May 28, 2012 at 11:40 am | Posted in Giggles, Transylvania | 21 Comments
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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?



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  1. hugs!! how very scary.

  2. Poor baby! My son fell and cut his forehead soon after he started walking. I’ll never forget how helpless I felt as the nurses held him down so that he could be stitched up. He fell again the next day and ended up with a black eye! He walked around for weeks with black eye and stitches and acted like nothing was wrong. My heart broke everytime I looked at him but he was his normal happy self. He was much more resilient than me.

  3. Your adventure in Romania has turned into a mixture of broken bones! I am so very sorry for poor giggles. I do hope he heals quickly.

  4. Oh my goodness! I’m so glad he’s on the mend, glittering eyes and gracious giggle – but my heart is with yours. Ouch.
    One of my babies had to have anesthesia once. She was so small, her head lolling off….just the thought brings back panic in my heart.

  5. Your poor baby! We’ll be praying for him that he gets well soon. I know how scary and powerless you feel when you’re waiting to hear if your baby will be okay – I’m glad that they took good care of him.

  6. I love the description of when you realized that things might be okay–when the rayon-wearing nurse waved as he exited the building. How mundane those signals are that all is well, that life goes on, that we greet one another and say goodbye without really thinking about what goodbye means.

  7. Oh goodness. Oh goodness. I’m sorry for what you all endured. Your writing was beautiful though.

  8. Oh honey. Your heart. Your boy! Glad to hear he’s on the mend though. I can’t imagine being in your shoes, in the waiting room. Like you I always imagine the worst!

  9. […] the first broken bone and the second, the near-constant deciphering of bus and tram and metro routes, and the voluminous laundry piles, […]

  10. You are going to be able to look back on this year and know that whatever life brings you, whatever bones are yet to be broken, whatever miles to be traveled, maps to be read, etc., YOU can handle it. You can survive and thrive and enjoy the journey. Hope Giggles is on the mend. Will the cast come off in the US?

  11. I just saw this! I’m glad everyone is okay. Goodness, nothing brings us down lower than when our children are hurt, whether it’s a skinned knee or a broken bone. Sending **hugs** and wishes for a quick recovery for your precious Giggles.

  12. Heartbreaking…so sorry and I hope he gets better soon. Hugs.

  13. Oh my goodness. The adventure never ends. Glad he is ok.

  14. Oh Stacia! I am so behind in reading. I do know the howl of an injured child but none of them had to have surgery. What luck you are having over there… it time to come home?

  15. Oh stacia! What you all have endured over there?? It’s crazy. I am so sorry for sweet Giggles. I’m sure by now you have discovered wrapping that arm up for baths is no fun at all. Don’t know if you know this, but Tilli broke her arm (the same arm ) two times last year. First was the humerus bone in may, then radius and ulna day before Halloween. It was awful but she only had casts and no pins or surgery. Poor Giggles. His bravery has really been put to the test. Slovakian emergency rooms…….eeeek!!!!
    You all have really had an adventure…..whew wee!!!!
    Can’t wait to see y’all!

    • Thanks, Missi. Can’t wait to see you, too. The kiddos can compare broken-bone notes. =>

  16. I am late too. And crying. I can just imagine how excruciating it is to hear your child cry and not be able to be with him. I’m glad he’s healing, and laughing. Like you wrote on FB I think, you will cry long after Giggles had stopped hurting. It’ll always be so, so much harder on us moms. Kids are super resilient and strong. I hope that brings some comfort. I hope he gets better in no time!! And hugs to you, Stacia.

  17. Oh Stacia. So late to this post, but wanted to wish Giggles a speedy recovery. I’ve waited too many times in too many hospital waiting rooms. And I am the queen of worst case scenarios. Glad he and you got through it, although I know it wasn’t easy. Hugs.

  18. […] two short hours, we would have the last souvenir from our fantastic, sometimes frustrating, occasionally frantic year in […]

  19. […] those arms always hold. Even with that brick-red train track of a scar, they […]

  20. […] Bun, and I walked inside our own pediatric specialist office and checked in. We updated paperwork, fought over the train in the basket of toys, waited, fought, […]

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