Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our First Car-Free Emergency

Last night was a night most parents dread. A night a car-free parent hopes never happens. Just as I was about to tell the kids that it was time for bed, Gabe slipped off of the armrest of the couch that he had been sitting on, lost his footing when he landed, and went face first into the edge of our stone fireplace. It happened so fast and instantly he was crying. I scooped him up and hugged him while he cried and then told him to look at me so I could see where the owie was, and as soon as I looked at him I saw it. He had split his eyebrow open. It started bleeding immediately and as I rushed him to the bathroom I took a good look at it. It was deep, and I wanted to panic. All of these thoughts ran through my head; what do I do? Does he need stitches? Do I go to the hospital? HOW do I go to the hospital?! I have no insurance on my vehicle, and I'm not about to ride my bike toting my injured son the 25ish minutes it would take to get there by bike. What if he went unconscious on the trip? Should I call my Mom? What do I DO?! I sat him on the bathroom counter and grabbed the hand-towel sitting there. I got it wet and placed it on his wound. He had stopped crying by then and looked a little scared, probably because he knew by the way I was acting something wasn't right. I told Vaeh to get the phone and dial her Grandma, my Mom. She had just left my house maybe 7 minutes before this happened, and of course doesn't own a cell phone. Wouldn't you know it. I knew she wouldn't be home yet as it takes 15 minutes to get there if there is no traffic, so I'm not really sure why I called. I suppose I had hoped she had gotten home in record time, or maybe was about to get home and would see that I called on her call display and would call me back. I started thinking that if I could just wait long enough for her to get home, call me back, drive back to my house and then take us to the hospital then everything would be fine. I lifted the cloth on Gabe's eyebrow to look at his injury again and saw the blood running down his face and was reminded of how deep the cut was. Nope. We need to go to emergency and we need to go now. I scooped Gabe off of the bathroom counter and put Vaeh to work, asking her to grab our shoes, shorts for Gabe (he was in his underwear), a blanket (I wasn't about to look for a shirt for him), keys, check for Care Cards (our medical cards), get my purse, close curtains, lock doors, turn lights off and she did it all with excellent speed. We hopped into our uninsured van, Vaeh sitting beside her brother pressing the cloth against his head and off we went, praying. We said prayers that no police would bother us, we said prayers that Gabe would be okay, and we said prayers that the fuel gauge hovering a hair above the empty line would get us to the hospital. Again, wouldn't you know it. Lets recap: injured child, Mom just left my house, Mom doesn't have a cell phone, no insurance on my van, no gas in the tank. Lovely.
After getting stuck at 3 red lights and trying to remain as calm as possible, nervously glancing back and forth between Gabe and the fuel gauge, we made it to the hospital. We hurried in to emergency and boy was I relieved to see 1 other person in the waiting room. That almost never happens. After waiting a couple of minutes to see the triage nurse, we were given a form, Gabe's wound was rinsed and bandaged, we were sent to another desk to have another form printed out, sent back to the first desk where we got the first form and gave the second form to the same triage nurse, and were then told to sit down and wait. By this time, maybe 30 minutes later, the waiting room was full. Talk about timing. Thankfully Gabe was completely his normal self during all of this, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over all the sights and sounds of the emergency room, and thankfully the waiting room had a children's playhouse to entertain kids. I tell you, you would not even know that my little man had anything happen to him. He was laughing with his sister, playing house, telling anyone in the waiting room who would listen all about his owie, and striking random conversation with whoever else was nearby. I was so proud of him. We waited in the waiting room for about 30 to 45 minutes before we were called in to a nearby room that held beds separated by curtains. There was a young man and woman in the curtained off bed beside us, the young woman getting stitches on her finger. I heard her wimpering and moaning and I started to worry. How would Gabe handle this? It was just after 10pm so he was tired, he's never been to the hospital before, never had stitches.....I thought for sure he was going to flip out. The nurse that took us into the room had me sit Gabe on the bed so she could put a freezing gel on his eyebrow. She explained to him that she was going to put some medicine on his owie and that it was going to be very, very cold, like a popsicle. He nodded in acknowledgment and understanding, and then she asked him to lay down. He did as she asked right away. He flinched a bit while she applied the gel, and instinctively raised his hand as if he was going to move her hand away from his head but he put his hand down, and she was done. We were told it took 15 minutes for the gel to freeze the area and then the Dr. would be by to see if stitches were needed or if we could go another route. 15 minutes turned into 45, and after playing about 100 rounds of "I spy" and starting our third round of "The Sound of Music" songs, the Dr. finally made his way over. He peeled off the large plastic sticker-like covering the nurse had placed on Gabe's wound to keep him from touching the medicine (Gabe didn't like that too much! Try taking a big band-aid off of a deep gash and an eyebrow! Ouch. Still, he didn't cry.) and told me that we could get away with not using stitches but rather a medical glue to glue his wound together. I was SO relieved!!! The Dr. applied several coats of the purple glue while holding Gabe's wound together, and after 3 minutes or so was finished. Gabe lay on the bed perfectly still, admiring the stickers he had been given by a paramedic that was in the waiting room, and also by the nurse who took us in. 3 stickers in total. Lucky guy. The Dr. finished up, told me how to care for Gabe's wound from there on out and then advised Gabe not to operate any heavy machinery after a head injury. He was a nice man :) Gabe sat up and the Dr. walked over to a fridge just a few feet away. He turned around and had a popsicle for Gabe, and for Vaeh (who was amazing during all of this!!! She even got some stickers too.). Gabe was elated and so was I. My poor little guy. I wrapped him up in his blanket while he devoured his treat and we left the hospital. As I was buckling the kids into their carseats, I realized we still faced the issue of no insurance on the van and next-to-no gas in the tank. Again, we started to pray.

