When I chose adventure as my word this year, this past week wasn’t quite the type I was thinking. We spent eight hours in the ER with our middle child Tuesday night/Wednesday morning after he cut his foot so badly he needed 20 stitches. He’s on crutches now. He’s doing much better and his foot looks like it’s healing well, but I wanted to mention some strategies that came in useful.
- The medical center had a child life specialist. Obviously this was out of our control; we just lucked out. She visited several times while we waited, provided an iPad with games, answered his questions, showed him the material used for stitching so he could see the size of the needle and the type of thread. While anything was being done to his foot–application of numbing cream, cleaning, and the stitching–she sat right by his head and gave him her complete attention. She engaged him in conversation, let him know what was going on, and helped distract him from the pain. She said that medical center (which has a separate pediatric ER) has three child life specialists, all donor funded. This was our second experience with them. At one visit to the asthma clinic in RI, a child life specialist was available, but it wasn’t common. They should be a staple in pediatric ERs. I’m grateful.
- Even with the numbing cream and an injection of extra numbing medicine, a few of the stitches were very painful. I reminded N to take bear breaths, something we recently learned about thanks to Yoga Pretzel cards. He knew just what I meant, and he took the deep breaths in, held them, exhaled, and held, and got through those painful stitches. The visualization cards were also very helpful the first day. He’s a very imaginative person and took right to imagining a happy, calm place in detail.
- When the pain got bad those first 24-36 hours home, I mimed pulling it out of his foot. Sometimes I had to pull really hard. Then I formed it into a ball and asked him where I should throw it. Outside? No, it might be found by an animal. He decided it needed to be thrown out, and so I opened the trash can and clanged it in. I did this whenever he needed me to.
- He’s an active kid, with a buzzy sort of energy, and he’s not allowed to put his right foot down for at least two weeks. I realized pretty quickly that sometimes when he was yelling, it wasn’t so much out of pain but as a way to get that energy out of his body because he has so few outlets to do so. It can feel good to just yell.
He’s doing better every day. It’s good to know that, as a family, we all are pretty good in an emergency. I was at soccer practice with our daughter when the injury happened, but I heard N applied his own direct pressure and V was steady, calm, and extremely helpful. (“He was a rock,” our neighbor told me. “Exactly the kind of person you want in an emergency.”) It’s been an exhausting week but we’re getting through day by day, as you do.