I figured I just better sit and write it down rather than telling the story 500 times. This is what happened.
My husband is away on an overnight business trip. He literally left yesterday around 11:00 am and is returning later tonight. He planned to be gone less than 48 hours- a few more than 24. What in the world could go wrong? Well, I'll tell you.
I got home from work last night and was beginning laryngitis. I had had a scratchy throat and my asthma had begun to bother me. I made myself a bowl of gluten-free chicken soup and headed upstairs to bed. My throat was definitely getting worse. I felt like I was definitely catching something. Son #1 had missed school earlier this week with a sore throat, headache, bad cough and asthma trigger. I tried to up my vitamin c intake to counter me catching it - but I think sometime last evening I decided to wave my white flag and surrender to the germ.
Son #3 and my daughter both joined in my bed and even brought me a hot cup of mint medley tea. The two older boys took the dogs out and everyone headed to bed. My golden retriever knows that when my husband is away, he is permitted to sleep on the bed with me. So the moment he rushed in from outside, he leapt onto the bed and took his place stretched out beside me.
Unusually enough, I was into a very deep sleep. Like I've told you before, when my husband is gone - I typically suffer from insomnia. But for whatever reason, this time I did not. Perhaps teaching those 3 ballet classes prior took a toll, perhaps my body knew it was fighting something - or maybe I just hoped the golden retriever would handle any crisis that arose.
I was startled this morning at 5:30am to Son #2 turning on the light and shouting, "Mom. Mom. Wake up. Seriously. Son #1 fell down the stairs. He is screaming. He thinks he broke his neck."
I think all of the blood in my legs drained. I jumped from my bed and grabbed my bathrobe. I had an image in my head of my son lying at the floor of the basement steps in some disfigured grotesque position. (Because remember I am the disaster planner - it's what I do.)
When I got to the basement I realized that Son #1 was not lying there. He was laying flat on his back in his bed. Crying. Yelling about the pain. He couldn't move his neck. He couldn't sit up. He basically couldn't do anything at all. I checked motion in his limbs. I asked about tingling and numbness. I tried to look at the base of his skull where the pain seemed to be intense. But I could see nothing. He appeared to be breathing normally, was conscience and talking - and making sense.
I told him that I thought we were going to have to call 911. He was adamant that I NOT do that. Not because he was embarrassed, but because he did not want to be moved or touched. He tried to make me promise I wouldn't call an ambulance. I started the barrage of questions. "What happened?" "When did you do this?" I was shocked once his story began to unfold.
As I told you, Son #1 had not been feeling well this week. Having trouble with his asthma and some congestion. Apparently, he got up around 3:00am to go up to the kitchen to get a drink. When heading back to his room, his heel missed a stair about 7 steps from the bottom. His feet went forward out in front of him and he landed on a stair on his neck at the base of his skull. He yelled while he layed at the bottom of the stairs. No one heard.
He then managed to get himself to his bed and lay there completely still and flat holding his neck and supporting the weight of his head. He waited for the pain to subside. He yelled again. No one heard. Finally, he began calling his siblings cell phones. He didn't call mine - I keep mine in my purse in the kitchen. I wouldn't have heard and he knew this. He called Son #2's cell. Son #2 pressed ignore. So he called again. At last, Son #2 headed to the basement to see what in the world was going on. That is when he found Son #1 and then came immediately to get me.
After being caught up on the details - I really worried about what I should do. I knew that I shouldn't move him. That's what everyone says right? I tried to call my husband on his cell in New Jersey on his business trip. I dialed several times. Straight to voicemail. Of course. I left a message. Still nothing. I went back to talk to my son. Son #2 was sitting in there with him. I questioned more. Son #1 makes a joke about needing to get "Life Alert" since he had fallen and couldn't get up and no one had heard him yelling. Son #1 asked Son #2 to help him get some clothes on. I looked around his room and did manage to scold him for the mess that the EMT's were going to have to come into. (I know I know. It was one of those "make sure you have clean underwear on" moments...)
I went upstairs to my bedroom. Plan B. I called my parents. Why? Because that is what I do. Woke them up. Told the story. They asked all of the same questions that I did. I told them I thought I was going to have to call an ambulance. They got dressed to come over and help get Son #2 to school. I put on my sweats, brushed my hair and my teeth. Tried to wipe away last night's makeup and cover it up with some new stuff. I knew my mom and dad would arrive within 20 minutes. I figured I had some time to process the situation. Besides I really needed some more time to absorb this calling 911 thing. I don't know why...
Son #2 appears in my bathroom and says, "Do you really think this is the time to put on make up?" I fussed at him for leaving Son #1 and sent him out. I kept processing my options in my mind. I then started to wonder where they would transport him if I called 911. Since it was a neck injury would they take him to Shock Trauma? Children's? Johns Hopkins? Am I allowed to ride in the ambulance or do I have to follow? The whole ambulance thing was stressing me. I didn't want to be the one to draw that conclusion.
