Dot writes: I think there’s some minor supernatural being or possibly a confused voodoo-practitioner who’s decided that my research into Anglo-Saxon emotions, or alternatively Hugh’s attendance at Boys’ Brigade, is an intolerable threat to his/her/its flourishing and must be stopped at all costs. So far in 2013 we have had
– Frank’s operation (with quite painful recovery period)
– and my first ear infection, with interesting vertigo feature
– and my second ear infection, with interesting blacking-out feature
– and Julie’s prolonged we’re-not-quite-sure-what, which without putting her completely out of action has been dampening her natural cheer and energy since before Christmas.
Obviously things were looking a bit too productive last week – I had managed to find my way back into the chapter I’m trying to write, and Hugh had made it to Boys’ Brigade for the first time in a month, with copious apologies and promises of doing better from me – so the demiurge/wizard arranged a little excitement for us. Picking an ideal time, when I had just emerged from the shower in my dressing-gown to wipe Frank’s bottom, he/she/it sent Hugh running slightly too fast along our hallway and into our porch door, where he put out his arms to catch himself and stuck them straight through a pane of glass. I heard a crash and a wail and went to see what had happened. Hugh was gazing in horror at his arms, which looked as though they had chunks missing and were bleeding plentifully over the floor. I reacted appropriately by letting out a bit of a wail of my own and making a dithery indecisive gesture in the direction of the phone. Then I had the good sense to hop over the broken glass and push the next-door-neighbour’s doorbell, because I realised a cooler head was needed. Needless to say, Julie wasn’t there (Friday is usually her day off and she’d gone over to her boyfriend’s place the previous evening), and of course Ken wasn’t either, though he was due back on a late plane that evening.
Hugh was too shocked to cry. He submitted to a couple of improvised tourniquets made of tea-towels and obediently held his arms up in the air (I didn’t have the wit to ring for an ambulance, but I did remember that bleeding wounds need to be kept elevated). The neighbour appeared and phoned emergency services; he then helped me move Hugh to the sofa and sat with him while I flung some clothes on. Poor little Frank looked bewildered. As soon as I was dressed I bundled him out of the door and as cheerily as I could chivvied him to run down the road to playschool. I’ve never been gladder the creche is only fifty yards from our house, but I was terrified the ambulance would arrive before I got back; when I met another neighbour taking his daughter to the same creche I handed poor Frank to him and hurried back home.
The ambulance arrived promptly and the ambulance men applied dressings to Hugh’s wounds and attempted with somewhat limited success to engage him in conversation about sport. By this time it was at least clear that no major blood vessels were involved and Hugh remained conscious and a reasonably healthy colour, if a little paler than normal, so I at least was feeling slightly calmer and was able to remember to check for my phone and keys before we got into the ambulance. With Hugh sitting on one paramedic’s lap we drove very rapidly to Temple St children’s hospital.
In Temple St the pace continued rapid (the accident happened at about ten to eight and we were there by 8.25, possibly earlier). I had to give some details but even as I was doing this Hugh was moved straight into a triage room where his dressings were removed and a surprisingly large group of people made a preliminary examination. Hugh consistently became more distressed when his dressings were taken off, which unfortunately happened repeatedly, not just because of the discomfort but because he couldn’t resist looking at what was underneath them and it was decidedly gruesome. I improvised a story about a duck and then another about a tyrannosaurus rex who tried to disguise himself as a triceratops so the other dinosaurs would play with him. We were taken to the x-ray room where Hugh’s arms were x-rayed from various angles to check for embedded glass (none was found, happily); after giving my assurances that it was very, very unlikely I was pregnant, I was allowed to be present on condition of wearing a vast heavy apron that seemed to be made out of a changing mat.
After the x-rays, now in a treatment room, Hugh was fitted with a little cannula in his hand and examined by a member of the plastic surgery team, a sweet young man who looked about fourteen (the dressings had to come off, alas, but the fourteen-year-old took photographs with the idea, wrong as it turned out, that they wouldn’t have to come off again). There were two deep gashes in the right arm, a big one on the forearm and a small one near the shoulder, which could probably be stitched back together. The left arm had a shallower wound but had lost a big patch of skin on the inside of the elbow; the fourteen-year-old wasn’t sure they could stitch this. Full mobility in both hands suggested that tendons and nerves were mercifully intact. The repairs would need to be done under general anaesthetic, so we were to go up to a ward and wait until Hugh had fasted long enough since breakfast; the earliest possible time would be about 1.30pm.
Now we went up to the ward. Nice nurses, bright friendly room with four beds in. Hugh was given a bed by the window. In the opposite bed was a girl with her arm in a sling (from a car accident, as we learned later). After a bit a little boy burst into the room with a cry of “I’m back!” He had a strange lump shaped like a cottage loaf on the back of his head and was having it injected with glue in the course of several operations so that it would eventually be solid enough to be removed without causing a haemorrhage (an awfully creative solution, don’t you think?). The fourth bed was empty and unmade but there were some personal possessions in the locker beside it and we learned this bed belonged to a boy called Jack. Jack was in intensive care. On Friday we didn’t expect to meet Jack, but we didn’t realise how long we were going to spend in this room. I even thought we’d be back home that night (though I had accepted I wouldn’t be able to look after Frank that afternoon and contacted Julie to ask her to do it).
