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Children’s Hospital Emergency Services Visit

Cinco de Mayo, a Super Moon and an ER Visit

Ever heard of a “SuperMoon?” Don’t feel astronomically challenged if you have not, over forty years old and I am just now hearing of this myself. In short, a “SuperMoon” is a term used to signify when the Moon appears to be closest to Earth. This past May fifth was one such astrological event and what I thought would be a fun Saturday night star and moon gazing activity with Kim and the kids but my good intentions turned eerily disastrous.

I’ll have to rewind the story to earlier in day… Not too far back tho… Early evening, I had mixed up a frozen batch of margaritas, it was Cinco de Mayo after all, and I had mentioned to Kim the coincidental fact that a super moon and the traditional south of the border springtime celebration coincided. (I’m not sure the history of Cinco de Mayo. Perhaps Mexico’s independence day? What I am sure of tho is that on this day we drink margaritas and eat Mexican cuisine). A plan was hatched to enjoy a couple frozen beverages, down a few tacos, dust off the telescope and find the binoculars for a fun night of sky watching. Harmless, right?

Around 8:30pm I scouted for the best spot to set up the telescope. The luminescent glow of a big bright moon was breaking the horizon line behind a row of tall trees directly across the cul-du-sac from our house. Attempting to find a decent lunar gazing location was frustrating, finding a clear shot of the ascending moon was impossible and it would take at least thirty to forty minutes for the moon to rise above the trees.

Higher ground is what we needed and I told the family that we must walk up the street to the elementary school for a clear unobstructed view, (ie, I begged Kim). Mobilizing quickly, the kids stayed in their pajamas and flash-like found flashlights. I cautiously disassembled the telescope and gently placed it in our green and red Little Tykes wagon with Sophie who was playing flashlight tag, my face being her target. Everyone except Hailey was excited for our sky watching expedition. She sometimes has issues with unanticipated change of plans, her main complaints being that she was in her nightgown and didn’t want to walk up the ‘big’ hill to the school. She had many other grievances as we marched toward our destination and I’m not even sure what those grumblings were; I let her cries drown in the bask of an ever brightening moon-lit sky.

Keeping track? It is now 9pm, we have four tired (one incendiary) yet excited little girls, a gargantuan full moon, Kim and I had consumed a pitcher of frozen Margaritas. What could possibly go wrong?

With flashlights brazened, we trudged up the “big” hill, (something we do almost every school day morning) to a steep narrow staircase that leads to a side entrance of the elementary school grounds. As we crested the last cement step the SuperMoon came into full view and it was strikingly magnificent.

Olivia (8) was fascinated, pressuring me to immediately get the telescope setup and I hastily chose a dark location, (better for viewing stars, but not so great for watching children) right behind the school at the apex of three terraced fields. Hailey (7) and Kim coldly bickered. Elizabeth (4) blasted into an elliptical orbit around Olivia and me while I was focusing the telescope on the oversized moon and in her exuberance she inadvertently enticed Sophie (2) from the Little Tykes wagon to join her in ring-around-the-telescope. Worried that the two little rockets would de-orbit and crash-land into the telescope I informed them that they were in a no-fly-zone and to jet “over there” gesturing with wave of my hand to a non-descript location.

In an instant, it happened: I had focused the moon into view and was making a slight adjustment for Olivia to have her first look. Hailey and Kim were still squabbling. Elizabeth darted down a steep shadowy incline that abruptly ends at a three foot retaining wall which drops down onto a black asphalt playground. Kim had hollered at Elizabeth as she was in mid-sprint down the hillside, “Elizabeth! Get back up here now!” Indifferent to Kim’s clear direction, Elizabeth defiantly did not stop, lunar crazed she kept on running down the hill with Sophie following closely in her contrail. Even with the reflective light of the massive moon they were both essentially flying blind. Elizabeth instantaneously stopped directly on top of the retaining wall, however Sophie did not stop and careened off the top of the wall disappearing into the darkness.

