hard that I could barely get the car key into the ignition. I cried and cried for my baby boy, for how brave he’d been and for the trauma of the whole experience. I cried with gratitude that he would be okay, that a nurse had been there when it happened and that we lived so close to a hospital.
I was finally able to get to the pharmacy and get the prescriptions filled. When I got home, Ben was recounting the whole thing to J’s family as they stood in the front yard. His arm was starting to lose the numbness from the anesthetic; but, he was in relatively good spirits.
Over the next few weeks, I got very good at changing the dressing and making sure that his split was properly wrapped. When he finally got the stitches out and could start moving his thumb, we were extremely relieved.
Ben went to every practice and game with his team, standing with the coaches and cheering his team on. When football season started up again in the fall, Ben was healed up and ready to play. We kept a brace on his wrist, as a precaution.
These days, exactly half of Ben’s hand is numb. The numbness goes right down the center of his middle finger. He doesn’t have the range of motion in his right thumb that he does with his left, but it hasn’t impaired him with football or in trying shot put and discus this year. He does have to be careful to make sure that he doesn’t pick up very hot or very cold things, since he can’t register temperature or pain in his thumb, first finger or half of the middle finger.
The scars have faded, though they are still visible. Every time we look at them, my stomach flops over as I remember that awful evening in the ER. From that day, Ben has voluntarily sworn off of sodas and won’t even consider a beverage in a glass bottle.