How a close call with a net ball launcher became 5 hours of fear

first_imgEditor’s Note: John Bogert is on vacation but has selected some of his favorite past columns to run while he’s away. This one originally was published Dec. 5, 2006. It’s a rule, and all parents know this, that a kid can’t be injured except at an impossibly inconvenient moment. Last Wednesday afternoon, I had a column to finish and an interview to do when my son’s physical education coach called. Face it, there is no reason on Earth for a P.E. coach to call unless your kid is a great pro prospect or he just got hurt. “Ah, look, er, ah ?” the coach began. One of the small advantages of being older than almost everyone including nearly all coaches is the ability to use your age and perceived wisdom against younger people. In short, cut the BS, Jack, and tell me what’s going on! “Well, your son was playing with this net ball launcher thing and the ball hit him square in the eye,” he said with great reluctance. I didn’t, of course, know what a net ball launcher thing was and had been, until that moment, rooting for knee abrasions. Still, in the automatic triage that is the parental brain, eye injury stands some small distance removed from head injury while remaining 120 heartbeats above the hoped-for ripped skin. “There has been some bleeding in the eye,” he said. “In the white of his eye?” I asked, still searching for a minimal injury. “No, in the iris.” OK, this was serious – eye, blood, blindness! There is no end to this emotional downward spiral familiar to anyone who has resided in that mystic place that arrives with the birth of a child and never ends. One second you don’t know this baby from Joe at the mattress factory. The next minute, it is in your hands and in your life blood so deep you’d gladly give it your lungs if needed. So I’m thinking, I have two eyes! He can have one or both. What am I using them for anyway? Then, on a far more practical level, I began triangulating on his position in the nurse’s office at his school. Who is closest? Mother, eldest sister, Aunt Kathy the nurse ? sister! Sister is 24 and cool in a crunch, sister is of this Earth, solid, dependable. I sign off with gym teacher and find sister, who is not 4 miles from her brother and immediately on her way. Two hours later, all three of us are in the emergency room. They had taken him in quickly and I’m thinking, good deal. I’m also looking at his left eye. I have never seen one so red. Nor had I ever seen an iris filled halfway to the pupil like a fishbowl with some darker fluid, but he wasn’t in pain. So we waited, then waited longer. If you’ve ever been in an American emergency room, you already know that waiting is what you do in these places for all the usual reasons. Because we do not have a national health system, because 37million of us are uninsured, this is where people come when they get sick. It’s a kind of supernatural place, too. Here a routine $80 office visit for a strep throat magically becomes a $500, five-hour wait that a lot of people can’t or won’t pay for anyway. Billions down some far-off money hole, but we can’t figure out how to get some kid’s ouchy throat looked at in a financially realistic way. Anyway, the wait is parceled out equally. Fours hours later, a guy in a white coat walks in, shines a light in my kid’s eye from 3 feet away and pronounces him fine. When I mentioned the blood, he takes a closer look and, I swear this is true, says, “Good call. Looks like a hyphema.” Think. What I was looking at already had a name. And guess what, the guy in the coat wasn’t a doctor. He was a nurse. The unit we were in didn’t have a doctor, which meant that I had to employ the tool that has become a necessity in grossly understaffed and overworked emergency rooms. I made a lot of noise. Not loud noise, just impressive vocabulary noise, this-guy-might- cause-trouble noise until an eye man was summoned a mere five hours after our arrival. It wasn’t as bad as it appeared. He needed medication, needed to stay home from school and might someday develop glaucoma if the eye’s drainage pipes are damaged. But he’s OK for now. Only I’m not, and haven’t been for many years. I want to hear your comments. Connect with me at john.bogert@dailybreeze.com, call 310-543-6681 or send a letter to Daily Breeze/John Bogert, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503-4077. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more