Last week I told you of Zoe’s accident infused history and wasn’t that so much fun to read? Just brought back so many warm and wonderful memories of brightly colored casts and the noxious fumes wafting through the air as they’re sawed off (the casts, not the limbs), only to reveal exactly how gross and hairy a limb becomes after it’s been trapped inside for six weeks in our wonderfully scorching hot summers. Let’s not forget the thrill of getting a cast wet and having to skip dinner and yell at both kids to MOVE YOUR BUTTS AND GET IN THE CAR AND YOU BETTER STOP FIGHTING OR I WILL TIE YOU BOTH TO THE BUMPER to beat rush hour traffic and make it to the orthopedic center five minutes before closing so you can get a new replacement cast and an admonishment by Dr. Half My Age that casts are not toys and should be treated with more respect.
They’re not toys? Dammit, there goes half my Christmas shopping list now.
You know what, Doctor Ass? Why don’t you get back to me when you have an accident prone seven year old who insists on breaking bones at the very start of summer for two consecutive years and has to wear a cast during blistering heat and sweltering humidity and watch her younger sister play in a pool two feet away from her and who’s miserable enough to actually stand still for twenty minutes to allow you to duct tape ten garbage bags around the cast to protect it. Maybe then you can talk to me about respecting the cast. Otherwise, until you come up with a waterproof gortex cast that can be applied at the beginning of treatment instead of at the end, or until they start making seven year olds out of teflon … we’ve got nothing to say to each other so here’s your co-pay, give us some meds, pencil us in same time next year and shut the hell up already.
Whew! I feel so much better now! Anyway …
Zoe’s little sister, Helena, has always tried to emulate Zoe since day one. Over the years, this has meant inappropriate language and behavior, resulting in a couple of apologies and long winded explanations to teachers who placed bright pink notes in take-home folders advising me that Helena was a delightful child and goodness, where does she learn those expressions? When Zoe has her friends over, Helena must have her own friends over and if that’s not possible, then Helena insists on playing with the big girls and if they don’t let her, she will do a cannonball in the pool right on top of them, lest they forget she exists. When Zoe wears three or four layers of t-shirts and tops, my laundry grows exponentially because Helena must do exactly the same thing, even if it means she winds up layering a tank top over a turtle neck over a sweater.
When Helena is not emulating Zoe, she is busy competing with her. So when Zoe buys a song from iTunes, Helena must buy two. When Zoe gets awesome grades, Helena must get awesomer grades and no, that’s probably not a real word, but do you really care?
And when Zoe breaks bones, Helena decides that she’s too good for a simple broken bone and she is perfectly willing to sacrifice quite a bit of blood to prove it.
We’ve only had two incidents involving Helena, one relatively minor and one OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL.
The first incident was rather lackluster. In 2002, when Helena was about two and Zoe about eight, they were horsing around on the couch and within minutes Helena was crying and holding her elbow, saying owie, owie owie. At the emergency room, she was diagnosed with a dislocated elbow whereupon the doctor reset it with a big *pop* which made Helena scream and me throw up in my mouth. They immediately gave Helena a popsicle which made her giggle and they gave me a sympathetic look and a pat on the shoulder. Thanks a lot. Where the hell was my popsicle? After we answered some questions to clarify that we had not, in fact, whipped Helena all about the room by her arm in an attempt to wrench it off her body, we were free to go.
That was it for Helena all the way up until September of 2005. She was then five years old and into dancing and kickboxing, neither of which she took classes in because she had no interest in learning these things, just doing them. She also liked to dress up in costumes and her favorite outfit to wear for eating, sleeping and breathing was a Josie and the Pussy Cats outfit that I had picked up at Target for $1.50 and if any of you don’t know who Josie and the Pussy Cats are … go get your mother right this instant, you are too young to be reading this blog without parental supervision.
This outfit had a shorty short, cropped top and ultra low-rise bell bottoms pants and it was black and purple leopard print with purple fur around all the fringes. It also had a tail. It was a Hootchie-Mama outfit and she wasn’t allowed to step one toe out of the house while wearing it because I’m not afraid to admit that I am shallow enough to care if others think I’m on crack to dress up my kid like a hooker. She wore it every second of the day and it became so frayed and worn out as to be almost sheer in several spots. She wrestled herself into it every morning and I peeled it off of her reluctant body every night as she ran around her room, trying to get away.
