I decided that, instead of going to the usual bagel place, I would go to the one in the middle of town because they had better coffee. And so, as you might imagine, now that it’s all said and done, in my mind, the whole thing happened because I wanted better coffee.
We parked and fed the meter one quarter for a half hour and then happily started toward the cafe. The Who rounded the corner onto the brick walkway and the tip of his shoe caught the tip of mine and he was down. Knees first and I remember popping out a casual, “oops!” before he then tipped forward and slammed his face into the wrought iron chair with a sickening thunk. He immediately popped up, both hands over his nose, Marcia Brady-style, and was hopping around in the way he only does when he is in so much pain (either physical or emotional — I’ve seen both) that his little body just can’t stand it.
Within seconds, blood was seeping through his fingers and pouring onto the ground like a slow-streaming faucet. Just. So. Much. Blood. Someone asked if he should call 9-1-1 and I said yes. In the far-off distance, I heard that call being made. A kind-eyed woman told me she was a medic and asked if I wanted her help and because I was basically a shivering, hysterical puddle, I accepted. She immediately got on her knees and applied the wad of napkins someone had procured. She started talking to The Who. “What’s your name, buddy? How old are you? You’re gonna be just fine. You got a little boo-boo on your nose. Is this your Mommy? Are you going to dress up for Halloween? What are you going to be?” As she distracted him, she pulled his hands from his face, exposing the biggest, most gaping wound I have ever seen on a child. (The EMT later told me that face wounds just pop right open because of how taut the skin is.) It looked like a wide open laughing mouth right on the bridge of his nose. I saw tissue. And bone. I am sure of it. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I kissed his head and told him he was going to be fine, but I couldn’t stop myself from hysterically asking, repeatedly, if he was going to be ok.
He later asked to return to the scene. We examined the blood spatter on the bricks and I secretly thought about Dexter and what the Miami PD Forensics Department would have made of it.
The kind first-responder kept giving me tasks to do. “Why don’t you take that ice and wash his hands, Mom. Why don’t you wipe that blood off his shoes.” And a few times she said, “You need to hold it together, Mom, so he stays calm. If you need to step away for a minute, do that.” Which I did. I called m*. Nine times. She didn’t hear her phone (which, in retrospect, is probably better. I would have panicked her if she had spoken to me then.) Another sweet bystander rubbed my back and gave me sweet looks. I continued kissing The Who’s head and holding his bloody hands.
For all of our family love for emergency vehicles and sirens, The Who was not delighted to be riding in an ambulance. I do think his repeated visits to the local fire station helped keep him calm about it, though. He climbed into it all by himself. And that would be the theme for the rest of the day: The Who totally stepping up and far surpassing anyone’s expectations for a 3-year-old in an ER with a marble-sized hole in the middle of his face.
There’s never a time when seeing this feels ok.
I did get ahold of m* and thanks to Hurricane Sandy, she was home from work for another day. She showed up at the hospital and for the next hour, as The Who intermittently napped (which ended up helping with his energy for trick-or-treating later), we took turns holding the numbing solution on his cut and tossing mournful, supportive looks at one another.
After an hour of pressure and resting, the giant hole started to come together a bit on its own. Here, instead of looking like a cruel, laughing mouth, it just looks like a delicate pair of lipsticked lips.
Now, he’s got five stitches in the middle of his face, holding together a half-inch crescent-shaped wound. He said it looked like his “boo-boo has eyelashes.” Astute observation, indeed.
Third eye. I imagine in some cultures, this is considered lucky.
He told me this morning that he wished he didn’t have his boo-boo. I assured him that soon, it would be a distant memory. He’s not totally at the “I have an awesome story to tell!” phase yet. He’s still pretty traumatized. So are m* and I, actually. Last night, trick-or-treating, I wished he was wrapped in cotton. All the tree limbs and slippery leaves. I thought five stitches was enough for one day. He was, of course, fine. (He told me it was because his “Spidey Sense” told him he would be.) I shined a flashlight directly on his face last night when he was sleeping to make sure it was ok and poor m* woke up at 3:45 am (for the day), thinking about him.
We both feel incredibly grateful. A harder hit, a smidge to the left or right, a slower-responding medical team and/or good samaritans — it all could have gone a different way. We vowed to donate regularly to our local fire department. I wish I had that kind medic’s name. The gash already looks better. He doesn’t have two black eyes — yet. My body is exhausted. I can’t imagine having to do this for more than one kid.