Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday in the ER

I took my son to a birthday party at a bowling alley. The kids were doing their bad bowling with the bumpers up, and I threw a couple balls myself. We were just waiting for the party to get started. Kirk was having fun bowling and just being a kid. I talked briefly to a couple of the other parents, but I had my eye on the bar. It didn’t seem to be open yet, but I was wondering how soon I could get myself one of those Millers Lites.

I was considering leaving for a while. I could sneak out and do some shopping or something and come back after all the cake was eaten. But it was a Saturday afternoon, and I was a bit hungover, and in no hurry to do much of anything. There was a college football game on one of the TVs and I had just started to get into that. The Gophers were playing a team with an N. That was as much as I knew. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the other team, they were the enemy, and they were winning. So there I was, a dad at a birthday party, in a bowling alley, watching college football and cringing every time the N team made another first down, when suddenly my little boy came running up to me crying.

As a parent this happens all the time. Kids come running up crying. Usually it amounts to nothing. Sometimes it takes a boo boo kiss, or just a little holding. He was pointing at his butt and I figured he had fallen after throwing the bowling ball badly. I was at a low level of concern, because this seemed like a quick fix, until he turned around and showed me the real problem.

There was a 5-inch piece of wood, a splinter hanging from his bottom. It was poking into his pants. I didn’t know what to think. I simply pulled on it and it came out in my hands. I looked at it, and I realized things might be bad. I figured he had scooted on the floor and a piece of wood had splintered and stabbed his bottom, but I couldn’t se how badly it had poked him. I was sure it had broken the skin a little, but I needed to check it out more. I rushed him to the men’s room, stood him on the sink, and pulled his pants down. I saw underneath the stall that a dude was pooping in there. Kirk was screaming. I was trying to calm him while I pulled down his underwear and looked at his butt. I saw immediately that there was about 4 inches of splintered wood buried deep into the flesh of his buttock.

The pooper flushed and walked past us. Kirk was screaming as I tried to get a hold of the splinter, thinking I could pull it out. The decision came upon me suddenly. It was time to go to the hospital. Quickly.

I grabbed him in my arms and rushed back to the party. People there were in shock as I said, “We’re going to the hospital, now!”

I had to take off my bowling shoes and put my street shoes back on. I yanked Kirks bowling shoes off and grabbed his coat and shoes and went straight to the car. I wondered where to put him. With a big stick in his butt it seemed cruel to make him sit in his car seat, but I could see no other way. I strapped him in and we were off.

The hospital was close thankfully. I knew where it was. He had been born there. Kirk was crying and he said, “This was supposed to be fun.”
“I know buddy, I’m sorry.” I told him. And I was trying to make him feel at ease by telling him the doctors would have the right tools and medicines to get the splinter out and take away the pain. I was trying to calm him with reason, as I was completely freaked out. I blew through some stop signs, I sped and disregarded the law in the safest way I could to get him there as quickly as possible.

“I can’t take this.” He screamed over and over. I found out later that he was using his arms and legs to keep his butt off the seat. He was becoming exhausted from the effort.

I parked and carried him in. He was still in his stocking feet. I admitted him and thankfully we were put in a room fairly quickly. I had forgotten my phone that morning, because I had left it to charge, so I used the hospital phones to try to get a hold of his mother who was napping with our daughter.

The events of the day were crazy, fast, and surreal, and so much happened that would have been awesome to document with pictures and video, or even sharing on social media, but there I was without my phone, as if I were stranded in the 20th century with no way to document the experience. I felt naked. And alone.

Soon he was on his tummy with a topical pain-killer on the wound watching cartoons as the doctors figured out a way to got the thing out. The official procedure was called “removal of a foreign body.” There was a giant stick in his butt. It needed removing.

I finally got a hold of his mother, and she was at home, helpless, and in a panic as well. His two year old sister upon hearing that he had an owie in his butt said he needed butt medicine. This made us all laugh. Even Kirk.

The doctor wasn’t sure it would be easy to get out just by pulling it. She was afraid they would have to make incisions, so it was decided to put him under full sedation, so they could get the job done right. This was in essence, surgery.

So they had to prep him and put in a IV for the anesthesia. I had to lay on the bed with him and spoon him to keep him calm as they did this. I have to say the one good thing for me in all of this were the snuggles. I got a lot of good hugs from my boy during all of the trauma.

He loved the part where they drove his bed from the first ER room to the surgery room. It was a bit of fun that I was happy to help him get excited about. How often do you get to drive your bed? He loved it, and was having fun.

Once in the surgical room it became very real, and chaotic. There was the doctor and the nurse, and the triage nurse, the anesthesiologist, and his nurse, and a student observer. I had to sign scores of release forms. Once he was out, they made me go to a waiting room where I called his mother. I was worried. It was a simple thing, but it seemed very serious.

Thankfully it was done in minutes. There were no problems. It came out in two pieces fairly easy. No stitches necessary. I smiled at him but he was fully drugged and groggy. He barely could tell it was me. I said to him, “buddy, it’s all over. You did great. They don’t need to put you in a Darth Vader suit after all.”

Then we had to wait for a while until all the drugs worked their way through. He started to panic and cry. He was disorientated. He begged to go home. So I held him. It was difficult to hold him because I didn’t want to mess with the new bandages, and he was hooked to several different machines. He was in a hospital gown with 5 cords attached to his chest, an arm cuff, and one of those finger things that measures oxygen.

As I held him he got nauseous and threw up. They gave him more drugs in his IV for that and then we waited. After a while they tried to see if he could stand and walk, but he stumbled into things like his daddy after a night of bourbon. So we waited longer.

As he gained lucidity he grew inpatient with all of the chords attached to him. I explained what they were all for as best I could and showed him what they were showing on the monitors. He asked what the blue one on the monitor meant. I told him I thought it was to measure his breathing. The reading was 100. He then started to breath faster. We could see the line moving a little but it still read 100. He asked me if the number would ever change. So I told him to hold his breath. He did, and the number dropped to 99, then 98. Then I freaked out and told him to breathe normally. It went back to 100. We both laughed at our little game, but I felt bad that I was screwing around with his biometrics so soon after he just had anesthesia.

Then the doctor came in with a whole bunch of cheap plastic toys from China. He loved them. I have to mention here that while we were in the first triage room, when I took off his pants, I found a lego man in his pocket. It was Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean, which he had brought with him to the party. I gave it to him and he held it through the entire procedure. It was his totem object.

Finally we were able to unhook him and put his clothes back on. It was dark out and it had snowed a lot by the time we got outside. It was our first snow of the season. I had to carry him, since he still had no shoes. We stopped at White Castle at his request on the way home so he could enjoy some “deliciously awesome chicken rings.”

Suddenly he was back to his old self. His mom hugged the crap out of him when we finally showed up, and his sister didn’t pay any attention at all. It was normal. It was strange to have it all be so suddenly normal after such a weird day.

When Kirk is asked why he was scooting his butt on the floor at the bowling alley he says, “I was just being a kid.” This is true. Whew. I am tired. What a day.

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