Last night, for the third time in my ten-year marriage, I rushed my husband to the ER. He gashed his hand while doing the dishes (yes, really), and called me out of a restaurant to come get him. I had just finished a pre-season training for eight Summer 2010 Backyard Lifeguards (all fabulous, by the way) and was just enjoying a bite to eat after a long day when the phone rang. He had that voice. You know, the one that tells you something is different, wrong even, but you have to show up to find out what it is. So I left my friend sitting at our window table and headed home.
I found him waiting by the door squeezing a dishtowel in each hand, arms extended over his head. Direct pressure and elevation. I have trained him well. If you didn’t know better, you would think he had just witnessed a Bears touchdown. We got in the car and headed to St. John’s. (A little shout-out to St. John’s. It is STILL the best suburban ER in St. Louis. Been that way since I did my EMT ride-alongs in 1990.)
Two hours, three traumas, an x-ray, and five stitches later, we were home. So much for getting ice cream and going to bed early, which was our original plan. I have now added resident wound cleaner and bandage changer to my list of household responsibilities. And in a few minutes I will head downstairs to clean the blood off the kitchen floor.
Like my mother, I have to find the “lesson” in everything (eye-roll here), so I am reminded that accidents happen at any time and without warning. We fully expect our days to go as we planned them, with the occasional time-sucker or obstacle that causes us to revise our itinerary. But in the end, even after what we might describe as a frustrating, unproductive, even horrible day, we usually come home in one piece.
Even when we have an emergency, lots of times we get lucky and things click into place. My husband was able to help himself first and make a phone call. I answered (a miracle in itself) and was close to home. There was no traffic on the road. The ER was between rushes of activity. The x-ray showed no pieces of glass in the hand. He’ll make a full recovery.
We can add this event to the broken shoulder on the fourth of July and the unexplained full-body rash of 1999, past emergencies that made other days not go as planned. Yesterday was a crazy day, but not a bad one. It was busy, had some ups, some downs, and some unexpected events. Everyone I know is alive and well, if a little banged up. As my neighbor just mentioned, it didn’t change my lifestyle.
So many people can’t say that. Their expectations of a normal day fell horribly short when they waited for their children to come home alive and healthy and, well, they didn’t. It happens so much more often than we want to realize, and an average of 7,500 times a year to children who end up in the hospital or the morgue as a result of a water accident. It changes their lives forever, and that of their families. Parents spend the rest of their days wondering what life would be like if their child had lived or had not been incapacitated. They don’t just mourn the loss of their child. They mourn that child’s potential, and the potential they saw for themselves.
The dozen people I saw yesterday were surprised to learn I was at the hospital within 30 minutes of leaving them. But they know that accidents can and do happen. When planning a swimming activity, please remember that water has powerful properties that make it inherently dangerous. It can change your day—or your life—in an instant.