Tromping Off to the Emergency Room…

He’s fine. I’m pretty sure.

It’s just a dislocated knee from, to quote the boy, “too much dancing and jumping.” The camp nurse, MB, broke it to me slowly, which is good because I was driving when she called to say that his knee was injured and the ambulance was on its way. It was all I go do to stop myself from getting on the highway and driving west toward camp. It didn’t matter that it would probably all be taken care of by the time I got there – the thought of him in an Emergency Room without me sent my stomach through the floor. But I held it together and kept my sense of humor, laughing when she told me that, when they went move him he glowered and them and warned, “Don’t even think about it!” I’m sure there was plenty more of that before the night was out.

As our strange brand of luck would have it, he already had some ER experience under his belt. Thanks to an emergency appendectomy in 2007, he’d already been to an emergency room, already had pain killers, already had x-rays and an I.V. Some of those memories were traumatic – courtesy of an atrocious phlebotomist – but we had worked them through for the most part already. But in 2007 (five years ago to the day from this event, now that I look at the calendar) I never left his side for days at a time. Now all I had was a guy named Tom the EMT at the other end of a cell phone and a counselor named Liam with a fabulous British accent, both telling me that he was fine. I had gone from not trusting anyone with my kid to allowing two complete strangers to ride in an ambulance with him  (that part was new – I think he thought it was cool) and advocate for his care.  How this happened and why I didn’t drive through the night to get there I am still trying to figure out.

But I had no choice but to ask a lot of questions and hope they got the best care they could. The plan was to give him some pain killers, pop the errant knee back into place, take some more x-rays to assure that nothing else was wrong and send him tromping back to camp with a brace and a boatload of Motrin.

I spoke with him on the phone twice in the ER, and he sounded pretty good. At one point he said, “May I return now?”

“Oh, you’ll be going back to camp in a while, don’t worry.”

“No, I mean come home.” No tears, no angst in his voice, just a simple question. I had to answer fast, since any hesitation would reveal my ambivalence and would be taken as an opening for negotiation. I wanted to say yes and so I can’t remember exactly what I did say, but I know I laughed and assured him that he would be fine among his friends at camp and added that we would be visiting soon anyway. I am so proud of his bravery in the face of all these transitions I could not possibly let him think that getting hurt was the way to come home. I have too many pictures of him smiling and it was too close to family day to let what appeared to be a recoverable injury undermine his summer, even if he didn’t quite see it that way.   No worries, I told him.

Family day is coming up. We’ll check out the knee, check out the boy and see what comes next. Our turn to tromp.

The Blood Knows Where to Go

Last November, I read an article in the New York Times about the alarming number of people with developmental disabilities who die unexplained deaths while in state custody.  I couldn’t finish it through my tears.  The previous weeks had been largely devoted to transition planning and cognitive testing for our teenaged son, so my worries about his future were already close to the surface.  I usually am better at keeping a lid on my anxiety on the long term issues; I don’t think it’s fair to my other children to let autism dominate the family dialogue any more than it already does.  So after my decidedly lid-off response to the article, I went up to take a shower, which always helps me regain my equilibrium.

In my extremely nearsighted state I fumbled with the new razor I took with me into the shower, and nicked a bit of skin off of one of the knuckles on my left hand.  It bled a little bit but for what seemed like a long time, and I stood there in the steaming water, watching it channel through grooves in my skin, run off the side of my hand and disappear in the cascading water.  Maybe this is why people cut themselves, I thought, understanding for the first time why anyone would do such a thing.  The bracing clarity of pain and the fascination with flowing blood make other troubles fade, if only for a moment.  Having drawn blood, your instincts take over and stopping the flow becomes your only goal.   There’s a strange kind of release (adrenaline, I guess) in that kind of single-mindedness, especially when the pursuit of multiple goals is what is making you crazy.  I thought of my worries running down the drain with the hot water, and how what is terrifying in one moment can seem perfectly manageable in the next.

I haven’t been tempted to capture that feeling again in that way, but I understand better now the value of tackling challenges one at a time and setting short term goals rather than taking on the entire future at once.  And perhaps I should be a little more selective about what I read in the paper, and when.