A stitch in time
By Kit Pancoast Nagamura
A few days ago, I got a call from the nurse at my son's school. "It's not a very serious emergency," she started out, "but your son was talking with his friends, walking down the stairs, and ..." AND I couldn't hear the rest of the story for a few moments. My brain was busy repeating a single, albeit unuttered, message to the nurse: "Get to the point!"
The point, she eventually conveyed calmly — hallmark of a good nurse — was that my son had fallen and put a gash in his forehead that "might or might not require stitches." We live near the school, so when my son came home minutes later, I could see that his forehead was swollen. The nurse had expertly applied a bandage of Steri-Strips, and my son was almost nonchalant about the whole experience. He flopped on the sofa and recounted the accident, and how he had forgotten about the school's metal stairs, treacherously slippery in rain.
Ironically, the school's parents' association had just that morning designated funds to place non-slip treads on the stairway, where several parents, teachers, and students have taken spills. In the United States, a situation such as this would have, in most cases, prompted a swift lawsuit against the school. In my opinion, however, accidents happen even in the safest of environments, and it's less productive to assign blame than it is to solve the problem or simply learn from it. I regret my son learned this lesson so painfully, though.
The following morning, I took my son to the hospital to evaluate the cut for treatment. I've always thought myself strong in emergencies, able to handle blood and bone breaks and bug stings and needles, the sort of traumas most children — particularly boys — require their mothers at one time or another to face.
The doctor examined the cut, and recommended stitches. I nodded, and prepared to wait outside while the doctor did his sewing job. My son grabbed my hand, however, and begged me to stay.
I was okay with the anesthesia shot, and at first, I watched the needle pull through the first four stitches in my son's forehead, revealing the tissue and bone just above his eyebrows. Then, inexplicably, the room started to sway, my fingers tingled, and I knew something was wrong. I put my head down, and a nurse dashed over and guided me to a stretcher parallel to my son's.
She slapped on a sphygmomanometer cuff, and called out my plummeting blood pressure figures to the doctor. Needle still threaded, the doctor said, "Throw her legs in the air!" I laughed a bit, because I felt like an actress in a melodramatic medical TV show. "You okay, Mom?" my son asked, unable to move, but concerned. "I'm fine," I sang out, but clearly I'd had a "Mom Fail" moment.
Once my son got his head together, and I got my heart back on the job, I contemplated the odd exchange of roles we had just experienced, and it slightly sobered me. My son attempted to cheer me up by showing me his wound, with its thick yellow glob of antibiotic cream over the sutures. "It looks just like a hairy caterpillar!" he said. The child and the man in one son made me laugh so hard that we both ended up in stitches.
Shukan ST: June 11, 2010
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