Silence, for a brief moment, frozen, for a split second and then an ear-splitting wail. My feet grew wings and carried me swiftly to Sophie. The crying was a good sign but she laid on the blacktop in a crumpled heap. I approached her cautiously reminding myself not to instantly scoop her up knowing that I could damage her little body even worse. She lay motionless for a minute and her cries were felt throughout the neighborhood. Rapidly scanning her body I couldn’t see anything dreadful although even with the radiant moonlight, it was too dark to see. She reached up for me and slowly drew herself into my arms. As she cuddled closer I softly felt her entire body for any breaks and gingerly carried her to the meager glow of the outdoor light fixture above the back door to the school. Using one of the kids flashlights, I noticed right away a large goose egg forming on her forehead, both elbows badly scraped up and her knees a bit scuffed. Intensely scrutinizing Sophies injured little body, if anyone had been talking to me I didn’t notice or acknowledge. I’m not even sure that I explained what my intentions or plans were to Kim or the kids, I didn’t speak a word, they instinctively followed my lead.

With Sophie cradled in a one arm football hold, I picked up the telescope, threw it into the wagon and pulled it behind me. “I got this. I got this.” Kim was trying to tell me she would tend to the wagon, but we still needed to get down the steep staircase so I pulled the wagons’ front two wheels over lip of the first step and waited for Kim to pick up the rear and we carried the wagon down the steps in silence listening to our baby scream.

Briskly walking home I still hadn’t said a word.  Sophie’s cries remained a constant ear shattering high pitch. Rapid fire questions from the kids were being ignored, “Will she be ok? Is she hurt? Is she bleeding? Does she have a broken bone? Etc. Etc. Etc.  I wanted to scream, “I don’t F-ing know! Shut the F-up!” Instead I bit my lip. The short walk back home felt like one of those dreams where you are running as fast as you can but going absolutely nowhere. Then Elizabeth asked, “what happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happened! Someone didn’t listen to their mother and now Sophie will probably have to go to the Hospital!” I regretted saying this as the words involuntarily exploded out of my mouth because at that moment, Elizabeth bared the blame and her older sisters let her know this too. “Yea Elizabeth, its all your fault Sophie got hurt!” Oye, sometime I say the worst things at the wrong times and this was definitely one of those moments. Elizabeth hung her head and slowed her pace. I wanted to tell her it was not her fault that Sophie fell, yet that would have to wait because I needed more than a flashlight to examine Sophie’s injuries.

Once home Kim and I quickly determined that an ER visit would be wise. Utilizing a couple stretchy hair/head band thingys I secured an ice pack to Sophie’s swollen head, made sure I had my ID and insurance card then strapped her into the five-point safety car seat. She was bewildered and crying but not as vocally. Before departing for the hospital, I talked to Elizabeth and told her again that what happened was not her fault, however by the look of regret and sadness in her eyes, our brief chat didn’t matter, she felt responsible and worried about her baby sister.

Hospitals are second nature to me; hockey injuries, childbirths, surgeries, illnesses, etc. I have plenty of expertise with emergency rooms although this was the first ER visit for any of my children. Fortunately, our home sits within a five mile radius of at least a half a dozen hospitals .Smartly, I chose (ie, Kim directed me) the children’s emergency room at the hospital where Sophie was born. Her medical information was already in the computer system which expedited the admitting process. All that I had to do before she could see a doctor was to fill out one standard medical history form, show my ID and insurance card.

This was my first experience with a Pediatric Emergency Center and the Children’s ER at St. John’s was great. The staff was quick and friendly however I was asked the same questions from the admitting attendant, the head nurse, Sophie’s nurse, an anesthesiologist and the physician. “Explain what happened?” ‘Umm… parental negligence.’ “Did she loose consciences?” ‘Umm… I almost did.’ “Did she vomit?” ‘Umm… pretty sure my wife hurled when she saw our baby disappear over a wall or maybe it was when she saw this nasty lump growing on her forehead.’

The doctor was confident that Sophie was going to be alright. The scrapes on her elbows indicated that she shielded herself and deflected some of the impact. “Better out than in,” is what the Doc said about the swollen bump on her head and “Better in then out,” regarding our taco dinner. No x-ray, no MRI, no CT scan. The prescription; Ice for the contusion on her noggin and elbows, ib profane for the pain and  polysporin for the abrasions. We were at the children’s ER for almost three hours, it was around midnight and before we departed Sophie was her inquisitive self again, playing with the toys and games that were available to us.

Kim was still awake when we arrived home from the hospital and overwhelmingly relieved to hear the optimistic prognosis. One odd coincidence tho; Elizabeth had vomited a few times while Sophie and I were at the pediatric emergency center. Strange, was Elizabeth sickened with grief? Or was it a metaphysical ‘twin-like’ sibling connection where the side effects of the accident transposed from one sibling to the other? I believe the former rather than the latter, although it was an ominously monster sized full moon and perhaps there is something supernatural about a SuperMoon.


