Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Karma Bites

Last night, Nick and I sat on the floor in our home library playing Yahtzee. This is a fun strategy to help him master number manipulation, which is a pretty serious problem for him. As we finished up, he lay down on his back and pulled a thin book off one of my shelves.

In case you had completely forgotten that I am an unrepentant medieval literature geek, here’s the book:

Dr. William Woods, my graduate thesis advisor, put together this bibliography for his freshman composition class. He graciously gave it to me while I was working on my thesis. I’ve never really thought of a bibliography as a dangerous object, but alas, a nine-year-old boy can get into trouble with anything. Nick dropped the book, edge-first, onto his eyeball.

Allow me to pause while you wince in sympathy. Ouch.

He promptly began screaming and holding his eye and screaming and flailing and screaming some more. I got him into a hug, where he stopped flailing and started depositing snot and tears on my shirt. I kept hugging him while George and Jack joined us in the library asking identical questions: “What happened? Why is Nick crying?”

I explained what I’d seen, while trying really hard not to cry myself. As much as it hurts to scratch your eye (been there, done that, more than once), it hurts so much more to see your child in pain.

George picked the book off the floor and joined me in rubbing Nick’s back and uttering soothing nothings to calm Nick down enough to take his hand away from his eye so we could see if there was any visible damage. Jack took a more artistic approach to sympathizing with his brother and announced, “I will make Nick a well card so he can feel better.” Then he disappeared.

Seconds later, he reappeared. “This will make Nick feel better,” he said, and held out his three-by-five-inch Well Card:

Isn’t that just the cutest little thing?

Unfortunately, our firstborn son had several legitimate excuses for screaming his head off and refused to look at Jack’s Well Card. First, he is my son and inherited my tendency to handle pain, um, poorly. Very. Poorly. Second, he had already experienced an eye injury once before, while playing around with a rubber snake that snapped back and hit him on the eyeball. That time, Nick took a lovely tour of the ER with George, which ended in a diagnosis of a scratched conjunctiva. He’d had to use antibiotic ointment for five days.

Oh, the trauma of the ointment! Nick dislikes anything that feels uncomfortable or weird, and by dislike, I mean fusses like a cat with its tail caught in the door. He’s physical, he’s loud, and he cannot be reasoned with.

Memories of this previous trauma flooded his panicked mind last night, adding a special intensity to the screaming. I totally sympathized and hugged him until he finally calmed down enough to go upstairs with us and let us look in his eye, which was red but not obviously injured. We told both boys to brush teeth and get ready for bed. George and I discussed options quietly in our bedroom, but Nick overheard us mention the ER, which kicked off a new round of wailing.

“I don’t want to go to the ER!!!!! I don’t like the ER!!!! Nooooooooo!!!!!!!”

We explained—calmly and reasonably—the need to have a doctor look in Nick’s eye to see if there was a scratch and to give him medicine if he needed it. Calm and reason are lost on nine-year-old drama kings.

“I hate that ointment!!!!! It feels weird!!!! And the eye drops HURT!!!! Nooooooo!!!!!”

We asked Nick how his eye was feeling.

“It feels like it has a chip in it!! It feels like it has a DONATO’S PIZZA in it!!!!”

George and I made eye contact over Nick’s head. George, the better parent by far, smiled but refrained from laughing. I did not. With melodrama like this, so specific and exaggerated, he is definitely my son. If we'd had Donato's Pizza when I was little, I'd have used that line. It's brilliant. And funny, too.

Around this time, Jack grabbed his guitar and started singing a Well Song to Nick. He really was trying hard to make his brother feel better. We all were.

Nick and I got in the car to drive to the nearest ER. On the way, he would occasionally yell out in frustration and pain as his eye throbbed, and I would say, "It's going to be okay, sweetie. It's going to be okay." In between wails, he sniffily said, “At least it’s better than last time. Last time, you threw my rubber snake in the trash! That was horrible!”

At one point on the drive, when he was complaining about how much the ointment was going to hurt, I told him I’d scratched my eye with a broken radio antenna when I was about his age, so I knew for a fact that the ointment didn’t hurt. He curiously asked, “A radio antenna? What’s that?” Oh. My. Gosh.

As we walked into the ER, I saw there wasn’t a single person in the waiting room. Last time I’d come to this ER, I’d waited five hours just to be taken to the back. This time, Nurse Ashley immediately took Nick into the triage room. She asked Nick a few friendly questions about the accident, but although he'd been quite the chatterbox on the drive to the ER, he refused to answer the nurse.

He just whimpered. Pathetically.

We had to wait a while in the ER room for a doctor. This is, I think, always the worst part of an ER visit because when you’re lying in an uncomfortable hospital bed in a sterile room full of equipment that looks incomprehensibly alien, there is NOTHING to distract you from the pain. Despite finding Nick’s melodrama highly entertaining, I truly felt sorry for him. I tried to distract him from the pain and boredom by pulling out my Palm Pilot (which doesn’t have an antenna, you know) and taught him how to play Solitaire. He was actually quite perky until the doctor came into the room.

At the sight of her white coat, however, he deflated. More whimpering. More drama. After much protest, Nick finally allowed the doctor to put the numbing drops and fluorescing dye into his eye. The doctor showed me the glowing scratch, about half an inch long, which extended horizontally over the conjunctiva and ever so slightly onto his cornea.

After a few instructions, the doctor fled the scene as quickly as she could and sent another nurse to give us the dreaded ointment as well as a note for school in case his eye still hurt in the morning. This nurse, realizing how she had been sent into a room filled with epic pitifulness, fled as quickly as she could. Nick asked to take the bracelet off, and I said we would cut it off at home. He asked if I was going to scrapbook the incident, and I said I hadn't brought my camera. He said, "You have your phone." So I took a picture of our patient, and we left.

My phone doesn't have an antenna either, by the way.

We walked out of the ER at 9:00, one hour after entering it. I am thrilled to report that Nick’s eye felt fine after a good night's sleep, but my patience is already worn thin after just one application of the ointment. I had to threaten him with no computer time for a week if he didn’t let me put the ointment in his eye. We have 8 more applications to go, and I foresee the need for repeating this dire threat every single time.

I have no one to blame but myself. When my mother reads this story, she will feel totally sorry for Nick and at the same time point her finger at her computer and laugh hysterically at me. She, better than anyone, knows that Nick’s melodrama is karmic payback for all I put her through when I had stitches—twice—as a young girl, not to mention that whole radio antenna episode and other incidents too numerous to mention here.

Some days, karma just bites.


  1. Oh my goodness. The card is amazing. The story funny and painful. Nick sounds an awful lot like my son, with sensory issues! UGH. I know exactly how you feel -- it used to take 3 adults to hold down my son for a teeth cleaning!!

    it gets better!

  2. I have a little blondie with blue eyes that screams for a band aid for close calls. I kid you not. Sigh.
    I am there with you in laughing at the drama llama in the room.

    I am pathetic.

    ; )

  3. A great story! and I have my own from this week, the short version, sisters playing after bed time, 2yr old ends up with nursemaid elbow and a trip to the ER ourselves. Us to amazingly 3 xrays later and an elbow back in place were out of there in just 65minutes!
    I hope Nick is feeling better.


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