On that fateful day, Zoe was waiting for her father to pick her up and we were all in our family room, waiting for Helena, all decked out in purple and black hootchiness, to blow us away with her latest self-taught hip-hop-meets-kickboxing extravaganza.
She started flailing wildly about the room and after about ten seconds, she tripped and went crashing head first into the TV cabinet.
Helena’s screams had always been something of a novelty in our family. She could shatter windows and make dogs from all over the county come running. She could scream with a smile on her face for the sheer hell of it and my ears would just bleed.
That day, her scream was the loudest I have ever heard and all of our ears started hemorrhaging and I knew right away that she was seriously hurt. I ran over to her and my first thought was I hoped she hadn’t lost an eye because just the thought of stepping on squishy wet things in my bare feet makes me want to hurl.
I grabbed her and pulled her onto my lap and saw that her eyes and nose and mouth were exactly where they were supposed to be so then I did a quick once-over on her head and didn’t see any gaping hole but she was still screaming. So then I pulled back her hair on the side of her face and saw blood and I was fully prepared to look directly into her head and see her brain.
I didn’t see her brain, thank God. However, there was the small matter of her ear. Specifically, the top portion of her ear. It was dangling. As in, just hanging out, twisting in the breeze. As in, no longer fully connected to its lower half. As in HOLY SHIT, IS THAT WHAT I THINK IT IS?
It was as if I had taken my sharpest pair of Fiskars and sliced clear through the top of Helena’s ear from one side to within a couple of centimeters of the other side. And then just let it hang there because I got tired of the effort.
I pressed Helena’s head to my chest and yelled at Nate that we needed to get to the hospital NOW. Nate demanded to see it, not understanding the spurts and gasps coming out of my mouth and then he ran for his wallet and keys. Zoe, bless her heart, kept her cool, got a towel and pressed it against Helena’s ear and she followed me out to the car and helped us get into the back seat which was no easy task as Helena was totally freaking out and I was struggling to keep the towel pressed against her head. Helena was probably scared shitless by the expressions of horror on everyone’s faces when they looked at her head. I’m used to that myself, having had nightmare hair for several years, but an adorable five year old? Not so much.
Zoe’s father arrived to Helena screaming, me trying to stop from freaking out and Nate scrambling to get out of the house and into the car. Nate jumped in the driver’s seat and we shot out of our driveway like a bat out of hell. It was one of the few times in my life that I was grateful for Nate’s predisposition to attack the road like it’s the Indy 500 .
We decided to go to Urgent Care because they were closer. By the time Nate swerved into a parking space, Helena was busying herself by going into shock. Unbeknownst to us, Zoe had asked her father to follow us so she was right there when I opened the door and she and Nate helped to get myself and Helena out of the back seat while maintaining pressure on the towel against her head. I had this fear that we would lose the top of her ear in the parking lot, it would get run over by a minivan and for the rest of her life, she’d have to explain why they reattached her ear with tread marks on it.
We ran into the waiting room where we were presented with a clipboard with various multi-colored forms to fill out. Nate told them exactly what they could do with their forms, showed the bloody towel to the nurse and we were whisked away to an examination room, much to the displeasure of the others in the waiting room who were probably thinking WHAT? IT’S JUST AN EAR! WHAT IF I CUT OFF MY ARM? THROW ME A SCALPEL.
The doctor took one look at Helena’s ear and told us he couldn’t help us, we needed to be seen by a plastic surgeon right away and they recommended we go directly to the emergency department. They applied a temporary bandage around her head and I will forever be grateful that we went there first because that bandage managed to stop the bleeding, a task my flimsy ten year old dish towel with faded ducks on it just wasn’t up to. They sent us on our way and called the emergency department to let them know we were coming.
Once in emergency, Helena’s ear was looked at by the doctor on call who told us that he was no plastic surgeon but he could suture it up if we didn’t mind having her ear look like a reject from a home economics class. By this time, Nate’s family had arrived, including his mother, father, sister and brother-in-law. Helena had come back to reality enough to realize that Granny was there and as far as she was concerned, her head could have been lopped off as long as Granny was there for the rest of her body to play with. Nate and I decided to wait for the plastic surgeon and the doctor turned to give Helena a high five and then stopped abruptly when he noticed her outfit.
