Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Suburban Man: Emergency Rooms
By Rick Kaempfer
I always thought Emergency Rooms were supposed to be scary. They certainly seemed scary to me when I was a kid. We used to go there as a family to wait for my little brother while he was being stitched up every month or so. The waiting room was uncomfortable. Sick and injured people moaned in pain and dripped blood on the floor. Nurses and doctors came running in and out. Monitors beeped. Ambulance alarms whirred. And everyone waited for hours.
That’s what I was expecting the first time I accompanied my oldest son to the Emergency Room to get stitches. He was eight years old at the time and had a very deep cut in his chin. I tried to prepare him emotionally for the whole Emergency Room experience, but he looked at me like I was crazy. He had been there a few times before with his mother and wasn’t concerned in the slightest. I gave him a comforting hug.
“You are so brave,” I said. “I’m so proud of you.”
He actually rolled his eyes. That choked me up. This kid was like one of those cowboys in the old time Westerns. His eyes were saying…“It’s just a flesh wound, Hoss; let me dig out the bullet in peace. Now go out there and keep them rustlers away from our herd.”
He was still nonchalant when we walked into the Emergency Room and awaited our turn with the triage nurse. He made small talk with her, wincing only slightly when she looked at the gash on his chin.
“Does it hurt?” she asked.
“A little,” he said.
“A little?” I thought to myself. “That thing is going to need ten stitches.”
“It’s a pretty big cut,” she said, “but we’ll take care of it for you.”
“Are we going back there?” he asked, pointing to the door behind her.
Uh oh, I thought. Here it comes. Now he’s going to remember what happens behind those doors; the needles, the prodding, the pain. I prepared for the hysterical reaction. I saw how he behaved when some small thing went wrong, like his macaroni touching the vegetables on his dinner plate, and could only imagine what was coming. I hunkered down for the fit of all fits.
“Follow me,” she said.
We followed her through the door to the kid’s section of the Emergency Room. Suffice it to say, it has changed a little over the past thirty years. The colorful walls were painted with cartoon fish. The gigantic fish tank contained a rainbow of tropical fish worthy of the Shedd Aquarium. It was like walking onto the set of “Finding Nemo.”
When they opened the curtain to his room, he was actually excited. He jumped onto the bed, pressed the buttons to raise it to the level he preferred, adjusted the television to the proper angle, and began changing channels. While the nurse put the numbing agent on his chin, he was watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon on the Cartoon Network.
“Do you have any video games?” he asked.
I was about to chastise him for his prima-donna demands when the nurse surprised me.
“Sure,” she said. “What kind of video games do you like?”
“Do you have Super Mario Brothers?” he asked.
“I’ll go get it,” she said, and walked out of the room before I could even utter a response. My boy looked up at me and smiled.
“Dad,” he said, “You’re gonna love this one.”
I’ll admit it. I found myself watching him progress through the levels of the video game instead of watching the doctor stitch up his chin. When the stitching was done, and the doctor told us it was OK to leave, we both had the same reaction.
“After this next level,” we said.
She smiled and said, “I’m sorry, but we need the bed.”
My son started to get upset, so I put my hand on his shoulder to comfort him.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’m sure you’ll injure yourself again. We’ll be back.”
“You promise, Dad?” he asked.
“I promise,” I said.
This article was originally written as a Suburban Man, but it can found in the current issue of "Get Healthy Magazine", a publication of the Times.
For the rest of the Suburban Man columns, click here: http://suburbanmanarchive.blogspot.com