Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Trip to the ER

Disclaimer: This blog posting is probably not for the squeamish. If you dislike boo boo pics, I recommend that you close your eyes and scroll on by...

So I didn't go the doctor like I said I would. I really don't enjoy medical visits, so after taking the girls to see the médécin, I decided that I was feeling much better.

I think that caused some bad karma, because later in the day I was forced to go see a doctor. Most people do feel obligated to seek medical attention when they look down at their thumb and notice that it is gaping open with the insides hanging out.

In many ways, that's really how it happened. It was 6:30 and a quiet evening at home (okay, it's never quiet with a two and four-year old, but you get the idea.) Jason was off home teaching**, and I was fixing dinner. I went to reach for a glass on a very high shelf, but it was stuck and shattered. As the glass crashed, I remember thinking, "Oh great. I broke another one." It wasn't until I looked down and saw the gaping wound in my hand that I knew something was seriously wrong.

**Home teaching is a program in the LDS Church where members are given a couple families in the congregation to visit monthly in order to make sure that they are doing okay and their basic needs are met.

At this point I started to go into mild shock. After all, this was no little paper cut. I grabbed a clean kitchen towel and immediately started to apply pressure while shooing the kids out of the kitchen. I luckily had the sense of mind to immediately turn off the stove, oven, and blow out the tea light candles on the fireplace mantle. I called Jason, who was fortunately already catching a ride home with his home teaching companion.

Even so, it took them about another 20 minutes to arrive. In the meantime, I did my best not to panic and keep the house under control (hard to do when both of your hands are occupied--one being wounded and the other applying pressure.) Brooklyn was helpful and put on her coat and shoes so we would be ready to go. Talia was two and cried instead about how I wouldn't let her wear her froggy raincoat.

When Jason made it home, he looked up the address to a hospital that seemed close and had a number listed for "Urgences." His hometeaching companion kindly offered to drive us to the ER. Well, despite the GPS, we still had trouble finding it. When we did finally make it (around 8:00), we discovered that they only accept gynecological emergencies. Not applicable, although I do think somebody there would have been qualified to stitch me up.

Got lost again looking for the right hospital--finally hopped out of the car at 8:30 pm. Not surprisingly, the ER was packed. They admitted me to the back immediately in order to disinfect the wound and apply more appropriate bandages. (Let's just say that after two hours, it was still a "gusher" that shocked the nurse.) It became evident, however, that I wasn't going to actually see a doctor anytime soon, so I went back into the normal waiting area to send Jason home with the girls.

At home, Jason fed the girls, put them to bed, and called Kate, a friend from England, who kindly agreed to stay with the kids. That way Jason was able to walk back to the ER so I wouldn't have to wait alone.

At midnight, they finally admitted me again. Much to my chagrin, they wouldn't let Jason come with me, despite my protests that he is a much more fluent French speaker. It is a really vulnerable feeling to need serious medical attention and not have a strong command of the language. The doctor-patient relationship is already so imbalanced: I hated to sound like a child as well.

Fortunately, the first doctor who saw me (45 minutes later) was a young girl who had completed an ERASMUS exchange in England a year earlier. She was friendly, careful, and delighted to have a chance to speak English. Unfortunately, after anesthetizing the wound and having a look around, she told me that it was too deep and too close to the tendon for her to stitch up. She would need to talk to her boss and have a surgeon do it, for fear I might lose mobility in my thumb if it didn't heal correctly.

Well, the next woman came in like a whirlwind. You could tell that she was determined to get the ER back on schedule. It's funny: while waiting for five hours, I wanted them to hurry, but when it came to my turn for medical attention, I definitely wanted them to take their time.

I don't think she was the surgeon. She didn't introduce herself, and I had a hard time understanding her language, as she spoke as quickly as she worked. She immediately grabbed the gauze and started pulling and prodding my wound in every direction, opening it way up to have a better look inside. I remember having this kind of out of body experience as she set off new bleeders that squirted little jets all over. It seemed less like my own blood than a gory movie.

After her "examination" (let me tell you, NO anesthesia is strong enough for that), she declared, "I'll do it." I guess she must have decided that my case didn't merit a surgeon after all. In retrospect, I kind of wish I'd asked for a second opinion or something. I mean, your right thumb is kind of important. Humans have grown rather attached to their opposable thumbs and found them quite useful.

Here again, it was much harder to navigate the terrain in a second language, as the only word this doctor spoke to me in English was "pain." I did manage to ask if I was going to suffer any serious problems in the future, and she assured me that I wouldn't. I hope she's right... Anyway, I left it at that. After all, you really don't want to annoy the person who's going to stitch you back together.

On the positive side, when stitching me up, this doctor seemed both competent and confident. My guess is that my thumb will heal well and I will have only a scar as a memento for the day. After all, while I'm not thrilled that I cut myself badly enough to be close to the tendon, I'm extremely thankful that it was "close" and not more.

We finally left the emergency room at about 2:00 in the morning. Even though the local anesthetic was wearing off, it was oddly romantic as Jason and I walked home through the quiet streets hand-in-hand. While I don't recommend going to such drastic measures to get some alone time with your significant other, I hope everyone will takes some time this holiday for some hand-holding--just be gentle with the thumb. :)


Bruce Richards said...

Ow! That looks/sounds painful!
Now that basketball season is over, I get Brittney back as a running partner for a little while until the volleyball games start. Last night we held hands on the way home from the rec room.

tweedlediva said...

Ew Ew Ew. Degoutant! (Sorry, I don't know where the accents are on this computer...) Glad you're ok.

Mrs. M said...

Sigh of relief... I'm glad that you survived. Someday (maybe soon, it will make a great scar story.

Heather said...

Wow - makes my little finger boo-boo look really little in comparison. Sorry Kara - hope your finger feels better soon! Good thing is, you get fun band-aids for a long time to cover the stitches!

Anonymous said...

Sad day! I'm glad you still have your thumb. It could have been worse, so keep looking on the bright side. Apparently you still keyboard without too much trouble. Can you feel your heart beat in your thumb?

The photos are a bit gruesome. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised though. Even though it is your right thumb, the photo documentary indicates you may lean left. Why? Well, way before your birth, Pres. Lyndon Johnson showed his Gall Bladder surgery scar on national TV (and he was a Democrat). I know, I know ... there are a few logical fallacies in the above. We'll sort it out later. Just be advised in advance that I'd rather not see a photo of any boil or pimple if it grows on your back porch anytime in the future. Keep smiling. Bye, Bye.

chou said...

Oh, I wish I'd been there to help somehow. Our prayers for your safe recovery!

Tanja said...

I agree with "chou" -- I wish I could have been there to babysit the kids. I will also try to say something cheerful, but the only thing - coming to my mind would be that you now know where the nearest hospital is. I hope you will feel better soon. Gute Besserung und alles Liebe und Gute.

The Favorite said...

Oh- I am so sorry for you. I read the whole story and kept thinking poor Kara, poor Kara (and Jason and girls) I'm glad you got it all stitched.
Merry Noel!

Summer said...

Yikes!! Hope you do heal well.