Tuesday, May 03, 2005


In Which Much Is Made Of A Bump On The Head...

Well, it was an idyllic, storybook birthday weekend for the Brownie. Gifts, birthday cake, the ritual shopping trip to spend a token amount of birthday money. She even got to pick the video she wanted to see for our Sunday night movie. The perfect end to the perfect weekend.

So it was that Her Lovely Self was on her way down from upstairs and I was in the kitchen, getting drinks for everyone, when I heard the reverberating THUD, followed by the sound every parent dreads--which is really an absence of sound, the pregnant pause, the drawing of the deep breath to fuel the bloodcurdling scream of pain and shock.

When the scream came, only the dog made it to the family room faster. He generally loves every member of his adoptive family with equal amounts of dumb, fervent affection, but for some reason, perhaps because she is the smallest, or the most successful at sneaking food to him, he sets The Brownie above all others. To say he is over-protective of her is something of an understatement.

I've already related his brave defense of her against The Mean Dog, but he just doesn't know when to quit. Last year, when The Brownie had a splinter in her finger and Daddy had to extract it with a needle, her cries of "Ow! No! No! No!" were too much for him. He actually growled at me and when I ignored him and proceeded to draw closer with the Needle of Doom, he bit my arm and gave me an unapologetic look that seemed to say "No means No, motherfucker!"

But this was no splinter. In her excitement at watching events unfold on the TV screen, the Brownie had edged up to the back of the couch, then lost her balance and toppled backwards, smacking the back of her head on the edge of the windowsill behind the couch. When I arrived on the scene, I could see blood on the sill, and also coursing down the back of her head. She had obviously put her hand to the injury because she was waving her bloody fingers in the air, which caused her brother to begin shrieking and crying hysterically. For her part, The Brownie was weepy but mostly looking at her hand as if to say, "What's this red stuff?"

Now the dog was barking his full loud Emergency Bark and running in circles around the coffee table, out to the front hall and back again. I squeezed in behind the couch to extract the Brownie, and carefully placed my hand on the back of her head. I could feel a tiny wet dent immediately and as soon as I touched it she cried out.

At this moment, Her Lovely Self rushed into the room, the dog barking at her insistently, "Help! Help! Help! Fucking help her already!"

I stood, cradling the Brownie like a giant egg. Blood was already running down one arm, dripping off my elbow.

"It's her brains! Her brains are leaking out!" my son shrieked helpfully.

Her Lovely Self, who is brilliant when it comes to shitty diapers and other toilet-based accidents, is not so good with blood. She went pale, as though all the blood were coming out of her head, and tears sprang up in her eyes.

I know, it sounds like I'm painting myself as the lone bastion of calm and logic at that moment, but let me assure you that if it had been my own blood I'd have been in a clammy heap on the floor, begging for an ambulance. And the truth is, I really was feeling panicky--everyone else was just too busy panicking themselves to notice. My mind was racing, looking for anything to latch onto in this situation. And out of nowhere, it coughed up a wad of stuff I learned in an emergency medicine and CPR course that I took years ago.

Well, actually, all I remembered were the words "STAY CALM." But it was enough.

I spoke to my son in calm, even tones...which unfortunately came out sounding like a 12-year-old impersonating Walter Cronkite. I told him we'd need to go to the doctor and he should go up to The Brownie's room to retrieve some favorite books, and also Foxo, the beloved stuffed animal, since we'd probably be in the waiting room for a while. He ran off, crying. Her Lovely Self, who didn't want us to hear her suspicious sniffling noises, headed off to the kitchen to get an ice pack. And a roll of paper towels to sop up the blood.

The dog was now literally running in circles, barking his fool head off. I sat on the sofa with The Brownie in my arms. The dog stopped circling and bolted straight for us. In a second, he was up on the couch, trying to lick the back of The Brownie's head. She actually laughed at this. A good sign.

Her Lovely Self showed up with ice and paper towels and while she applied them, I quizzed The Brownie, who was perfectly lucid, but felt dizzy. She was otherwise unhurt, no numbness or tingling anywhere and she could turn her head without pain. Only thing bothering her was the gaping, oozing scalp wound. And the hysterical brother, who was back downstairs dragging a duffel bag better suited for an extended hospital stay than a few hours in a waiting room. The bag was bursting with assorted stuffed animals, books and underwear grabbed haphazardly from his sister's room. "I need a bigger bag!" he yelled at me, as if this was somehow my fault.