"Dear Lord, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease get us home safely. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease, pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease don't let there be any police along the way" (we emphasized that part A LOT when we drove past the police station).

We made it home safe and sound by 11pm. Thank you God.
Because Gabe hadn't lost consciousness, the Dr. said he should be totally fine to go to bed and me not have to worry. He told me it wouldn't hurt to check on him through the night just to put myself at ease but that wasn't an issue as Gabe sleeps in my bed with me (I practice Attachment Parenting, in case you are wondering why my 2 1/2 year old is still sleeping in my bed! See also Co-Sleeping). When we got home I thought it best to squeeze in a little cuddling time, just to unwind a bit from everything that had just unfolded. We curled up on the couch, all 3 of us, and watched a program about dinosaurs on the National Geographic channel. As their eyelids started getting heavy, I gathered them up and we all went to bed. Gabe slept just fine, right through the night, and woke up feeling great.

Through this situation I learned a couple of things about this whole car-free/car-lite lifestyle, doing so as a single parent of young children.

1. Don't get rid of the minivan. I had considered that if things went really well with us not needing the van I would eventually sell it. Now I realize that having it on hand, just in case, is really a smart idea for us.

2. Always make sure there is some gas in the van at all times.

I want to end by saying that I don't condone driving a vehicle without proper insurance because it is not safe and not all that smart. I also want to say that I admit taking a taxi to the hospital, or worst case scenario calling an ambulance, is definitely an option in situations like this and yes I probably could have utilized them. But considering this was the first major incident like this, I jumped on my first instinct to just get Gabe there as quickly as possible, and that involved utilizing the vehicle that I had on hand. I'm incredibly grateful that I had that option.

Today has been a much, MUCH better day. After walking to the mall this morning to hit up a sale at Old Navy for $1.00 flip-flops (now that is a frugal price if you ask me!) we headed over to Chapters to spend some time reading, snacking on treats at the in-store Starbucks (I had a $5.00 gift card I had won months ago) and playing with the train table in the children's area. We were having such a nice time in the gorgeously air-conditioned building that we decided to stay for story time and crafts. After spending about 4 hours in the store just hanging out and having fun, we agreed that we would try to head over there every Saturday for stories and crafts. Being a book and craft lover, I think that's a nice way to spend a too-hot Saturday afternoon with the kiddies, don't you? Fingers crossed this new ritual doesn't come after any more hospital-related incidences.

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