It had been about three months since I’d taken one of the kids to the emergency room. I knew we were overdue for a visit, but was hoping against hope that no one would get hurt or sick before my new insurance kicked in. We’d been doing pretty well in my quest to avoid doctors at all costs until this weekend when Jackson got in a fight with his bike. And lost.
Jackson was supposed to be at home, cleaning his room and mopping the kitchen floor. Everyone else had completed their weekend chores, but Jackson kept finding distractions to keep him from his work. I dragged him inside and reminded him of his jobs for the twentieth time. I went upstairs to finish putting sheets on my bed when Savannah walked up to tell me, “Jackson fell off his bike and got hurt.”
I’d like to say that I rushed to his side immediately, but I’ve experienced more than my fair share of “Jackson just got hurt” stories, and I knew from experience, that it probably wasn’t a big deal. I mean, yes, Jackson has had more ER visits than all five of the others combined, but he sustains even more minor injuries on a very regular basis. I asked, “Is he really hurt or is he just trying to get out of doing chores?” Savannah looked a little freaked out and said something was sticking out of his stomach. This can’t be good, I thought to myself and headed downstairs to check out the damage.
I found Jackson lying on the couch, tears making muddy little tracks down his dirt-covered face. He had dirt and sand on his limbs, his hair was matted to his face with sweat and he was crying that he was in pain. “Where does it hurt? What happened? What hurts?” I fired my questions in rapid succession, trying to ascertain how seriously he was injured.
Jackson’s tummy hurt too much to talk, so he explained in short little bursts. “Riding bike. Tried to do a wheelie. Handlebars turned around. Flipped off. Bars jabbed me in stomach.”
He lifted up his shirt and lowered the waist of his shorts to reveal a mass about the size of a baseball sticking out from his abdomen. I decided that either an alien had taken up residence in my son’s stomach and was about to be born by bursting out through his skin which was quickly turning red and purple, or his guts had been rearranged. Each scenario was equally disturbing. This wasn’t an injury that made me wonder, “Hmmm, should I take him to the ER or put some ice on it?” Nope, this was an injury that had me wondering, “Do I rush him to the ER myself or call an ambulance?”
Being new down here, I didn’t know which hospital to go to. I quickly called my friend and asked her where I should take him, while issuing instructions to the rest of my kids. Trying to get Jackson off the couch and into my van proved to be a huge challenge and I was just about to dial 911 when he managed to slowly walk out to my car. Clay hopped in the van and despite my protests that he’d be bored and hungry, insisted he needed to come with us. I stupidly agreed to avoid a fight that would prolong our departure.
When we arrived at the hospital at 5:45, the triage nurse asked me for my insurance information. I had just gotten an insurance card in the mail on Friday. This was Saturday. (I want to jump for joy on the amazing timing, but I’m afraid to jinx it. Although I received my insurance card, I’m afraid the insurance hasn’t quite kicked in yet. If my calculations are correct, it won’t be effective for another week. We’ll see, I guess.)
Anyway, we waited for what seemed like an eternity despite the fact that Jackson was pushed ahead of all the kids with runny noses and the man who had been having chest pains for a week even though he “only smoked 2 packs a day”.
The doctor took a look at Jackson and ordered a CT right away. While waiting for the CT, a nurse started an IV and took some blood. Generally, getting stuck with any kind of needle, makes Jackson scream loud enough to be heard in the next state. He was in too much pain to care this time. If you know Jackson, that speaks volumes of his pain level. In fact, he kept mentioning things like, “This hurts more than my broken arm. This hurts more than my broken nose. This hurts more than the stitches on the bottom of my foot. This hurts more than my broken toe. This hurts more than the time I fell off the swingset and couldn’t breathe. This hurts more than the time my arm got stomped on in football. This hurts more than . . .” This quite possibly could’ve gone on all night if the technician hadn’t wheeled him back for the CT scan and broken up his train of thought.
The technician who took Jackson for the scan had a strong Jamaican accent and every time he asked Jackson a question, Jax gave him a blank stare, then turned to me for translation. He injected iodine and scanned Jackson’s midsection. Then we went back to the room to wait. And wait. And wait. At around 9:30, after I pestered the nurse a few times, we were finally informed that the huge bump was just a large hematoma (fancy word for bruise). But, along with the blood and fluid in the muscle and tissue under his skin, there was also some internal bleeding. The CT showed a small amount of fluid and because of this, we were told that a pediatric surgeon needed to take a look and decide if he could go home, or if he needed to spend the night to make sure there weren’t more serious injuries internally.
Around 11:00, they finally managed to get Clay something to eat, and they delivered the news that Jackson would be admitted for the night, but not at that hospital, no. He had to be transferred by ambulance to a different hospital with a pediatric unit. I rushed Clayton home, gave instructions to Austin and Savannah and sped back to the hospital where I found Jackson watching some BMX competition on TV. “Seriously, Jackson, seriously?” I asked, rolling my eyes. He flipped the channel to a Friends rerun. The episode where Joey had a hernia ran through my mind and I couldn’t help laughing. Evidently, Jackson couldn’t stop laughing either and every time he laughed, he’d start to cry in earnest because the pain was so bad, so he flipped to the Food Network until almost 4:00 AM when they finally loaded him up in the ambulance to take him to the other hospital. By this time, the pain meds were starting to wear off and he was running a fever.
I was thinking how much it sucked that I couldn’t go in the ambulance with him, but someone needed to drive the car. And how much it sucked that I had to leave my other kids alone, but someone had to be with Jackson. And how much it sucked that I might have to miss some work. And how much it sucked that I’m not paid if I miss a day. And how much it sucked that none of this might even be covered by insurance. And how much it sucked that we were supposed to go to the beach later that day to meet one of Lexi’s friends from back home who was here on vacation and now we couldn’t do that. And how much it sucked that none of this would’ve even happened if Jackson had listened to me and been doing his chores instead of screwing around on his bike. It’s at times like these when being a single mom to many (especially in a new place without much of a support system) just stinks.
But, on the bright side, the people were nice and attentive at the new hospital, there was a couch that opened into a bed for me, the room looked more like a hotel room than a hospital room, the doctor who saw Jackson there was young and cute, and best of all, his fever went away, he felt a little better the next day, and he didn’t need surgery.