So I took my oldest child to the emergency room last weekend. I wish I could say it was the first time I had to take a child to the ER. But at least it was the first time in Texas. And I can now check “stitches” off the childhood trauma box.
It was a classic childhood injury. A thwackety-thwack chin smack on the edge of the swimming pool. Yowtch!
The cut itself looked icky (I could see the fatty tissue underneath her still adorably chubby 6-year-old chin) but nothing for mama to panic over. However, the gaping quality of the wound led us to believe that the lesion required more than the simple Scooby Doo band-aid.
In truth, the initial panic lay far from the location or severity of the physical injury but in the resources (or lack thereof) found in the small town where my family vacations in central Texas lake country.
No fracking hospital.
“Where do people have babies around here?” I muttered as my family hurtled about the small town, jamming our fingers across our iPhones in a frantic quest for a nearby emergent care center. Marble Falls, Texas doesn’t exactly seem like a bastion of homebirth midwife activism so I knew the mamas had to go somewhere nearby to push those little Texans out.
We quickly found out where the locals release their spawn when the jerkoff minor emergency clinic declined our HMO. The good folks of Marble Falls have babies, treat broken bones, and stitch up swimming pool- busted chins by hauling a few miles over to an actual hospital in Burnet.
They treated my little patient very well in Burnet. The nurses were kind, sweet, and patient. They told her she was a big girl and doing a good job and very brave. The physician’s assistant who did the actual sewing up of the cut was obviously not used to kids, especially precocious redhead kids with lots of questions. By the time a certain precocious redhead dared to ask him how long the whole thing would take, he looked genuinely baffled and lost, like no patient had ever dared to ask him such a preposterous inquiry. And this time the precocious redhead was me.
And I did fine with the whole thing. Until I saw the fear in my baby’s face. I could hear the dryness in her mouth, and her breath had the funk of that cotton-mouth terror where all saliva goes into reverse in some sort of fight or flight panic to reserve bodily fluids for maximum utility at a later date. Her voice quivered as she sucked back tears. Her hands shook each time she yanked a nervous tug of hair behind her pale little ear, and her normally porcelain face took on the shade of the Latoya Jackson statue at the wax museum. I worried she was going to pass out.
The sight of that small round face making a go at Big Girl Heroics very nearly pushed out my own tears, but I sucked it up too. Someone needs to be the grownup in these sorts of situations.
We ended the big day with a trip into south Austin for old friends, pizza, and snowcones. I bribed the patient with a Homeslice Pizza t-shirt in atonement for the Texas-sized bummer that she would now have to spend 25% of our Tour of Texas Grandparents trip out of the lake and swimming pool while the stitches healed.
It was the least I could do for my brave girl.
Postscript by the patient: “I know it seems like the stitches were the worstest part. It actually was the medicine. Because they stuck it inside of my cut. But when we were done with it I still couldn’t open my mouth too wide. Before I had the stitches and just a cut I didn’t open my mouth wide because it made me feel hurtful.”