When last we left off, our heroine (oh, who am I kidding? basketcase, is more like it) was speeding along the highway to reach her son who'd been admitted into the emergency room.
10 minutes onto the road, the doctor called and told Josh she was hopeful Gabe wasn't going to lose his finger. And that was when I lost my mind.
The doctor said they were taking him in to get x-rays, and then would evaluate the cut part of the finger. At that time we learned it was the pinkie finger of his left hand, and I spent many minutes of the drive taking deep breaths and trying to find that reassuring. You don't NEED a pinkie finger, right? Kids won't make fun of him TOO much if his pinkie finger is messed up. The pinkie finger is practically useless, if he loses it, it'll be okay. It worked, somewhat. But the truth is you don't want your baby to hurt, no matter what. And you don't want your baby to have any kind of deformity, no matter how minor, no matter if it is just his pinkie. And worst of all, you never want him to go through anything without you by his side.
Josh and I drove silently, willing the cars to drive faster. We sat in standstill traffic and bit our nails and stared at each other, and stared at the phone and prayed for time to move a little slower so we could get to the hospital. When we were about an hour from the city, the phone rang and it was my mom. She said the x-rays showed no break in the bone, and they'd already numbed his finger, which went horribly, as you can imagine. She said poor Gabe was screaming for them to stop and for her to take him away. And geez, I felt like the worst mother ever.
We hung up, and I finally gave in to my need to pee, that I'd been putting off for 3 hours already, not wanting to tack on those 5 minutes to the trip. We were literally sitting at a dead stop on the highway, so those 5 minutes weren't going to change our arrival. It might even help.
We got back on the road, and with 25 minutes to go, we got another call from the doctor. She opened up the call by saying, "I'm sorry we have to talk under these circumstances," which is pretty much the WORST POSSIBLE WAY you can start talking to a parent. My mind jumped to terrible scenarios, but it turned out to just be her way of talking. She said she'd been able to sew up his finger, but he didn't tolerate her trying to repair his nail, so she'd just "tacked it back on". I've never heard of that before, so after getting her to explain a little more thoroughly, I asked if that was common, and she said yes, she did it all the time. To tell you the truth, she was fairly dismissive and rude on the phone, and I later found out my mom had already had two arguments with her.
Backing up the story for a minute, when she'd numbed him, my mom asked her if she could numb him once and then wait a couple of minutes for the anesthetic to take effect before numbing the rest and she refused. Then when she was doing the actual sewing, Gabe was screaming the entire time that he could still feel it and flinging his body all over the place and begging her to stop and she told my mom he was lying and didn't give him more anesthetic. My mom starting screaming at the doctor, and they got into an argument where the doctor told my mom that "she was the doctor and she decided how they were going to handle things." Then my mom, which may not have been the best thing, told her I was already unhappy about my mom's choice in hospitals (which was true) and that I thought she should have taken him somewhere else. They had some sort of disagreement over that also. My mom says Gabe screamed for the full 7-10 minutes while they did the sewing, and the nurses were apparently so horrified with the doctor, they wouldn't help with holding him down. My mom had to take the brunt of his terror, and toward the end she said the stress was literally making her black out and she thought she might faint. My stomach is turning just writing that paragraph, so let's move on.
I hung up the phone, and told Josh about the whole "tacking on the nail" thing, and about my mom's comments on the doctor's behavior, and decided to call our pediatrician, even though by this time it was about 11pm in Boston. I made the call, told him the whole story, and he said hands were way out of his area of expertise, but he did agree it sounded a little bit sketchy. He said I was totally within my rights to ask for a hand specialist to look over her work, and if I was worried I should do that.
Josh was racing down the highway while I was on the phone, and finally, we were there. I called my mom to find out where they were, and I could hear Gabe screaming through the phone. We sprinted through the parking lot and into the emergency room, and finally, FINALLY, we were there. I threw my arms around Gabe, and held him on my lap while he sobbed and begged me to "run away from here and never come back". Nurses were trying to finalize the bandages on his finger and he was distraught, but when the doctor walked back in, I felt his whole body recoil. She started to insist on removing his bandages for us to see, while Gabe, my mom, and both nurses were arguing to just let him be. We talked her out of it, thank goodness.
