First, some background. About 20 years ago, my parents went to Germany for a week, leaving me, the Oldest Daughter, in charge of my younger siblings and the various critters who dwelled with us on the farm. It was the first time my parents had gone overseas without getting some sort of More Responsible, Older Person to stay with us. I had my driver's license, I'd already worked as a nanny for other people - yes, other people had paid me to take care of their kids! - so I was deemed mature and responsible enough that they decided to leave me in charge.
Not two hours after we stood waving in the driveway as my parents drove off to the airport, I had my first crisis as Commander in Chief. My then 11 year old sister came downstairs in nothing but a towel, dripping wet, and very calmly said "Um, Heath? I think we need to go to the Emergency Room." I took in the sight and at first decided she was pulling my leg, as she didn't appear to be injured and she was, as I said, very calm. She then showed me the hand she had wrapped in a second towel, more specifically the finger that was spouting blood on that hand. Turns out she'd tripped getting out of the (stall) shower and had sliced her finger open but good - from nailbed almost all the way down its length - on the metal lip at the bottom of the shower door. This would definitely require more than a Band Aid or four.
So, we headed off to the ER. Her hand required multiple stitches and a bit of extraneous jabbing with a syringe for irrigation/cleaning and then numbing to boot. My sister remained very calm throughout this adventure - she actually handled the needles jabbing into her finger (and I swear I could see bone at one point, though that might've been my admittedly overactive imagination) better than I did. I had to look away even as I tried to be brave on her behalf, holding her non-injured hand as she lay on the gurney being treated. One huge bandage later, we were on our way home, with me plotting how best to break this news to my parents when we heard from them. (Just because this was entirely an accident and I wasn't even on the same floor as my sister when it occurred was no reason for my parents not to somehow blame me for this happening on my watch. You know how parents can be utterly irrational at times...) I was dreading their call the next day, but it went quite well. They were concerned, of course, about my sister but reassured that everything was taken care of and all would be well. I was thanking my lucky stars from start to finish - from the no tears (on my sister's part, anyhow) at the ER to the no overseas histrionics from my parents. Whew. I was pretty sure I'd dodged a bullet, and I was thrilled.
I told you about all that so that now I can tell you this... Yesterday, that bullet finally boomeranged its way around and hurtled through time to strike me firmly in the butt. This was not how I'd planned my day, with karmic retribution from two decades ago, but there you have it.
You see, I had a lovely day planned for the kiddo and myself yesterday. First, she had her summer program - aka "farm school" - followed by an OT session (and by the by, I adore her occupational therapist. Adore. She also was Kiddo's therapist last summer and she is utterly fantabulous) after which I collected her with "car picnic" at the ready and bottles of water chilling in the cooler. The plan was to head downtown and meet up with the kiddo's best friends for a playdate at a playground we hadn't been to before. (Didja hear that distant warning bell? Yeah, not me...) We chose this playground for its proximity to our friends' previous engagement that day as well as for its sorta-kinda-midway point location between their home and ours. Considering I spent over $70 for gas yesterday - first time I've topped $70 and my tank was almost empty at the time... - I was fine with checking out a new place to play that didn't mean one or the other of us hauling our minivans across the county.
So, we arrived at the playground at the appointed hour. It wasn't as large as I remembered from driving by it in the past, and it was wooden. (Yep, that was a much louder warning bell. Big Ben, even. I did hear that one, but I opted to ignore it.) Well, the base of it was wood, but the slides and ladders and whatnot were the standard plastic or plastic-coated metal, so I figured it should be okay.
I am not kidding you when I say it wasn't even a full minute after Kiddo climbed up onto the first tier of the playground that she was back at my side, holding out her right hand. She had, naturally, wiped out while jumping from one level to another. This is par for the course, and true to form, she was barely crying. It's partially due to her SPD, but also she's a tough cookie, not prone to easy tears when injured. She did, however, want a bandage for her hand (she's a Band Aid junkie), which looked to be dirty and also scraped at a first glance. We trotted over to the car, where I keep a first aid kit, and I proceeded to try to clean off and Bactine the wound before slapping the bandage over it. Upon the slightly closer inspection that Kiddo allowed, I saw what appeared to be splinters in her palm. Crap. Well, I wasn't about to drive straight home just for what would invariably be an agonizing splinter removal process (and oh, I didn't know the half of it yet), so I Bactined the heck out of her palm and then covered the whole area up with a bandage and we rejoined our friends.
