Let me preface this by saying I never and I mean never clean the playroom nor do I organize clothes. Instead I’ve learned to hop over toys at lightening speed, hundreds of them, and the clothes that the children outgrow are conveniently heaped on a mountainous pile that inevitably topples to the floor where it will remain for months. So there I was cleaning the playroom and organizing old clothes when I heard an unfamiliar buzzing sound followed by a pause followed by a deafening shriek. I was able to leap the playroom in a single bound to find Teo holding out his left hand, blood gushing all over the floor. It was the stuff of horror movies. His fingers were shredded, mangled. “What did this?” I cried. A terrified Des pointed to the floor, “Right there, Mommy.” It was a hand-mixer we’d gotten for Christmas, the kind shaped like a wand that makes smoothies and such. Teo had found it in a kitchen drawer, taken it to the living room, unplugged a lamp, plugged in the wand and pulsed it with his fingers against the blade. I rushed to the bathroom to rinse and wrap his hand while constantly reassuring the boys, “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be all right.” But I wasn’t sure. Blood was soaking through the towel so fast I couldn’t let go. I knew I couldn’t elevate the hand and keep pressure on it, and take care of Des, and drive all at the same time. I called 911. My hand was shaking so badly I dropped the phone. I had to dial twice. I’ve always prided myself on being collected in emergency situations, but turns out it’s not so. I had to force myself to not faint, to keep cool, to stay focused. It was hard. Meanwhile, Des took it upon himself to bring me more towels and bring Teo his special blanket. Des was stark naked when the accident happened. In seconds he managed to dress himself head to toe, shoes even, and open the door for the firefighters a few minutes later. I’ve never had an encounter with firefighters that wasn’t borderline mythical. First off, they’re always great-looking and in outstanding shape. Secondly, they’re incredibly kind, especially to children. And three, they save lives! These guys not only calmed us down, slowed the bleeding and wrapped the wound, they cleaned all the blood off of the floor. Des did a great job explaining exactly what had taken place. In the middle of the story his voice started to crack and he added, “And that’s why we really need our daddy to come home right now.” Anthony was only minutes away by then. There was no need for an ambulance, which was good since we’re trying to limit our ambulance rides to one per year.
Here’s the visual of our boys in ER – Teo, white as a ghost, silent, clutching his blanket, blood-soaked mitt on his elevated hand, wearing a tiger costume covered in blood, and Des, doe-eyed, standing on tip-toe, muttering an endless loop about Teo and all the blood and how the firefighters came to our house, and Anthony and I going over and over everything in our heads. We constantly talk about moving back East to be closer to our families. Nothing highlights the distance between us more than emergency situations. We sort through all the friends we’ve called for help in the past and try to remember their schedules – who’s got who in what grade, who usually drives where and when, etc., etc. If they’re not available we move to Plan B – neighbors who’s numbers we might have in our phones. We go over the criteria for a true emergency, what requires both of us and what can be handled by one. Subsequently, Anthony left to pick-up the girls at school, settle poor Desmond down and take my place in the afternoon routine while I stayed with Teo. The E.R. doc called in an orthopedic surgeon who decided Teo should be admitted to the hospital. A little while later he was put under general anesthesia so his fingers could be thoroughly cleaned, assessed and treated. I know some of you out there have been in similar situations, so I won’t get into how terrible it was to see my child in such pain, to not recognize the tiny fingers I know so well, to see him all drugged-out and vacant as they wheeled away from me, how his body arched and stretched to keep me in his sight. I stood frozen in an empty room as the giant doors to the O.R. swung shut, and it was only then that my body began to tremble and shake with tears, and there came a small voice in my ear saying, “You’re in shock right now, Mom. I’m putting a warm blanket over your shoulders. Everything’s going to be all right.” And it was. The angel-nurse lead me to the Parent Waiting Room where I sat and remembered what it was like when Des was in the N.I.C.U. His condition was not life-threatening. He would without a doubt be OK. So would Teo. Others would not.
Because the hand-mixer had never been used the blades were extremely sharp and made very deep, but very clean cuts. The bone of his top left index finger had been obliterated. The finger suffered three serious lacerations, but probably due to the angle of the blades all the important stuff was in tact. The middle finger had the deepest cuts of all, three total, triangular in shape. A nerve had been severed. The tip of the ring finger, just barely grazing the top of the nail, had been taken off in the accident. This was all good the doctor explained. Because Teo is so young, the bone, the nerve and the tip of his finger will almost certainly regrow without any complications. Even if the nerve doesn’t reconnect itself, the finger has another nerve that will naturally take over sensation, so he’ll still have feeling in the finger. When Teo came out of anesthesia and was able to speak clearly, he asked for a purple popsicle. As far as he knows hospitals are where popsicles grow. We rode on the bed together as they wheeled us back to his room where a purple popsicle magically appeared in the hands of a magical nurse. The night was rough, but we made it through.
Today, except for the giant wrap on his left hand, Teo is running, jumping, doing and undoing everything in sight as usual. He hasn’t slowed down a bit. Next week we’ll follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon. In the meantime, all I have to do is keep this cast clean and dry, and make sure he doesn’t re-injure himself before his appointment. Wish me luck.