Friday, January 20, 2006

Lips and Lizards

This was originally posted on 7/26/05.

Tonight I am thankful for emergency rooms.

They're something you don't normally think about, like grocery stores or your spleen or the shocks on your car. But, like those, you'd miss them if they were gone. Every time I get a cold and wake up a few days later, suddenly and blissfully able to breathe, I tell myself I will always be thankful for good health, but I forget. We all do. There's too much good in the world to live in a constant state of awareness of all of it, as much as you'd like to on those very thankful days.

Peter fell down in the bathroom right before dinner and landed facedown on the edge of the potty chair, giving him a nice, neat quarter-inch slice down the middle of his upper lip. It stopped bleeding fairly quickly, but when we called his pediatrician we were advised to take him in and see if stitches were required to avoid "permanent deformity". (Not words a mother likes to hear.) He calmed down in a few minutes and, being the pragmatic soul I am, I fed us both dinner before heading off to the emergency room. The previous times we've visited have taken three to four hours, and I figured we might as well have full stomachs.

Well, this was a good time to be wrong. Our ER has been remodeled and reorganized since the last time we were there. We were moved efficiently through triage, directed to comfortable seats (in an ER! who knew!), and taken to a room within fifteen minutes. The rest of the process, in which we saw a nurse, a doctor, and two lab techs, went smoothly and with a minimum of fuss, and Peter went home less than an hour later with a neatly bandaged lip and a stuffed plush lizard.

You never really think about the people behind places like that until you need them. The workmen who make sure the sliding door opens properly. The nice young man who taped Peter's bracelet around his wrist. The employee who checks that the printer has ink to print his paperwork. The techs who make sure the blood pressure monitor works as it should. The nurse who went to school all those years to take care of Peter and hundreds of little boys like him with split lips like his. The orderlies who keep the floor so clean you don't worry about setting your purse down. The doctor and the years of training behind her "gut reaction" to leave his lip alone instead of opening it up to stitch it. The inventor who came up with the idea for the multi-levered hospital bed that Peter found so intriguing. The young aide who brought our discharge papers and knew where to take all the copies so that everything would happen as it should.

All of them, unknowing, have a little bit to do with my tired son, sleeping in peace in his bed with a lip that will very likely have a cool scar and nothing more. He is not in a country where disease and filth will guarantee infection and deformity. We didn't have to walk five miles in the dust to get help. He will wake up in the morning a little sore, but he will also have breakfast, clean clothes, a fresh diaper, and a rainbow-colored lizard.

And tonight, I will remember to be thankful.


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