Now, at this point, Kiddo had more sense than I did. She refused to go back onto the "old, bad playground" and as it was midday and ridiculously hot and un-shady, we grown-ups concurred. We bagged the playground plan, went to a nearby Wendy's for itty-bitty Frosties instead and then headed for our respective homes. When we arrived at home, I decided the time was right to deal with the palm situation. I told Kiddo that once we took care of her boo-boo, we'd throw on our swimsuits and head up to the pool at the camp. Ha.
Once in the nice, strong light of the bathroom, as the kiddo moaned and groaned her way through a more thorough washing of her rather grimy hands, I realized that what I'd initially thought were two splinters and a lot of dirt were many splinters. Many large, deeply embedded splinters. Like more than half a dozen. And the scrape that I had Bactined so optimistically back at the playground? It was not just a cut, but a ravine full of splinters. Oh crap. It also looked red and swollen and Kiddo was complaining that "this boo-boo really HURTS, Mommy." Not good at all. I could see the ends of two of the splinters above the surface, so I quickly grabbed the tweezers.
And this is the point at which Kiddo freaked the heck out. Now, I am a drama queen. It's true. I can pitch a hissy fit with the best of them. I can out-drama Meryl Streep in her Sophie's Choiciest moment when I feel the need. So I suppose it is only fitting that my kid would be capable of making my Streeping look positively Jessica-Simpson-in-The-Dukes-of-Hazzardian. (I've only seen brief snippets of TDoH movie on HBO in passing, but whew, she sure seemed to stink.) It certainly didn't help that Kiddo had a Splintery Badness experience just three short weeks ago, when it took Hubby, my mom and me teamed up over an hour and a half to remove three splinters from her foot. In the next twenty minutes, I managed to extract exactly one of the protruding splinters. This, as Kiddo screamed and squalled and worked herself up to the point of near-barfing. After the first splinter came out and Kiddo clutched her palm into a fist so tight that she could've turned coal into diamonds, I realized there was NO way I was going to get the rest of them out. Not on my own, anyhow, and Hubby had a softball double-header on his agenda that would mean he would not be home until quite late. As Kiddo alternately clutched at my legs and ran screaming from the room, all at top decibel levels (thank goodness the windows were closed due to the AC being on), I did the only thing I could think of: I called the pediatrician's office. An hour later, we were on our way. Kiddo had brought herself marginally under control by then, though the tear streaked face ("Don't wipe off my teeeeeeears, Mommy! I'm not done with them yeeeeeeet!!") under ominously furrowed brow, choppy breathing and still tightly clutched fist warned that this calm was just an illusion.
Our pediatrician wasn't available, but I'd told the receptionist (over the kiddo's wails) that we'd see anyone. Anyone who could get these splinters out would be fine, thanks. I didn't care if it was one of the billing ladies, frankly, I just wanted someone professional, someone affiliated with a medical office, to take care of this bad, bad situation. So, we saw the head doc of the group. He's been a doctor longer than I've been alive, and I dare say that he's seen his share of child hysterics. He examined her palm as she sat up on the table, then left and came back with his Implements of Torture and Destruction. He angled a bright light over her hand, strapped on these gigantic, magnifying glasses and got ready to get busy on the splinter removal.
I had been hoping that they'd have some sort of numbing agent they could use, but alas, it wasn't the case. I didn't even have a chance to ask him about this possibility, because the exact second he picked up the first pair of tweezers (and they were twice the size of mine with a sharply angled end, so they were far more eeeevil looking than Mommy's tweezers at home) she went nuts. The screaming was louder than a jet engine at close range. Mainly howling, it also had the occasional "NOOOO!" or "YOU'RE SO MEAN!" or "LEAVE ME ALONE! BAD DOCTOR! I WANT TO KEEEEEEEP MY SPLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINTERS!!" thrown in for added effect.
You know how when you're at the doctor's office and you hear some kid crying in one of the exam rooms, while you may sympathize with that kid's parent, you are also relieved and glad that it isn't YOUR kid making that noise? Yeah, that was my kid yesterday. It wasn't just the volume of her screams, either. It was the length that they went on, unceasingly, whether the doctor was actually touching her hand or not. He quickly decided that she shouldn't remain on the table, but rather sit in my lap, so with Mommy the Human Straitjacket attempting to hold her three uninjured limbs still and keep her from blowing ferocious raspberries on the doctor, he held her other hand in a death grip as he did his thing.