Things still seemed to be proceeding. We were visited by a nice young woman, who looked maybe a couple of years older than the nice young man from earlier: this was the surgeon. She took the dressings off again and said they planned to place a skin graft on the inside of the left elbow. Although the right arm looked worse it was the left that seemed to be more of a worry, since skin had been lost across the inner bend of the elbow and there was a danger of it healing with restricted motion. Shortly afterwards we saw an anaesthetist, who checked Hugh’s weight and asked him if he had any wobbly teeth. And then we settled down to wait.
This is what we were told about the timing of Hugh’s operation:
– it would be at 2pm. Hugh was allowed a drink of water at 11.30 and nothing by mouth after that.
– it would be as soon as the theatre was clear of elective surgery.
– it would be around 4.
– it would be around 6, when the surgeon now on call (not the one we had seen) had finished work at the Mater.
– it would be any minute now.
– the surgeon was in Beaumont; it would be first thing tomorrow. This was at about 6.45 and Hugh had had nothing to eat since 7.15 that morning and nothing to drink since 11.30. He was really very good – there was a television, there were some toys in the ward, and I bought him a magazine with sticker activities and quizzes in it – but he did very much want to go home, and it was hard that the other children in the ward were being given lunch and dinner in front of him. He was put on a saline drip for much of the afternoon but he still became rather tearful. However, when the op was cancelled he was given 7UP, toast and yoghurt and revived amazingly, like a desert flower at the touch of rain. He told the nurse she was a lovely lady and asked for some fruit ‘because I want good sugars, not bad sugars’.
And this is what we were told the next day:
– he would be first on the list as he had waited all the previous day, and there were no elective surgeries on a Saturday. We’d hear as soon as the day shift came on at 8am.
– surgery tended to start a bit later at weekends, but the day shift nurses would call and find out at about 9.
– the surgeon was scrubbed up in the Mater, but she’d be over to Temple St at 11.30. At this point I texted Ken (who’d arrived in Dublin the previous night) and told him to come in and visit. Ken came in with Frank and we then swapped places; Frank and I went home and Hugh was with his Dad.
Ken texted me at 12.45 to say Hugh would go into theatre at 1pm, but he wasn’t taken down from the ward until about 4. Apparently the surgeon arrived at 1 but the anaesthetist had been called away. I can’t help wondering how many anaesthetists they have? And surely even cash-strapped Ireland can devise a better system than having one plastic surgeon on call in three hospitals at the same time? I spent the afternoon fretting and feeling angry (poor Frank – I tried to play with him but I was very distracted), but apparently Hugh coped well with all the waiting.
Ken and I swapped again in the evening. Ken had been heroically preparing to stay the night and had sent me a complicated list of electronic equipment I needed to bring in for him, but I wanted to be with my boy and Ken wanted to be in a proper bed, so swapping suited both of us. Hugh was in theatre a long time; I was told later the time was mostly taken up with checking for nerve, tendon and muscle damage rather than with the actual repair process. He was brought back up from recovery at 7.20, when he woke up, told the nurses to go away, and fell soundly asleep again. He slept through until 4am and then had an extremely early breakfast of toast. Then he slept again until 7.30 and eventually had a very late second breakfast of cereal, provided at about 9.30 by the nurses because as an economy measure there is no proper breakfast round on the wards at weekends. (As though children don’t need breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays, or nurses have extra time off from their actual job to make everybody toast on those days. At least children usually have parents with them, and parents can go to the Spar and buy snacks. What happens to adult patients under stupid measures like these?)
Hugh was discharged at lunchtime on Sunday, just as soon as the surgeon was able to come and check on him (meaning that I got to meet her for the first time). I had been feeling cross with her for making him fast from fluids all day on the off-chance she would be there before 11.30, but when I met her she was so nice, and so careful, and so terribly overworked that I just couldn’t be. She spoke very kindly to Hugh and he told her he was going home to play a computer game about mining with his Dad. He wiggled his fingers for her, showing they were working, and we were free to go.
As tends to happen, Hugh seemed rather worse after the operation than before it. The soft dressings had been replaced on the left arm with a ‘back slab’, a rigid splint designed to keep the arm straight and give the skin graft the best chance of taking, covered with a great bulk of padding and bandages. The right arm was more mobile, but it had a bulky dressing at the top where the surgeon had found another deep abrasion and placed a second small skin graft, and it was extensively stitched; this arm has seemed to be most sore and Hugh has been reluctant to have it touched, though he’s now (Monday) beginning to use it a bit more again. He also had dressings on his thigh where the skin had been taken for the graft. There were two cannula sites, one in the hand and one in the ankle (the latter placed during the operation). Altogether he is a bit of a sight. We have to feed him ourselves and put the cup to his mouth when he drinks. But he is slowly beginning to get better.
Coda: today (Monday) I had to take Frank for a six-week checkup following his little operation in January. The surgeon wants him back in for a further procedure on Wednesday. You couldn’t make it up, could you?
Note: if you know anything about goat sacrifice, as mentioned in the post title, or any other efficacious magical technique for the avoidance of misfortune, please tell us. Though we already have blood smeared on the doorpost. I noticed it when I stuck cardboard over the broken pane.
And finally, it’s the sixth anniversary of our blog. Normally anniversary posts are rather a token effort. This one isn’t. If you’ve got this far through it, congratulations.