Terry Woster: When kids don’t ask ‘what could go wrong?’
I wrote recently about a doctor who still made house calls, which is cool, but I’ve been on the patient side of a house call to the doctor.
Actually, our younger son, Andy, was the patient. I played the part of the chauffeur or maybe ambulance driver. Nancy served as the EMT on the scene, keeping the patient stable during the transport. B.O. Lindbloom, now retired, acted as the receiving emergency-room doc, right there in his own home.
I’m not sure how old Andy was at the time — somewhere between old enough to know better and young enough to not think twice before trying something that should have made him say to himself, “Sure, what could go wrong with this?’’ If you have raised a son or two, you know the age I’m describing isn’t just a short phase. Sometimes it lasts for years, during which time you as the parent find yourself in conversations with your son that consist, on your part, mostly of comments such as, “Did you ever stop to think it might turn out poorly?’’
Well, in this case, Andy was practicing the long jump in our family room. The place was short on runway, and the landing pit was just in front of the brick fireplace. (Sure, what could go wrong with that, right?) Olympic long jumpers on television have a way of kind of bouncing sideways out of the pit, which might have helped in the Woster Family-Room Olympics, although the brick was pretty much right up against the pit. In any event, the kid didn’t even show a hint of bouncing sideways. He hit the pit and spilled forward, smack into the brick with his forehead.
On the bright side, I don’t think he fouled the take-off. The way blood gushed from the gash above his eyebrows, though, I don’t think you could legitimately call it a “clean’’ jump. His mother, the nurse, took charge of slowing the flow of blood and inspecting the length and depth of the wound. I took charge of yelling generally unhelpful stuff. In a medical crisis, those are the roles she and I handle best.
With the bleeding stopped, Nancy called Doc, who said to bring the kid over to his house and he’d take a look. We did, he did, and I think it took some of those butterfly bandages, not stitches.
That call to the doctor’s house wasn’t the usual procedure when the kid had a mishap. Most times we wound up in the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital. We did when another jet ski crashed across the one Andy rode, and when he put an elbow through the playroom window, and when he did a monster dunk on the playground, fell backward and smacked his head on the blacktop.
I showed up late for the jet-ski incident. Nancy handled the trip to the ER.
I was involved from the start in the playroom window deal. As I told the ER nurse, we were going one-on-one with a sponge ball and a stick-up hoop. Andy tried to make a move along the baseline, and I had to block him, right? Yep, and right into the window. Some blood spilled, but there was no permanent damage, except that we couldn’t play ball in the house after that.
The playground incident was a whole different level of medical emergency. Andy and his big brother, Scott, were playing ball when it happened. Andy landed on the back of his head and lost consciousness. Scott ran across the street, where a former teacher said how pleased he was by the visit before Scott could describe the emergency. They called for an ambulance, and then Scott called me.
Nancy was due home in minutes, but I couldn’t wait. In an age before cell phones, I scribbled a message about Andy, a fall, and the emergency room, cranked up my four-cylinder pickup and sped to the playground in time to jump the curb, turn around and follow the ambulance to the hospital. Nancy found the note and joined us.
One thing: Whether outpatient to the doctor’s house or visiting the ER, we had great health care for the kid.