I heard myself saying--in a voice way too calm to be mine--that his sister was fine and would not be requiring everything he'd brought, that it was just a cut (a cut that would require medical intervention, but never mind).

"There are no brains leaking out. The head just bleeds a lot when you cut it," I said in this ridiculously off-handed tone.

My son, who if you didn't notice has a tendency to be just a wee bit anxious, screamed at me. "You don't know! She could die!" Absurd as this pronouncement looks on screen now, it had a galvanic effect then: The chin of Her Lovely Self began to quiver. The dog looked like he was ready to call 911. And now a look of alarm started to register on The Brownie's face.

It was that look that finally moved me to my last resort, my last trick. Which of course is my only trick. The very trick that keeps this blog going, in fact.

"Remember when Daddy hit himself in the head with the hammer and they had to glue his head shut?" I blurted.

The story is not up there with the time Young Daddy Crapped in the Footed Jammies, but it's a crowd-pleaser. And topical besides. The Brownie, who never fails to be amused by The Misadventures of Daddy, cracked a smile. More importantly, so did her brother (Her Lovely Self remained pale and wan, but you can't please everyone). Somewhere a needle twitched back out of the red zone and began edging into the yellow zone marked SLIGHTLY ABOVE NORMAL CHAOS.

The tale is a simple one: Last summer I was doing some work repairing an attic hatchway and needed to move the stepladder. Unfortunately, someone left a hammer up at the very top of the stepladder and as soon as I moved the ladder, the hammer fell unerringly--and claw-end first--onto the very top of my head. Well, actually, into the very top of my head would be a more accurate way of putting it. The hammer actually stayed there, lodged atop my skull like an ice axe in a glacier.

As with all my household jobs, I had helpers--observers, really--and they saw the whole thing. From their viewpoint, I'm sure it looked like a fine Looney Tunes moment come to life. They cackled with glee.

As they were cackling now.

"You put a sock on your head!" my son brayed, remembering. It was true. I was not anxious to see my own blood (remember what I said about collapsing in a clammy heap?) so while I held the hammer in one hand, I adopted a modified yoga position to remove one of my shoes and the sock beneath. I scrunched the sock up and in one deft move (well, I thought it was deft) pulled the hammer out and jammed the sock onto the top of my head. Then secured it with a baseball cap and we all drove to the hospital that way. The doctor on call opted to use some form of super glue to seal the head wound. Once he stopped laughing about the sock.

Self-deprecation, friends. It gets you out of any jam!

With the panic attack short-circuited, things moved quickly. Her Lovely Self wrapped The Brownie's head in an old towel and Big Brother dragged the duffel out to the car. I made a quick call to the local walk-in clinic to double check their location, but then decided another hospital, farther away but with an excellent pediatric ER, was better. I called them to confirm directions then hung up the phone and saw that I had smeared blood all over it. In fact, blood was everywhere. I turned to wash my hands, and heard the phone clunk off the handset. The dog had dislodged it and was nosing it across the floor.

Holy shit, he really IS gonna call 911, I thought. Then I realized that of course it was the smell of the blood that was driving him nuts. I collared him and dragged him to his kennel. Since he long ago figured out how to pop the latch on his kennel, I had to place a chair in front of the gate. I couldn't have him loose, because he was in the middle of a doggy fit. As soon as I secured the latch on the gate, he went purely nuts. I guess he assumed he would be coming to the hospital with us, because he gave me this look of utter disbelief and then began throwing himself against the sides of his cage and barking what could only have been expletives, all directed at me.

Then we were off to the hospital...

I'm assuming the Brownie is okay?

You really shouldn't leave us hanging like that! *g*
It's amazing how much a cut on the head bleeds. I had a similar experience with my son and a the claw end of a hammer when he was 6. It's almost an out of body experience when you go on automatic pilot and "calm" mode to keep control of the situation.
You'd better watch yourself. The dog could be plotting revenge for you leaving him behind & alone to worry about the Brownie!
I do hope that Brownie is okey... I hate it when my son gets hurt... So I know how you feel!!!!
I am glad that the virtual space of the internet seems to protect me from the circle of confusion and destruction that surrounds you at all times. I mean, criminy!

I love the descriptions of your dog's behavior, which ring true to this dog owner. (Since I'm not yet a child owner, I can't speak to those descriptions.)
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