Emergency Room


The email was short: Rob is hurt. I got it over an hour after it was sent and immediately grabbed my phone. Eleven missed calls. Four voicemail messages. My stomach dropped to the floor. I asked my first period class to please be quiet; there was an emergency with my son. I didn’t have to ask twice; you could have heard a pin drop.

The messages were basically all the same. Rob cut his head. Justin was on his way to daycare. They were on their way to Winchester Hospital. They were at Winchester Hospital. Justin’s phone was dying. He hoped I’d get the message at some point.

No one was in the office across the hall, so I called downstairs. There was a sub in my room in minutes, while I tried to impart some last-minute wisdom for my sophomores who are taking the MCAS tomorrow. Then it was a full sprint to the parking lot, pausing to assure friends that I was indeed OK to drive. Honestly – I shouldn’t have been anywhere behind the wheel.

Lights just wouldn’t turn green. Cars seemed to slow down all around me. Rush hour traffic still wasn’t completely gone. The twenty-mile trip to the hospital took an eternity. I pulled around to the valet parking at the Emergency Room, threw my car into park, tossed my keys at the startled valet (who was trying to help an elderly woman in a wheelchair – but I had an emergency, right?), and dashed into the ER.

The women saw me rush through the door and knew I was there for Rob. A calm nurse took me back, telling me that everything was fine and Robbie was being a champ. I heard him from down the hall. I’d recognize that laugh anywhere… Yes. Laugh.

I walked into the room, and Robbie bolted for me. He had a cotton ball taped to his forehead and a big smile on his face. It turns out the cotton ball was just numbing medication; the tough part hadn’t happened yet. But, while he waited for the inevitable, Robbie was happy to color and run around.

While we waited for the stitches, Justin filled me in on what had happened. He’d been about seven miles down 128 when he got a call from Zhining. Her dialogue went something like this: “Is this Robert’s father? Robert’s head is broken. There is blood. He needs to go to the hospital. Please come.” Let me pause here. I’m sure there’s a better translation than “head is broken”. There has to be. Justin’s imagination immediately went wild as he rushed back to Lexington to discover exactly how Robbie had “broken” his head.

After Justin left, Robbie grabbed a metal Matchbox car, his favorite toy. He ran around daycare like a madman and tripped. As he went down, he landed on the car. And the car kept going. All the way into his forehead.

I was a little horrified when the P.A. came to take off Robbie’s bandage and get him ready to suture. The gash was wider than I expected; there was a hole in my little boy’s head! The whole process is still a little baffling; thank goodness there were some fabulous women to explain it to us. They slip Robbie’s arm into a pillow case, telling him that he got to look like a super hero. Robbie didn’t buy it. At all. Especially when they swaddled him in a blanket.

Justin and I held his legs and torso; the nurse held his little head. The screaming started as soon as they began irrigating the wound – twice. Then P.A. covered his face with a napkin (I’m sure there’s a technical term, but…) and got to work. It took two layers of stitches and about ten minutes. I could have sworn it was at least an hour. Robbie’s screams got louder and his “Mama! Mama! Daddy!” got more and more pitiful. Eventually, he started yelling, “Hot! Hot!” Justin and I just looked at each other and held hands while we kept his legs from moving. It was all I could do to keep the tears from taking over.

As soon as he was all stitched up and unswaddled, Robbie leapt into my arms. He cuddled with me for a moment and was then distracted by the red popsicle the nurse brought for him. Being the good mom I am, I brought out the camera. Robbie’s face lit up, and he started saying, “Cheese! Cheese!”, posing for pictures as Justin clicked away. He could have cared less about what had happened three minutes before.

The rest of the day was much less eventful. Robbie picked out what he wanted for lunch and took a long nap. We attempted to assuage any fears Zhining had when she called in tears to check on QiQi. After his nap, I took Robbie by to see Zhining. I wanted her to know that he really was OK and that no one blamed her. She burst into tears as soon as she opened the door and grabbed Robbie to give him a good once-over.

There’s nothing that can prepare you for what happens the instant you find out something has happened to your child. Nothing. I’ve seen him bump his head and fall off a chair. I’ve seen him slam his fingers in a drawer. But not this. Not broken. Not beyond my help. But, you know what? We made it. Justin and I survived it. Together. And with some great stories. Let’s be honest; most kids crack their heads open on a coffee table. Not mine. My kid impaled himself on a Matchbox car. My story involves a little translation mishap.

It’s not the ideal start to a week, but I think I’ll take it. After all, it has a happy ending. And some cool Band-Aids.


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