THE “D” WORD
Have you ever been watching TV news and seen someone being interviewed from their hospital bed? There they are, bandaged head to foot because a shark bit them or they fell off a bridge, their house fell down, or whatever and they stare into the camera and tell you about their good luck.
It’s an amazing human phenomenon that the worst things happen to people and they see luck in it! Now you might be thinking they’d be luckier if the shark never saw them or the bridge rail hadn’t collapsed. But, I guess it’s a survival tactic. After the damage has been done we focus on how we survived it. This is my 13th Parent Column so I think luck is an appropriate topic. And now I will tell you my own very good luck.
Some years ago, my daughter and son and I went to visit my parents for Thanksgiving as well as to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. Both my brothers and their families were there. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. The next day my brother took his children and mine ice skating. I went to the shopping center to find a pair of shoes to wear to my dad’s birthday dinner the next night.
I was just about to try on a pair of shoes when my mom found me. (Good luck # 1, she found me right away in a mobbed shopping center on the day after Thanksgiving.) My daughter had fallen on the ice and been taken to the hospital. (Good luck # 2, the ambulance drivers passed by the small, suburban hospital and took her straight to the children’s hospital saving time and getting her right to the expert help she needed.)
I got to the hospital and handled some paper work, then went to see my daughter. (Good luck #3, the hospital admitted her immediately when my brother flashed his medical insurance card even though they knew she was not his child and was not covered on that card.)
Everyone said she was calling for “Mommy.” I stood next to her and held her hand and said her name. She didn’t even know I was there. “Mommy,” she kept saying, “I have an owie.” I knew we were in big trouble. My 12 year old hadn’t used that word in years. They decided to take her in for a CAT scan. Would I please wait down the hall. (Good luck #4, the intern on duty realized it was probably not just a little concussion and ordered a CAT scan.)
I walked down the hall totally white. My dad took one look at me, made me sit down and put my head between my knees and he got me something to drink. (Good luck #5, I didn’t pass out.)
More trouble coming, I concluded, when I saw a nurse walking toward us with a pen and paper. Signing papers in a hospital can only be bad news. Sure enough, they had to operate immediately. The neurosurgeon had been called and was on his way. (Good luck #6, the specialist was available on a holiday weekend.)
Dara had a subdural hemotoma which means, roughly translated, she fell on the ice and hit her head so hard that there was bleeding into her brain and the blood tried to take the space the brain occupies, which means big trouble. They had to shave half of her hair off and operate. (Good luck #7, she had just bought a red hat while out shopping with Grandma. It looked darling on her and hid the shaved head.)
Also, while shopping with Grandma, she had gotten a bright yellow sweater. The ambulance drivers had to cut it off of her. (Good luck #8, we bought it with a visa card that had insurance and they reimbursed us for a new sweater.)
It was late when the surgeon finally came by to tell us that Dara was now in intensive care. Everything seemed all right. In the next few days they would watch for problems. My mom and dad left and I parked myself in a chair next to her bed in intensive care.
The nurse came by to wake my daughter and test her by asking her name and if she knew where she was and to follow her finger. They must have done this already because she knew she was in the hospital. Then the nurse pointed to me on the other side of the bed and asked if she knew who I was. “Mommy,” she happily exclaimed. She knew who I was this time. (Good Luck #10, oh such amazing good luck, her brain was fine.)
Next to intensive care was a room for parents to sleep. I went and laid down and slept for a couple of hours. At about 3 AM I found myself wide awake and debated whether to get up or try to get some more sleep.
A couple came in and laid down in a cot near me. They were whispering, not that that bothered me. I was awake anyway. Soon a nurse came to the door and quietly called the couple. I got up too. I put my shoes on and went out into the hall. The couple was in a glass room with the nurse and the woman was crying. Her husband had his arm around her and the nurse look very sad. The couple’s baby had died.
I went and washed my face and as I headed for intensive care I saw them get into the elevator. They were leaving without their baby. I ran the extra steps to my daughter’s bedside. I sat and counted every breath she took as my good luck. (At this point my good luck is in the millions, so I’ll stop listing it for you.)
The next evening my mother suggested that she stay and I go to my dad’s party. That was nice of her, but she hadn’t seen the couple in the elevator. No way was I leaving my daughter. I was glued to her bedside obsessed with counting my good luck.
When we left the hospital, the surgeon asked me if Dara had been doing spins or turns. His daughters were ice skaters and he wondered how Dara had fallen. No, she was a novice skater just going around the rink with her brother. But six months later we discovered that she had Crohn’s.
In hind sight, we guess she must have fainted on the ice and that is why her hands did not go out to break the fall. At the time she was in the hospital, we were dealing with a head injury and no one checked further.
All the nurses commented on how tiny she was, that she fit into a child’s wheelchair but nobody thought to question her health other than the head injury. And when we did find out she had Crohn’s, I felt lucky as many of you do when you finally have a diagnosis.
Dara was in the hospital nearly a week. We flew home and I guess you could count another good luck; with a note from the doctor, the airlines had changed our tickets without any extra cost.
She got off the plane and insisted I take her straight to rehearsal. She had been rehearsing for a play in a local children’s theater before all this happened. We walked into the theater and the director couldn’t believe her eyes. “I thought she was in the hospital!” she said. And I explained that, in deed, Dara had been.
The next night, wearing her red hat, she joined the rest of the cast for a great first night performance. How’s that for “the show must go on”? You can bet I was the luckiest mom in that audience.
Copyright 1996 - 2002 Arlyn Serber