Then we all stopped to stare at Helena in her hootchie-mama purple and black leopard skin costume. With the tail. The one I never let her wear outside the confines of our house. And the doctor looked at me with raised eyebrows and while I’m sure it was just the adrenaline rushing through me, I could have sworn he was wearing judgment all over his face and I wanted to scream “Yeah, she looks like a transvestite, so what? She’ll look even weirder as a one-eared transvestite so GO GET THE PLASTIC SURGEON ALREADY” but I didn’t. Instead I just shot him a look that pretty much said those very words, only nastier, and he scurried out of the room.
The plastic surgeon came in, examined her ear and declared he had never seen such a clean cut, that he expected to see some tearing or shredding of skin and wow, wasn’t that just something? He told us that he could either give Helena a local to numb the area so that he could reattach her ear or he could put her totally under. We opted for the local, until we saw the five foot needle that he intended to stick into my daughter’s head at which point I about passed out and was told by Nate in no uncertain terms that if I couldn’t hold it together and not fall apart in front of Helena, that I would have to leave the room.
He was absolutely right but I still wanted to kick him in both shins. Twice.
Nate, Granny and I surrounded Helena and kissed her cheeks and rubbed her arms and told her how brave she was and we did everything we could so that she would not see that needle. The surgeon attempted to clear a path through her blood-caked hair to a spot behind her ear and while doing so, managed to dislodge a tiny, almost invisible wisp of hair that had apparently become stuck between the two pieces of ear. This caused the two sections to separate again which caused them to start bleeding again and that was enough to send Helena into hysterics and me into cardiac arrest.
She was thrashing about too much to risk inserting a needle into her head that could nick her brain if she wasn’t perfectly still and can you imagine the lawsuit for that one? So we opted to have her put under.
By the way … no matter how much you beg and plead and bribe, they won’t put you out as well. Just so you know. In case your child decides to don on a hootchie outfit and sever part of her anatomy. No going off to lala land for you. You have to suck it up and be a responsible adult. It sucks.
It took 20+ stitches to reattach her ear and at one point, the surgeon asked if we had searched the debris field of the accident as there appeared to be a tiny section of ear missing. No need to bring it to the hospital as it was most likely dead tissue and unusable but he just wanted to give us a heads up.
If I could find a green, spewing vomit icon, I’d insert about 359 of them right here. I’m actually gagging as I type this – does that count?
So I swallowed the bile erupting in my throat, thanked him and made a mental note to check around our TV when we got home for any unclaimed pieces of flesh lying about, to be followed by knocking myself over the head with a hammer so that I could forget he ever uttered those words.
Helena woke up within a couple of hours and other than the pink and purple bandage swathed around her head, she appeared normal. She took one look at herself in the mirror and exclaimed “Look Mommy, I look fashion!” and I knew she would be fine because she had her priorities in order.
This is Helena the next day with her stylin’ bandage and sassy attitude.
The bandage eventually came off, but the sassy attitude stayed put and is still there to this day:
And before anybody thinks that I’m a rotten mom and don’t clean my daughter’s ears … that’s not dirt, it’s remnants of blood and medicine. In fact, I’m kind of obsessive about clean ears and every now and then have been known to stock up on Q-tips in case of Armageddon and anyone who knows me knows that an ear like this is enough to drive me out of my mind but I figured with the near amputation and all, she didn’t need me poking around in there trying to get her ear camera ready. And besides, she became hysterical when anyone came near her ear so as it was, I had to take this shot on zoom, lest I got close enough to breathe on it or something.
It’s three years later and believe it or not, aside from a tiny divot and a thin light scar, you’d never know anything ever happened, although I’m convinced she suffered hearing loss because this kid doesn’t listen to anything I say. And I would post a photo of her ear as it looks today so you can marvel at it but she was too busy not listening to me and refused to stay put for three seconds and I’m too tired to chase her around the house so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
And in case any of you are wondering … no ear remains were ever found near the TV and we’ve got the vacuumed-and-bleached-627 times-carpet to prove it.