In praise of pluck

My cheerful patient, experiencing the luxury of adapted shopping. Thanks for those amazing carts, Loblaws!

My cheerful patient, experiencing the luxury of adapted shopping. Thanks for those amazing carts, Loblaws!

It was going to be the perfect weekend. I would be alone in the house, with only the dog and the cat, for four days. Four days. Alone. In my house. By myself, I mean.

Husband was taking the kids to his brother’s place on Georgian Bay, like he’d done the previous year, for the August long weekend. And I wasn’t coming because 1) not super wild about outhouses, 2) not super wild about crowded cottages on long weekends, and 3) super duper crazy wild about being left home alone for four entire days. I didn’t care that I’d have no car (we are a one-car family), because I have a bike, a buss pass, and money for Uber, and I had all the supplies I needed anyway.

They left Thursday morning. By 5 pm I’d washed all the beds and cleaned the whole place from top to bottom. It was unrecognizably clean and organized, and I was a happy, sweaty mess. Beer, light dinner, glass of wine, a little Netflix, in bed by 10 to read. Asleep by 10:15. Perfect day.

The phone rang a little after midnight. Husband telling me Middle Daughter (8) had had an accident and they were on their way to the hospital. She’d fallen through the open trap door in the floor and crashed onto a plywood table in the room below. Serious cut, needs stitches.

If you’re wondering why nobody thought to close the trap door in the living room floor for the 7- and 8-year-old visitors (my eldest was at a different cottage with her cousins), you’re not alone. Oh, they closed it after. But, you know the thing about barns and horses? Yeah.

They did what they could for her leg with whatever first-aid material they had on hand (gauze, towels and a cardboard box, I gather), and headed to the boat. One brother-in-law drove, the other brother-in-law navigated, while husband held the child.

The boat ride takes a solid 45 minutes across Georgian Bay. Daughter didn’t like the waves, much. They hurt her. But there was no choice. They reached one brother-in-law’s parents’ place, jumped in the car, and drove to the Midland hospital.

How big is the cut, I asked.

About eight inches. I cried. I felt terribly guilty not to be there to hold my baby. And angry. Angry that such a stupid idiotic entirely preventable accident had happened. I did my best to hide all this. I spoke with her and she was amazingly cheerful, which made me think that possibly the cut wasn’t that bad and that a few stitches would indeed be all that was needed.

I asked my husband to take a picture of the cut and send it to me. He would when they got it unbandaged for the doctor, as soon as possible. It came at nearly 2 am.

It wasn’t a cut. It was a very wide, and very deep gash. About eight inches long, about three inches wide, and so deep the muscle had to be repaired. On my phone I could see the fibre in her exposed quadriceps. I spoke to her again and she was still in good spirits. Yes it hurts, she said, but I’ll be fine.

Don’t ask me where she gets that kind of strength. I’d have freaked out had it been my quads on such gruesome display.

Husband said the emergency doctor had recommended waiting for the surgeon to fix the wound. He was due to come in at six am and they would wait for him.

Right, I thought. What do you bet they don’t wait…

It’s the middle of the night and I’m six hours away in Ottawa with a dog, a cat, and no car. I would have to get myself out there Friday. That would mean renting a car and spending a long-ass time driving it in holiday-weekend cottage traffic. I would need all the rest I could get. So despite how upset I was I forced myself to close my eyes and go back to sleep.

Got up at six, to a text from my husband informing me that they’d woken up the surgeon and surgery was already over. She’d had to be put under for it, and was now recovering. She’d had her muscle fixed up, about a million stitches, a long series of staples, and a drain. I called him. He hadn’t had much sleep and was not at his sharpest, understandably. He said something about maybe taking her back to the cottage if they discharged her that day.

The foot came down. No way. I’m coming to get her. I’m not letting her get far from a hospital for a while, because complications do happen and so can infection. With that kind of wound on such a small body, it wouldn’t take much to generate another crisis.

He sounded relieved to hear me say it. He was trying to find a way not to ruin my weekend of peace and quiet, which I appreciate. But it was too late at this point.

I made a couple of calls to the car rental places around my house and sure enough nobody had anything. The Friday of a long weekend is not a great time to rent a car at the last minute. I would have to go to the airport. Found something there (at a steep price, thanks very much), Ubered my way to YOW, picked up my ride, and came back home to grab my overnight bag in case the hospital kept her an extra day, some clothes for her along with an ipad, blankets, pillows, and the dog.

I got to the hospital just after 3 pm, to news that the surgeon had agreed she could come home with me. She was sitting in her ICU bed eating freezies. She had thrown up that morning, and the frozen treats were staying down, so the nurses agreed to let her eat a few. She was looking about as good as anyone can in the ICU, and said she wasn’t in too much pain (yay drugs). Then she apologized for having gotten hurt.

Oh no, baby. You have nothing to be sorry about. I hugged and kissed her as much as she would let me. I’ll take you home tonight, and we’ll make you better. Say, want to go see a movie tomorrow?

She was disappointed to miss the cottage weekend, but this could not be helped.

It took about three hours to get the discharge paperwork done, for the nurses to show me how to empty her drain, change her dressing and clean her wound, for the pharmacy to cough up the powerful antibiotics she’d have to take, and for me to drive husband back to brother-in-law’s parents’ place so he could head back to the woods and the other two kids. We got home just past midnight. She’d fallen asleep shortly after 10 and I was so jacked up on caffeine my back was seizing up. But we were home. I got her to bed, put stuff away, drank half a glass of wine, and collapsed.

This little kid stayed cheerful and positive the whole time. She’s walking around (slowly, not far), and not complaining much except during dressing changes. Those are painful. Otherwise she swallows her ugly big pills without a fuss, and does everything I ask her to do. Well, except for picking Dunkirk as the movie, as I was hoping she’d do. She insisted on Despicable Me 3. I fell asleep and missed the ending, but she was pleased as punch.

She’s only eight years old and she just had her leg burst open, and there she is showing me how to cope with unexpected problems. You bet I’m taking notes.

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