Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Baby Bird’s Broken Wing (OR, How My Kid Stayed Out of the ER for 16 Years)


I gotta say, I’ve been immensely blessed that in the 12 to 16 years that my boys have graced this earth, we have had ZERO trips to the ER. None. Nada.

That in itself is miraculous, given that between the two of them they’ve played, at some point in their lives, pretty much every sport imaginable.  (However, the youngest aspires to be both a football player and a pole vaulter in the next year, so our odds may not be so much in our favor anymore.)

Now there have been trips to the prompt care, which I don’t consider quite the same thing. Flu, minor sprains, and a yogurt-covered raisin up the nose (did you know those little buggers expand when stuffed up a little tunnel of moisture?) are nothing compared to realizing in that split second that you may in fact be headed to the ER instead of the PC.

This is a longboard. Longer than a
skateboard. That's why it's called
a longboard.

Scene: I’ve changed into a stained t-shirt sporting a questionable saying and I’m spray painting my patio furniture black, as evidenced by my black nails, spots of black paint on my face and the fine black mist covering most of my lower torso. It’s about 8:45 Saturday night, and my younger son runs out and hands me the phone. “Brendan needs you to come get him,” he says breathlessly. “He crashed on his longboard.”

OK, I’ll admit. I didn’t panic. Number one, he was calling me himself. Number two, I’m a mean mom. I’m not gonna lie, the first thing I thought was that he was tired and didn’t want to longboard home. Yes, I was from the generation of moms who, when you bled, told you not to stain the carpet. But after hearing the pain in his voice and words like “can’t move shoulder,” coupled  by where he was at the bottom of a barricaded hill, I knew it couldn’t be good. 

I ran out of the house, jumped in the car, and sped about a mile down the road to the first barricade. His longboarder friend met me and reported that he was on the OTHER end of the closed road, to which I should have gotten back in my car and driven the three to four miles around to get to. But I didn’t. I really wanted to get to my boy. So I ran.

Now, I run – slowly and occasionally – but I’m pretty sure I set a new record for myself – at least in the “freaked out mom in stained inappropriate t-shirt wearing pink flip flops” category. Huffing and puffing, mentally patting myself on the back for not wiping out in said flip flops, I assessed my son’s injuries and determined that yes, this did not fit into the yogurt-covered-raisin-up-the-nose category and we were embarking on our first official trip to the ER. 

A few of his fellow longboarders sheepishly stayed with him as I ran back to the car and drove around to the other side of the closed road where he lay, shirtless, getting bitten by mosquitos and trying very, very hard not to cry. When we were finally on our way every bump made him cry out in agony, and I became a drunken driver of sorts, swerving around potholes while repeating, “Sorry. Sorry. Almost there, almost there.” Finally he said, “Mom. I don’t mean to be a jerk, but please just STOP TALKING.”

When we arrived at the ER, I guess I was expecting doctors to rush out with a stretcher or at least a wheelchair. Instead, a security guard watched us walk through the doors and said, “Can I help you?” I wanted to smack him and say, “Yes, we’d like a table for two by the window” but I thought that might not go over well, and my son was in no mood. He ushered him to a chair next to a desk, with me standing awkwardly behind him, then a surly looking nurse started asking him questions. 

HIM! Not me! I kept trying to interject but he was answering all of them. What am I, just his driver? I’m his MOTHER!!! Oh, right. He’s 16 now. They ask him. Plus they have to go through that whole “do you feel safe in your own home” rigmarole and find out what “allegedly” happened to his shoulder, blah, blah. Fine. I’ll just stand here in my stained, inappropriate t-shirt and misty black legs and keep quiet. I was still out of breath from running anyway. 

That's gotta hurt -
road rash and some good swelling.
Once we got into an ER bay and the doc arrived (looking very tan and around 12 years old,) my son proceeded to tell him what was wrong and where NOT to push. At one point he stopped the doc and said, “Wait, wait wait. Here’s the deal. That hurts. Don’t touch it.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you shelter your kids from ER visits until they’re 16. 

X-rays revealed what we pretty much suspected – a fractured clavicle. I could say “broken collarbone” but I like to say “fractured clavicle.” Say it. It’s fun. Fractured clavicle. Say it five times fast. Fractured clavicle. Fractured clavicle. Fravled clac… see. It’s hard, isn’t it? 

I asked to see the x-rays, but Doogie didn’t show me. Not that I disbelieved him, but since he was so tan and so 12, I felt the need, as a mother, to approve his diagnosis.

The nurse came in and proceeded to tell me how to clean my son’s road rash when we got home. “Ummmmmmmm……..,” I said slowly, mustering up every ounce of prissiness I could while wearing a stained, inappropriate t-shirt, “since he’s HERE, and he’s really not a very good PATIENT, and he’s kind of SENSITIVE to PAIN, do you think you could MAYBE do that for me?” In my head I’m thinking, “It’s 10:30 on a Saturday night. We’re the only ones in here. In the ER. Where you fix people. I do NOT want to go home and deal with this.”

She reluctantly agreed (what the hell?) and dutifully sprayed and patted and scrubbed and blotted despite my son’s pitiful screams and grunts of pain, all while telling him if he didn't take care of them and they got infected and she saw him back here she was going to clean them with steel wool. I suspect she had boys of her own at home. All I could think was, “Hey, nurse lady, better you than me.” 

You'll fly again soon, son.
After bandaging him up, doling out some pain meds (she refused to give ME any) and applying a sling to his broken wing – because you can’t do anything else for a fractured clavicle other than hold your arm in an L-shape for a few weeks, we were on our way - bruised, battered, and completely exhausted - and so was he.

The hardest part of all of this – apart from what my poor kid went through – was that he didn’t want his momma. Well, maybe he did, but not in the way he used to. He didn’t want me to comfort him, or cuddle him, or tell him it was going to be OK. In fact, he basically told me to stop talking and leave him alone. Too proud to cry so I couldn’t kiss away his tears, too old to need the snuggles he used to crave when he was fevered and coughing, too tall at 6’2” to pick him up and carry him to bed. So I did what any mom of a 16 year old boy would do – I made him a pizza at midnight, took it into his room with a bottle of Gatorade, handed him his iPhone and turned off his light. I left my door open and the hall light on in case he needed me for anything. Just in case. 

It’s going to be a few weeks before he can move that arm – and probably a few months or more before he’s longboarding again – which is fine with me. It’s going to take at least that much time for me to recover from the whole experience. But I’m thankful that we’ve gone this long without a trip to the ER – I know families who seem to be on a first-name basis with the doctors on call there.  After my stunning debut there the other night, I’m considering keeping a change of clothes in my car – and maybe an extra pair of running shoes.

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