Olivia Falls

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 05/18/07 

Leopards of Botswana
Flipping through the April issue of National Geographic I came across an interesting photo journal of a baby leopard and her mother. In short, a journalist followed the mama and cub for thirteen months until the baby grew into adolescence and foraged off to live on her own. What captured my attention in this article was a two page photo spread of the mama saving her cub from a sixty foot fall. The two leopards were playing high in a tree, the cub slipped and the mama instinctively clutched the babe using her paws and jaws to save her baby. I like to believe that I have that same instinctive reflex. A fatherly-sixth-sense, I call it ‘daddar’ which comforts me, assuring me that no harm will come to my girls as long as I’m around to protect them.

Black and Blues
Kim bruises easily, a flick to her thigh easily turns into a deep tissue contusion. She is also somewhat clumsy and constantly bumping into things, she gets a lot of black-and-blue marks. She has talked to her doctor about the bruising problem and was told to take a one-a-day multivitamin which as far as we can tell hasn’t helped. My suggestion was for Kim to stop crashing into things. Unfortunately this genetic trait of bruising easily has been past down to Olivia and frequently new boo-boos mysteriously appear on her legs.

I’m no stranger to bumps and bruises and I’ve had my share of emergency room visits. Starting from as far back as memory serves to the present: A few stitches in my forehead when I was three caused by my older brothers who sent me down a flight of stairs while I was coasting on a riding toy. A concussion when I was seven or eight from slipping on driveway ice. At age eleven, a broken left ankle, results of an aggressive game of king-of-the-hill. At fourteen, while horseback riding, a broken right elbow, a fractured left ankle and a lot of scar tissue from being thrown off a falling horse (the horse slid on top of me pinning me between itself and a cinder-packed road; that was a messy one). Then I started playing hockey. Ten stitches above my left eye from a high-stick split me open. The receiving end of a vicious cross-check ejected two bottom teeth, one tooth I was able to save by jamming it back into my jaw and the other I had replaced with bridge. That happened a few months before my wedding. Lastly, a deflected puck almost completely removed the top third of my right ear which was sewn back on with close to forty stitches and yes I had a helmet on. The point here is I know my way around the ER.

Father Figures
Logging hundreds of hours, I’ve researched treatments for countless ailments that have afflicted Kim, Olivia, Hailey and I. A couple recent illnesses come to mind; strep throat and the stomach flu. I may not be able to prescribe antibiotics but I know plenty of soothing home remedies. Right after Olivia was born, Kim thought I was delusional when I bought a Medi-Scope to check eyes, ears, noses and throats, “Do you even know how to use that?” She questioned. Maybe not at the time but I’ve learned how to use it and what to look for.

I’m an expert at mending cuts, scrapes and abrasions. A month ago Kim frantically surprised me with this one while I was in the shower. “Hailey ripped her toe nail off!” The nail on her big toe was torn down the middle to the cuticle, (she likes to chew her toes). Half of the nail was hinged off exposing the matrix above the bone. I calmly cleaned Hailey’s big toe with warm soapy water, a dash of peroxide, and wrapped a Dora band-aid around the nail and toe. We repeated that regimen for several days checking for signs of infection and her nail healed fine.

I’ve studied anatomy for a decade and a half through anatomical drawing. For two years in college I drew nothing but skeletal, muscular, circulatory and nervous systems covering four semesters. After college, for several years, up until the day Olivia was born I frequented a figure drawing group twice a week at a local artist guild.

This journal entry is all over the place, I know. One more piece of back story to go, stick with me.

Olivia is a few months shy of completing her first year of dance lessons. Ballet, tap and gymnastics all rolled into one hour. Nana (Kim’s mom) takes her to class every Saturday morning. In the past year Olivia has evolved from klutzy to graceful. She glides through physical activities with presence of mind and body. Smoothly she reacts to obstacles conscience of the space around her.

Olivia’s Fall
A couple weeks ago Olivia, Hailey and I met my sister Rachel and her two kids Sadie and Louis at one of our favorite parks, Stacey Park. Recently all of the park’s rusting thirty-year-old playground equipment was removed in favor of a monstrous handicap accessible play compound with wide-grated ramps, towering platforms, a dozen static generating plastic slides, climbing walls, monkey bars, fireman poles, hands on musical toys, a vendor window and several bridges that connect it all together. This play structure has it all and it’s set on top of a soft shock absorbing rubber safety surface. The park also has an infant/toddler playground about twenty yards from the new play fortress.

