BrokenMay 28, 2012 at 11:40 am | Posted in Giggles, Transylvania | 21 Comments
Tags: Bones, Broken Elbow, Children, Expats, Kids, Motherhood, Relationships, Slovakia, Surgery, Travel
Prague. Krakow. Poprad.
And a Slovakian emergency room.
In the last hours of our two-week Eastern European vacation, that’s where we ended up. We had planned to relax in the bubbly warmth of an indoor waterpark before packing our bags and searching under hotel beds for lost trains, coins, and crayons.
But somewhere around 7 p.m, Giggles tumbled off the park’s playscape and landed on his elbow. His elbow. He screamed.
I’ll remember that sound for the rest of my days. And nights.
My husband ran to him and scooped him up. Before I could push my heart back down into my chest, he had Giggles in a sling and a porter on the way to lead us to the hospital.
Somehow, we changed clothes. Matched up socks and shoes. Navigated wet hallways, exit turnstiles, and escalators. Located car keys.
We left Lollipop and Bun with my in-laws, who by the grace of God or good planning or straight-up luck, were traveling with us. Somehow, somebody called a taxi to take them to the hotel. Somehow, we made it to the ER. Somehow, Giggles had X-rays taken within an hour of falling.
The doctor’s report sounded eerily familiar. Broken. Surgery. Pins. Damn.
Four hours later, somewhere around midnight, they wheeled him into the operating room. I stopped outside the doors and promised him I would stay right there — right there — until he came back. He screamed for me. My heart screamed for him. The thick metal doors slammed shut.
The hallway was quiet and dark. I sat down in a blue chair. I was surprised to find it comfortable.
I waited. I don’t know how long. There was no clock and I had no phone, but I sat and waited and worried.
Two surgery nurses rushed out of the operating room a few minutes apart, the heavy doors booming shut behind them. One went into a supply closet across from me. A dragon tattoo peeked out from the collar of his green scrubs. The other ran down a flight of stairs. A few minutes later, she ran back up. Neither nurse looked at me.
I imagined all the things going wrong. Of course I did.
I imagined them again and again and again even though I tried making my brain count the chipped, faded tangerine floor tiles. 1, 2, 3, blood transfusion, 4, 5, oh, my God, do they test for AIDS in Eastern Europe? 6, 7, 8, it’s his heart, please, please, please, not his heart, 9, 10, 11, they don’t have pins small enough for him, I knew it, 12, 13, 14, I was wrong about when he last ate, shit, I was wrong and he’s aspirating, 15, 16, they can’t fix it, 17, 18, it’s worse than they thought, 19, 20, something is wrong, 21, 22, 23, something is really wrong, 24, 25, 26, oh, God, what is wrong!? …
And then another nurse walked out. He looked at me. He looked at me.
“Okay?” I asked, not sure if he spoke English and quite certain I spoke not a word of Slovak.
“Okay,” he said. “The doctor is finishing up, and then he will come talk to you.”
He rushed down the hall. I counted tiles. 27, 28, 29 … And then he came back wearing a black-and-white warm-up suit … 30, 31, 32 … He pushed the elevator button and shuffled his sneakers … 33, 34, 35 … He waved as the doors opened and took him out of the hospital and back into his real life, where maybe he was headed home for a cup of tea or an Aerosmith marathon on MTV Czech.
Only then did I think everything might be okay. He waved. He’s going home. He’s wearing rayon and headphones. It’s going to be all right.
He’s wearing rayon, so it’s got to be all right.
They wheeled Giggles out a few minutes later. All I could see was his blond hair, flushed cheeks, and closed eyes. He looked so very small.
I tended to him through the night. He begged for water. He thrashed his legs. He cried. He cried in his sleep.
I smoothed his hair. I held his hand. I shushed and soothed and said everything was going to be okay. Occasionally, I slept, my forehead touching his temple on the impossibly flat, impossibly scratchy hospital pillow we shared.
Two days later, we carefully loaded him into the car and drove eight hours home to Romania.
He’s got 2 pins, 12 stitches, a soft cast, and a fear of everything.
But his eyes are finally his eyes again, glittery and gorgeous. His laugh is finally his laugh, thick and real and warm, like butter melting on pancakes. His elbow is in pieces, but he’s not.
And he’s what’s keeping me together.
Have you ever noticed the fragile smallness of your child? Ever found your own strength through his? Ever heard him laugh and somehow known everything would be okay?