No Jumping in the Pool!

"There has been an accident at the pool and your son is in an ambulance on his way to the hospital".
I could have lived the rest of my entire life without hearing these words. Without the second that ticks by as slowly as an hour, when your vision expands and contracts to the leaping beats within your chest.

After confirming that he was fine (define "fine" to a mother who is in a meeting 50 minutes away from that ambulance that is speeding along an unfamiliar path), I clutched the directions that appeared in my hands (thanks to amazing co-workers) and stumbled quickly to the parking lot. I don't even remember the drive with the exception of reminding myself not to hyperventilate because if I crashed the car it would take longer to get to him (Realise now that this was not logical).

Entering the hospital it felt like a super heated GPS unit was attached to me. I moved through halls and doors, asking directions and moving before the person had stopped speaking. When I entered the room he was waiting in, it was with a fake, calm smile on my face. I was determined that he not be upset with my reaction. His small frame was covered with a hospital gown, his eyes glued to the cartoons dancing on a nearby screen. I fought against the urge to smother him in my arms, which would have clued him in that there was something really wrong with him, and simply kissed and touched him wherever I could. Between the sweet, damp counselor (still in her bathing suit and camp T-shirt) who had ridden with him in the ambulance and my son, the story gradually unfolded.

Monkey was in the pool, heading to the surface when his friend J jumped into the pool. J's chin connected with Monkey's head and both split wide open. When I arrived at the hospital, Monkey was perfectly calm, although I suspected it was partly due to shock. Seeing the dried blood and the 1 1/2 inch wound was an out of body experience.

When a twelve year old girl walked in the room and introduced herself as the resident intern that would be caring for him, shock wore off and the mama bear in me came out. I explained that, although I did not want to offend her, I would need an experienced physician to evaluate my son. She left to retrieve him. The camp director and counselor stayed with us throughout and we got busy researching whether staples or stitches would be better. I got enough reception on a borrowed cell phone to call our pediatrician, whose nurse recommended stitches. It made sense. Plastic surgeons do not use staples. Closing the wound was critical yet I envisioned him as a grown man, perhaps with a receding hairline, traumatised by the scar that his mother could have prevented if she'd only she'd questioned how to reduce this possibility.

Apparently staples are faster (excellent) but there would be some pressure as the doctor pressed the stapler down on his head (revolting). The stitches would take longer (bad) but the result would be a finer line (hopefully) where hair would re-grow.  So after conversing with Dad to make sure this was a team decision, we went with stitches.

It was the single most traumatic event in my life since his birth. Not sure yet where it places in his life but I'd guess it was the number one suckiest thing ever. They placed his arms in a pillow case behind his back while several adults held him down. I held his shoulders down while trying to soothe him. Three days later and I still feel nauseous with the memory.

The end result is that he received 6 stitches and is just fine. I have also made good on several desperate promises I made in my attempt to distract him from a needle repeatedly piercing his scalp. Examples include letting him sleep in our bed for a week, allowing him root beer with lunch yesterday and unlimited Wii time for an entire day. We still owe him a Lego train set and I am pretty confident we will be reminded of this tomorrow while running errands. At six he is learning to milk parental guilt - something to watch out for but in this case we are okay with it.

In one of those heart wrenching moments of parenthood, we nestled with him in a mound of pillows and bed covers the night it occurred. Drowsy between us, I whispered that Mommy was so sorry this had happened to him. That if I could I would take the experience and pain for him a million times over for myself if only to prevent him going through that. He roused enough to lay a hand on my cheek and told me to "Never say something like that. I will never let you have pain like I did today, Mommy. I will never want you to be hurt." I am often surprised by the depths of his generous and loving heart but he undid me that night.
No swimming or crazy, active activities for ten days. I know he is a boy and all children have their bumps and bruises. But for the next eight days I am going to just be grateful. My natural inclination has been to feverishly plot how to avoid this from ever reoccurring. Yet the reality I am still struggling to accept is that I cannot put him in a bubble. As he gets older, my influence and ability to protect him from any and all accidents will continue to lessen.

I also struggled with the illogical guilt of being at work and not with him when this happened. If I had been there I could have made sure they were not jumping into the pool, If I had been there I could have prevented the accident or...yet the reality is that I could have been standing right next to him in the pool and been looking elsewhere in that instant. I could have been distracted with a conversation with another adult or looking at my child and not seen the approach of the just-as-unsuspecting-of-what-will-happen, fun loving jumper, who was also injured. I do look on the bright side that this was not the worst case scenario and this experience ensures others will be more vigilant with children playing in pools. I hope this is true.

Time helps gain perspective and it helps that he is safe and running around again. And although I wish this had never happened, it does help mend us a bit that he thinks it's cool that he rode in an ambulance and that he may have a scar like a pirate.

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