Trip to the Emergency Room

Motherhood is a curious thing – exhausting, consuming, sometimes frightening, often times rewarding. As my children reach the cusp of young adulthood, I’ve been reminiscing about the years that led us here. Feeling the need to go back to those days, I pulled a collection of old essays off the shelf. I wrote this almost exactly seven years ago when my son was ten. Seems like yesterday.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

It started with the phone call. “Michele? Jack is ok, but…”

Something about those words reached right through my chest and threatened to crush my heart. I had to concentrate on what the school nurse was saying, although every part of me was screaming to succumb to panic. My ten-year old had collided with a classmate during gym class and had split open his lip. No big deal. He’s a boy. Typical kid injury. As the nurse described the injury and talked about stitches, I went on autopilot. Call the pediatrician to tell them we’re on our way. Call Dad to pick up the girls. Call the ex to let him know. Screw him…no, no. Call him.

Is there a lot of blood?

During my quick conversation with my parents, my sister offered to come with me. “You don’t do well with blood, remember? I’ll come with you.” I assured her I was fine and there was no time to wait for her. I could handle it.

I hope there’s not a lot of blood.

I jumped into the car and tore up my tiny, residential street. In the short distance between home and the school, I blew through every stop sign and struggled not to go through the two traffic lights. Reaching the school in record time, I threw the car in park and ran into the building. I tried to walk down the hall. Calm down. He’s fine and you’re not supposed to run in the halls. I hesitated for a second before entering the nurse’s office.

“He’s fine.”

“Mommy, we saw you running.”

Deep breath. Relax. He’s fine. Not too much blood. I hinted that I didn’t really want to look at the injury and asked the nurse what she thought. She gave me some information to share with the doctor and we were off.

In the car, my son was very calm. “It was cool, Mom. Lily had a tooth mark on her head.” I asked him if he cried, and he told me he did, just for a second. As we got closer to the doctor’s office, he started asking questions about stitches. “I don’t feel like having stitches today.” I explained he might have to get them, but if he did, they’d give him medicine so he didn’t feel it. We had a very involved discussion about different types of stitches and the times I had to get them. He decided he wanted the dissolving kind, and what would happen when he went swimming? Would they come out?

We got out of the car at the doctor’s office. “Ok, Jack. Show me. Wait, wait… don’t show me. Let’s go.”

The doctor’s office was quick. “Yes, he needs stitches. It is a very deep gash.” I get it…please stop going into such detail. I believe you.  “And no, you can’t go to the clinic. You have to go to a real emergency room. Now.”

At least there are no sirens this time. No ambulances. Memories of Ali at eighteen months old after she was attacked by that dog. So much blood. The two of us sitting in the back of that ambulance, both crying. Memories of Mary-Kate just this past year. Another ambulance. Bad asthma attack. “Don’t cry, Mom.” Sometimes so tired of doing this alone.

Another quick call to my sister to update the family. “No, you don’t need to come with me. We’re fine.” I turned to my son. “I’m ready, Jack. Show me…nope, don’t.”

“Make up your mind, Mommy. Do you want to see it?”


We went to the closest hospital and sat down to sign him in. Terror set in for my little boy who wants so much to be brave, a big kid. He cried and the nurses tried to calm him. He let me pull him onto my lap as I filled out the forms. We waited and waited. The room filled with all sorts of interesting people, but that is a story for another day. Waiting is not a good idea for a child who has nothing better to do than to imagine the horrors that may come. I did what any modern mother would do – downloaded a game to my phone and handed it over. Distraction accomplished. The actual exam by the ER doctor took about three minutes.

“Nasty gash.” So I’ve heard. “Doesn’t need stitches. Should heal in a few days. Do you have popsicles at home?”  The fist that had been squeezing my heart let go.

“Well, Jack, that’s it. Let’s go home.”

“Cool! I get popsicles for dinner?”

“Yes, Baby. Absolutely.”

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