When everyone was tucked in last night, I held still for a moment, waiting for the sirens. It was the first night in a week when the time between dinner and lights-out was not taken up with a trip to the ER.
In the space of eight days: my wife broke her arm while out in the yard tossing a frisbee with the kids; my older son awoke with massive swelling on one side of his face that his pediatrician feared might be a drug-resistant staph; my younger son snapped both bones in his arm (he fell while running about 8 feet from where his mom had her flying disc mishap).
Some thoughts about our “rough patch,” as we have been calling it:
My guilt took me by surprise. Though I got a few suspicious looks from the hospital staff, I had no direct involvement in any of the accidents. I didn’t even have indirect participation (our daughter threw the frisbee that felled my wife, as I have frequently pointed out). But I still had moments when some primitive part of my brain was telling me that I had failed as provider/protector. Just because my the family dinner table looked like the aftermath scenes from HBO’s “The Pacific.”
Wow. Folding laundry. Awesome.
A child with a clearly broken arm, and a child with a mysteriously inflated face inspire related but completely distinct brands of parenting panic. The broken arm (clear deformity, no doubts about the underlying issue) make my mind race, the adrenalin flow; you feel for the child’s suffering acutely, but you know it will be better soon (and it is). The mysterious dirigible face is a slow-moving nightmare. The pediatrician seems perplexed and concerned, fears of flesh eating bacteria surface, a real gnawing anxiety follows you everywhere during the day. It’s painful to look at the kid. Fortunately a cool-headed pediatric dermatologist calmed us, diagnosed him, and set about making him better. The palette of parental fear is rich and varied.
I now hate the phrase “when it rains, it pours.”
Between the astronomical deductibles we now owe and long lines of parents waiting at the ER to receive primary care for their sick babies, I’m beginning to suspect that we may have some health care issues in this country. What? Did I miss something?
My wife is as tough as they come, but we probably should have come up with a better plan than, “I’ll stay here with the kids, you drive yourself to the ER.” If I had driven her, I might not have missed this priceless exchange:
Admitting Nurse: On a scale of one to ten, what is your pain level.
My Wife: Uh, about a four.
Admitting Nurse: Ma’am, you have a visible wrist fracture, it must be worse than a four.
My wife: Ever done natural childbirth? This is a four.
Love that woman. Glad she’s on the mend. The rest of them, too.