I asked her about a hand surgeon, and she just about bit my head off. She told me I was being ridiculous, and a hand surgeon was totally unnecessary, she did this all the time, a hand surgeon would never come for this kind of injury. I was taken aback, but I insisted. We argued a bit, she said she wouldn't call a surgeon, and finally I picked Gabe up and told her I'd be taking him to another hospital. At that point, my mom walked out in tears, furious with me for insisting on another course of treatment that would likely end up in more pain for Gabe. I understood where she was coming from, but in my mind, I had to ask. I had to know this was the right thing to do, and I thought 5 minutes of pain was worth his hand being repaired correctly. I had to believe the Gabe in 10 years would be grateful if his pinkie was perfect and whole.
When I stood up with Gabe and told her we were going to another hospital, the doctor got visibly nervous, and said she'd go consult with a colleague. She came back and said there was a hand clinic tomorrow we could go to. Fine, I answered, we'd be there. She left, and returned again and said she was going to try the hand surgeon if I really felt that strongly about it. Great, I said. She called, returned, and said she was shocked, but the hand surgeon said he would come when he was done with his surgery. Perfect, we said we'd wait for him.
It was 9pm by this time, and Gabe hadn't eaten since noon, so she said to go out and get him food. Josh went out for some food, and Gabe scarfed it down like he hadn't eaten in weeks. Chicken nuggets, fries, chocolate milk, he was starved. At 11pm, the surgeon finally showed up.
He came in and chatted comfortably with Gabe, removed his bandages, examined the wound, asked my mom again to describe what had happened, and then told us everything the ER doctor had done was wrong. He said Gabe could lose his finger if we left her stitches in the way they were. He said the ends of the bones of children are more like cartilage than regular bone, so you can't see a break on x-ray. The growth plate in his finger could have been crushed, and without a repair the finger might not grow properly. The nail bed also needed to be properly repaired, the finger nail removed, and a substitute covering inserted. The hand surgeon should have been called because it was a partial amputation, and at the very least, a pediatrician.
Throughout all of this, of course, the ER doc was SILENT. Super super silent, and I couldn't even LOOK at her, lest I start throwing punches. There was talk of trying to hold Gabe down for 20-30 minutes to do an exploratory look around and see whether the hand surgeon could fix it without an actual operating room. I put a big fat thumbs down on that one, and told both of them Gabe had been through ENOUGH, and if anyone was doing anything to him, it would be asleep or sedated, or SOMETHING.
Of course, you'll recall that this same ER doctor told us to feed Gabe, so no one could do any sedating or putting to sleep tonight. The hand surgeon talked with us for a good amount of time and he agreed we should just schedule an OR for either later that night or the next day, and proceed with a surgery, which is where he figured we'd end up anyway.
He left to schedule an OR, and a flurry of activity followed. Gabe needed either an iv or injections of antibiotics (we opted for injections) and paperwork and medical history and various other preparations. The injections were horrific because the nurse proceeded to prepare the needles in front of Gabe so he started preemptively screaming and begging me to keep her away from him. I lay in bed with Gabe, holding him, and telling him all about the swing set I was going to buy him for being such a good boy, while he repeatedly asked to go home.
During all of this activity, no one returned to re-bandage his finger, and Josh and I were terrified he was going to bump it or get germs on it, or whatever happens to a partially amputated finger that hasn't been repaired correctly. We must have asked 9 times for a nurse to come put a bandage on it, and I finally had to open up the cabinet and grab bandages and antibiotic ointment and do it myself.
All of this time, poor Josie was at home with my poor Dad who has never been left alone with a child in his life, and who had absolutely no idea what to do with her. God only knows what he did with her for all those hours, although I did hear she slept in the recliner until my mom got home at 1:30am.
Toward the end of our time in the ER, the ER doctor did return to the room. She walked in and said she was sorry about the whole situation, it was a learning experience for her too, she didn't know she needed to call a pediatrician or a hand surgeon. Now, I am generally pretty forgiving and non-confrontational, but I LITERALLY could not look at her. I could not see her face, I could not make eye contact. I was so mad, I thought I could actually spit. I said, okay, fine, and when I wouldn't respond further, she bent over to try to meet my eyes and said again, "really, I'm really really sorry. I feel awful. This is all my fault." And I felt for her, I did. I understand, she made a mistake. But she made a mistake on my fucking kid, and I just couldn't give her what she wanted. I nodded, said thanks, and then turned back to Gabe and wished for her to leave. She didn't come back again.
We were eventually discharged at 2am, Gabe passed out in the car on the way home, and we set the alarm for 4:30am. The surgery was scheduled for 6:00am, and we had to check into the hospital at 5:45am. Josh and I didn't sleep a wink all night long.
Part III of this nightmare to come, after I deal with my flooded bedroom due to the broken gutter that is pouring water against our window and causing rain to flow freely onto our bedroom floor. Oh, and did I mention Josh is out of town?