It was somewhere during this period of pure hell that I wondered why they don't have at least one soundproof room at the pediatrician's office, or at the very least some acoustical tiles to deaden sound. Within the next hour, the doc removed almost all of the evil, long, deeply embedded splinters. He gave up shortly after the second time she caught him in The Place Men Never, Ever Want to Be Kicked, Ever with a flailing foot. (She wasn't aiming, just thrashing about. Not that his groin area appreciated the difference.) He told me that the remaining splinters were superficial enough that they should work themselves out without incident, and that it wasn't worth, and I quote, "torturing us all any further" to try to remove them too. After a hefty application of polysporin and a character Band Aid slapped over her palm, he assured me that today's wooden playgrounds aren't made "of the bad stuff" anymore, so he was fairly sure that her hand wouldn't get infected, but to keep it clean and covered in polysporin and bandages 'til it healed. Then he fled the room, likely to hide under his desk and dictate a retirement letter, possibly while availing himself of an ice pack or two.
As soon as the door closed, the hysteria ceased. Kiddo is that good - as quickly as she can turn it on and ramp it up to DefCon 1, she can shut it back off. As we headed down the hall to the exit, all the other people left in the office fell silent. The nurses were standing about in groups, clearly talking about the Screams Like They'd Never Heard Before. A few of them, barely able to contain their amusement, asked Kiddo how she was. "I had splinters in my hand from the bad, old playground, but Doctor X took them out and I was SO VERY BRAVE" she replied, without batting an eyelash. That did it - the nurses were doubled over in paroxysms of laughter as we rounded the corner for the check-out desk. I have never paid a copay more quickly - I practically flung my Visa at the clerk, and I couldn't bear to make eye contact with any of the other people in the waiting area. Kiddo was cheerfully picking out her sticker of choice from the basket and telling the billing ladies about Ectobert, her lion (who had accompanied us for this excursion), without a single smidgen of embarrassment about her previous behavior. That's the thing about my little drama queen - she gets over it pretty quickly without holding a grudge. Well, except against the playground, anyhow - as soon as we got home, she insisted on calling her friends with whom we'd made the unfortunate playdate and informing them that we must NEVER go back to that playground again.
(Oh, and the character bandage the doctor applied to her hand? It was a Looney Tunes bandage covered with the Tasmanian Devil. Now, you might think Kiddo is deprived, but we've never let her watch Looney Tunes. Even though I myself would watch Bugs and crew every Saturday morning as a child - mostly because that was the channel that also would play Schoolhouse Rock rather than because we were diehard Bugs or Daffy or Wily E. fans - as an adult, I don't feel it is appropriate viewing for the kiddo yet. Too violent and un-socially redeeming. Call me puritanical if you must........ Anyhow, she looked at the bandage and inquired "Who is that mean guy?" So, I explained he is Taz, the Tasmanian Devil and that he is silly, not mean. She said "Why is he shouting with his mouth open and all his teeth out?" Because, you know, he was being all Taz-y on the bandage. I explained that he doesn't talk as much as yell "AAAAAAAH!" and spin around in circles, really fast. (You try doing a decent Taz impression after holding onto the Most Squalling Kiddo Ever through a procedure for which she was behaving as if instead of wielding tweezers on her palm, the doctor were winding her intestines onto a rack ala the finale of Braveheart...) Well, that wasn't good enough for the kiddo, and as soon as we got into the car, she requested that the bandage be replaced, as obviously Taz "isn't kind" - she was shocked that the doctor would have bandages featuring such a mean guy, but too polite to reject it on the spot. And seriously, how many kids her age really are that well acquainted with the Looney Tunes crew? Are they even on TV any more? Would it kill the pediatrician's office to stock more commonly recognized character bandages, like Curious George, Dora, Diego, Backyardigans....?)
So, we got home, the reverberations of her yells still pounding in my brain. I'm really, really hoping that the remaining splinters (there's actually one larger one and a few, scattered much smaller ones, I just noticed upon bandage-replacing inspection) do work their way out and not get infected. Because if we have to go back to the doctor for further splinter removal, I'm going to be requesting drugs. I don't care which one of us they knock out, but there's no way I'm going through that again without either Kiddo or me being unconscious.
I am swearing, right here, right now, a solemn vow never, ever to let the kiddo near a wooden playset again. Ever. In the meantime, karma caught up with me with interest, as clearly all the caterwauling from yesterday was psychic payback for getting off the hook so easily all those years ago when my sister sliced open her finger. So, at least I'm back to even now, right?