If you follow An Inch of Gray on Facebook, you know Andrew had a little adventure last week.
We'd had a great day of puddle jumping, hair cutting, and general toddler fun. I had a chicken in the oven, and we were in the home stretch heading toward dinner and bedtime. As I stood in the kitchen, pouring myself a cup of tea, Andrew walked up and showed me his hand. He had taken the lid off a tiki torch canister and lodged a chubby finer in the hole where the wick is supposed to go. I picked him up and slathered dish soap all over it hoping it would slide right off. Next I tried a tub of butter. The more I tried, the more swollen his finger got, and then it started to bleed. He went from thinking he was awfully clever to crying and really wishing the lid would come off.
If Tim had been home, I probably would have googled, "How to dislodge a finger from a tiki torch lid," and we would have worked together to get it off. Perhaps we would have gone down to the basement to see if we had any tin snips to cut right through the lid.
Instead, as Andrew wailed, and his finger grew more and more purple, I called 911. I figured they would have a tool to free his finger, and they could get there faster than if I put Andrew in the car to drive to the ER during rush hour.
As soon as he heard that an ambulance was coming, Andrew stopped crying and was super happy. Bubbly, in fact. And that's when my second-guessing set in. He was obviously not in that much pain, and I was using valuable county resources for something minor. But in the back of my mind, I wondered if he could lose the use of his finger if I'd waited.
The EMT's came and looked at it, as he happily marveled at their cool ride. Instead of snipping the lid off, as I'd assumed they would, they said we need to go to the ER. While the EMT’s had a tool that could cut rings off easily, it wasn’t the right fit for the lid. Oops. I’d figured that if these guys had the Jaws of Life to extract people from cars, a toddler finger would be easy-peasy.
Within minutes, we were in an ambulance heading to a nearby hospital. Andrew thoroughly enjoyed the ride from the comfort of my lap, pointing out the motorcycle, trash truck, and numerous cars he saw through the rear doors.
Once at the ER, a doctor and 2 nurses worked together to remove the lid. Their tool of choice? A new shoelace, threaded through the opening. They were able to wind it around his finger to control the swelling and pull the lid off. We were finished within minutes— Andrew's cut so minor he needed just some Neosporin and a bandaid.
It was a happy ending to a stressful situation. Getting the ER bill will be a bit more stressful, but that story is not today's story.
For as we rode in the ambulance, I was able to relax a bit, breathe, and consider my actions and motivations.
I realized that in the moment Andrew came to me, I entered crisis mode and was taken back to 2011 and Jack's accident. Of course I didn't think Andrew would DIE because of his minor injury, but I no longer trusted my judgment to gauge the situation. I wanted the help of professionals because I was no longer confident I could make the right decisions for my kids.
You see, when I’d reached the scene of Jack's accident, just seconds after he somehow ended up in the raging water, I tried to take care of the situation myself. Instead of calling 911, I got in my car to drive to a spot where my heart told me he would be, exactly where his body was found a few hours later. This wasted time.
So last week, I didn't trust my judgment. My relatively calm demeanor and desire to not make a fuss had failed my children in small ways over the years, and had failed Jack in the biggest way possible.
I know I am forgiven. I know it in my heart and in my head. Jack has graciously let me know in his own way that I should not beat myself up for those precious seconds, yet I guess they still inform my actions.
I saw that last week.
Margaret was home. She is almost 17 now. She could have driven us to the hospital while I comforted Andrew in the back seat of the car. But in those frantic moments, I could only see her as a frightened 10 year old again, whose brother was in crisis. As the adrenaline rushed through my body, I wanted to spare her pain and assure her everything was okay, and I wanted her to know that this time, the professionals, not MOM, would help us.
People always ask me if I’m overprotective because of what happened to Jack, and I’ve been able to answer truthfully, NO. In fact I live with a degree of freedom that most people don’t have, in understanding that I’m not really in control of very much.
Yet I carry that day in my mind, and in my body. In my quiet moments and my more frenzied ones. It wasn’t until last week, with Andrew’s little finger, that I realized I carry that day in a way I’d never even considered before.