We had been at the park for an hour and a half. Storm clouds filled the sky. Rach and Louis were treading on a walking path. Olivia and Sadie had just dashed away from the toddler area over to the new play fortress. Hailey and I were having an argument over a squatty plastic water bottle left on one of the benches fringed near the toddler playground. The dispute lasted for maybe five minutes and this is an excerpt from the conversation’s ending.
Hailey wanted the abandoned water bottle. “I want dis, now! now! now!” emphasizing each ‘now’ by stomping her foot.

“I understand, you want the bottle, but I’m sorry sweetie that is not our water bottle. If you are thirsty we can get a drink at the water fountain” My tenth plea. “Let’s go find Sissy and Sadie.”

“No! Dis! Dis! I want dis!” Obviously she wanted to inspect the midget bottle, maybe take it home as a memento.

“Put it down Hailey, that is not our…”

“No! I want dis!” She snapped back interrupting me while possessively holding the bottle at her side.

I was about to go Alec Baldwin on her when Rach strolled up. “Oh she can have that.”

“This! Is your bottle!?” I wanted to grab it from Hailey and spike it.

“Yea, she can have it. Go ahead Hailey.” And then Rach said, “Uh Oh! I hear Olivia, she must of fallen or something.”

Temporarily stunned, I couldn’t see Olivia, I could only hear her crying for me. Impulsively I followed the sound of her cries.

After the Fall
A kind-hearted mother witnessed Olivia fall, picked her up and was bringing her over to me. “She fell from that platform,” pointing to a four foot platform. “She landed on her back.”

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Is all I could say as I gingerly transferred Olivia from the mom to me. Her body was convulsing and she was crying so loudly that I couldn’t think.

“She stepped off backwards.” The considerate mom informed.

“How did she land?” I asked even though she just told me but I needed more details.

“She landed on her bottom and then her back.” Wincing as she explained the landing.

I thanked the sympathetic mother again, held Olivia tight while I skimmed the back of her head for any tender spots and slowly walked her back to the bench where Hailey was drinking from the fat little water bottle. I placed Olivia on the bench laying flat on her tummy, lifted up her shirt and looked for damage on her back. Not one bump, not one blotch, not even a scratch. I pulled her pants down to look at her tooshie. Nothing, no soreness, no lacerations, no redness. I sat down with her and she curled up in my lap. I smoothed her head, one for her comfort, two I was still checking for wounds. Her whimpering subsided. I asked her if anything was hurting inside. She said “no.” I shielded her eyes from the sun which was barley visible through the thick green storm clouds. It was enough light to check her eyes for dilation and her eyes adjusted to the sunlight. I had her stand up, raise her arms and close her eyes. She stood firm. I turned her around, pulled her shirt up and put my ear on her back. Her heart rate was probably half what mine was and her breathing sounded normal. I poked around at her lower back then spun her around, I pressed at her abdomen ribs and chest. Nothing felt tender.  At this point I started thinking we may not need to go to the emergency room. Last test, I walked to the other side of the toddler playground and had her run to me. She ran fine. We walked back to the bench where Hailey was still sipping on her prize and I asked Olivia again if anything was hurting her. She said “no.”

I turned to Rach, “I think she is ok. What do you think?”

“She’ll live” Rach said nonchalantly.

The smell of rain filled the air. It was time to go. I had to decide if we should go get some x-rays taken or head home. I chose home. We said bye to Rach, Lou and Sadie, then plodded into the car just as rain started to fall. Big heavy drops. Leaving the park I started thinking about Olivia’s fall and my negligence to be there when she needed me most. Where was my daddar? Why didn’t it sound an alert? Is it broken? Do I even have a daddar? My cell phone rang, it was Kim, and she sensed something was wrong, her mommy intuition was working.

“Olivia fell…” I stammered on for a few minutes about what happened ending with, “should I take her to the ER?”

“Take her home; give her an ice pack and keep you eye on her.” Kim assured me.

Over the next few days we watched Olivia closely. She showed no signs of injury, not one bruise, her body and ego intact. She was lucky. I was lucky. Even though everything turned out ok, the whole incident troubles me. Where was my fatherly intuition? How could I have been so easily distracted? Should I have taken Olivia to the emergency room? What if her landing was not as fortunate? The scenario haunts me. My parental confidence has been shattered.

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