Last Sunday night, Augie is walking around the house and brushing his teeth when he trips. He starts crying, and I pick him up and wash the toothpaste off his mouth. Then I see blood on the head of the toothbrush and realize he cut his throat in the fall.
I sit with him for a while and Google around to see what can be done for a kid who jams himself in the back of the throat with a toothbrush. I am looking for someone who will tell me, “Don’t worry, just give the kid some Tylenol and he’ll be fine.”
Instead, I come upon this article, written by a pediatric ENT, which at first is very reassuring and informative, but by the end kinda freaks me out.
The article says that an injury to the pharynx (new vocabulary word, there) definitely warrants a doctor’s visit, and, if it was HIS kid, he would ask for an CT scan of the carotid artery, because if the artery was damaged, they’ll need to do surgery or else the kid could have a stroke within hours…or days…or weeks. And it might seem like everything is fine and then, boom, they have a stroke.
Not the answer I was looking for.
But it’s 1 a.m., now, and I’m thinking, OK, he needs to go to the doctor, but do I need to bring him right now? Do I need to go the ER? Urgent Care? Can I just bring him in tomorrow? And what can they do for him, you know?
Meanwhile, Augie is sitting on my lap and just…moaning. He tries to nurse, but he can’t. So he just sits there on my lap and wimpers while I pray and try not to get carried away with bad thoughts.
Finally, around 2 a.m., Augie falls asleep, and I start to think, maybe this is going to be all right. Maybe he is starting to feel a little better now that he’s asleep.
That’s when he wakes up and vomits blood.
At this point, my rational brain is telling me, “He cut his throat and swallowed blood, which upset his stomach,” but my 2 a.m. mommy brain is like, “Ohmygoshhesthrowingupbloodcalltheambulance!” So we pack into the car and drive to the 24-hour Urgent Care.
We sit in the empty waiting room. Augie is still moaning, and his face has morphed into this Robert De Niro grimace, with his mouth held open and his tongue pushed out.
Finally, we get called in. Following directions, I hold Augie down and he screams as the doctor peers down his throat to look at the cut.
The doctor says it isn’t bleeding any more, but that it would have been better to bring him to the ER since it’s a throat injury. He makes a phone call to a pediatric ENT who says I should bring Augie to him in the morning.
So, at 4 a.m., we leave Urgent Care with a bottle of baby Tylenol and a referral to a specialist.
Three hours later, it’s 7 a.m., and Augie wakes up whimpering. I try to nurse him, but he quickly gives up. He’s in too much pain. He points to a water bottle on my nightstand, and when I give it to him, he swallows it down, gulp after gulp. I decide to get up and bring him in to the ENT since we are awake anyway.
I sit on the waiting room couch with Augie bundled in a blanket and distract myself with a Golfer’s Digest article about Tiger Woods. Then the ENT calls us in to his office, looks down Augie’s throat for about 10 seconds and announces, “He’s fine. Just give him some Motrin. He’ll be fine.”
I don’t bother to ask about the carotid artery or the CT scan. I just put Augie in his carseat and drive home, where I give him some ibuprofen. He’s able to nurse a little, and we lay down to sleep.
When we wake up, it’s almost time for lunch. Kyle goes out and gets us some soup, sandwiches, and frech fries with ketchup. Augie takes a taste of soup, but refuses a second bite. He picks up a a fry and dips it in ketchup, but instead of licking it like he normally would, he feeds it to me. Ugh, my heart breaks because I know how much he loves ketchup, and I think about how he must be feeling.
Augie tries to nurse a little but gives up and drinks some water instead. My poor boy. We give him some more ibuprofen and then some ice cream. He likes that a bit better, but he’s still holding his mouth open with a pained expression.
Then we lay down again and sleep some more.
Augie wakes up in the late afternoon. He looks at me and smiles. It’s his first smile in 18 hours, and I feel like I can breathe again. We go out to the garage to do some laundry, and he helps me pour in the detergent. Then he wiggles out of my arms and goes for his truck.
He’s finally coming to life, finally acting like himself again, finally able to close his lips. He can even nurse for a normal stretch of time.
I sigh and smile to myself. I feel like such a rookie. It’s been less than 24 hours, and in that time, I’ve cycled through so many thoughts and emotions.
Thinking back, I feel silly for some of my thoughts: What if he’s never able to close his mouth again? What if he has a stroke? What if he’s already brain damaged? Should I have asked the doctor for a CT scan? Maybe I should have taken him to the ER in the first place. What if, what if, what if?
Now, a week later, Augie is completely back to his normal self, and I can see now that this was a small thing. There are much scarier things in the world than pharynx wounds. For heaven’s sake, I work for a childhood cancer charity, where I daily read about things like tumors and chemo and surgery. I read these stories so often that sometimes I feel numb to them. And yet I am clouded with negative thoughts when my kid gets a fever or a dog bite. I don’t know how those parents deal with real life-and-death issues.
I don’t know if I could. I hope I won’t have to.
It’s tough to be mom. I’m earning my stripes.