I start barking out orders. I tell Son #2 to wake up the younger two and start picking up the house. (Because that is important, right? What was I doing?) Son #2 starts picking up Son #1's bedroom before the paramedics and the grandparents arrive without my saying a word. He clearly knows his mother well. Or perhaps he was also embarrassed by his brother's pig sty. Son #2 starts telling Son #1 that he has probably injured his jugular and is bleeding "in" instead of "out" and Mom is upstairs cleaning before the ambulance comes. I knew he was being a smart alec to keep Son #1 calm. I was thankful because it was working. Son #1 definitely wanted Son #2's company and help more than mine. It was evident to me there was a high level of trust between the two of them.
I ran downstairs again. Son #2 had managed to help Son #1 get a pair of shorts on but he still couldn't get a shirt on. They told me that they had gotten him up to go to the bathroom. Soon after, my parents arrived. The conversation about how to get him to the hospital begins. Son #1 is still set that I drive him.
With the help of my father and Son #2, Son #1 wriggles carefully and slowly slithers himself off of the bed until he is in a deep squat (what I would term a grand plie) with his head and neck still laying flatly on the bed. It was the most impressive Limbo form that I have ever seen to be honest. Now the entire time that this is going on, Son #1 yells, grimaces, and supports his head with his hand - unable to hold the weight of his head alone.
Once he is standing my father supports my son's neck from behind and they make the ascent up the stairs. We are now standing in the kitchen while my dad is literally holding my son's neck and head firm and still with both hands. More bantering. The phone rings and my husband is on the other end.
"Are you kidding me? You couldn't make it one night?"
I tell him the story. I tell him that we have moved him and he is standing in front me. I know that this is wrong. I say, "Tell me what you want me to do." He answers. "I am not there - I cannot tell you. Your dad is there what does he think?" My dad replies, "He needs to go to the hospital and be seen." We all agree on that. Now back to the million dollar question. To call 911 or not.
The discussion continues. I can see how uptight my mother is. She just wants us to call 911. My daughter is starting to voice her disappointment that we haven't called 911 because apparently she thinks this would be exciting!? Son #1 seems like he may be warming up to the idea as he realizes he is incapable of supporting his neck or head and the pain grows more intense while trying to stand up. I am concerned that while riding to the hospital with me that something worse will happen. I ask my father, "What do you think?' He says, we need to go. I ask, "Is that your final answer?" He answers, "I'd like to use one of my lifelines and call Tom and ask him what he thinks." My husband is on the other end of the phone. He is quiet. His final words: "Get him to the hospital - it's your call how you do it."
Before I knew it, I had dialed 911. I had made the executive decision. I never do that. I always want someone to validate my decisions. I just worried that we had done too much incorrectly as it was. I gave the information. They were fabulous. Within minutes, the fire engine pulled up onto the court for the whole world to see. You can see the neighbors blinds opening and we can all imagine the people peering to see. Great- here we go. The ambulance arrives shortly after. We explain the whole story. Son #1 is put in a neck brace and strapped to a backboard. Prior to loading him up, the EMT suggests that if we have a camera nearby - we might want to take a picture for future posterity. Son #2 took the pictures. (Remember it was just last week that the tables were turned. Son #2 had fainted at his blood draw and Son #1 was standing over top of him laughing.) So Son #2 took control of the photo op. My son is loaded up into the ambulance and I ride shotgun. My father follows behind. My mother stays to take Son #2 to school and then get the other two started on their home schooling.
Riding in the ambulance, I am telling the driver how my husband had been away last week and all that had happened then. I told her this was becoming embarrassing. She tried to make me feel at ease and pointed out how things like this happen. I figured in her line of work she had probably seen alot and might know what she was talking about. She is driving very carefully and trying not to brake hard. She commented to me that when they have neck and back injuries - it really hurts when they brake. I knew this. That had been why I didn't want to be the one to drive him to the hospital to begin with. Also, during the ride, the EMT in the back with my son, was a real jokester. He was the one who has suggested the photograph before we left. He was fantastic and really did a great job of making my son feel more at ease and tried to keep his mind off of the excruciating pain.
When we arrived at the hospital - they were taking Son #1 out of the back of the ambulance. The driver asks my son if he was okay. My son commented that the driving and breaking was really harsh and made it worse. The driver looked at me horrified. Upon hearing him talk like that - my head whipped around and I thought for sure he had some seriously wrong - he would NEVER in a million years say something like that. At that point the driver figured out that the other EMT had plotted the whole thing with my son in route to the hospital. Everyone laughed.
We enter the hospital and the EMT's fill in the triage nurse. Meanwhile I am taken off to the side to give all of the administrative information. I hear the jokester EMT say to me, "Hey do you know this guy? I am trying not to make eye contact - because you never know who or what is lurking outside of those doors." I looked at the doors. I laughed. It was my dad. He had followed behind and was waiting to be let in to the ambulance entrance where I was. He was standing out there, peering in. The image really was entertaining. Within a few more minutes we were given a room.
Into the room. Taken to x-ray. Doctor comes in. Once it is determined that his neck is not fractured he is taken out of the neck brace for examination. Intense pains resumes. He is supporting his neck and head again with his hands. As a mom, I start to worry. Perhaps they should look at those x-rays again. This is a tough kid. He is a wrestler, football and lacrosse player with a high tolerance for pain. I could tell you dozens of athletic injury stories about him to prove it. When they say, "On a scale form 1 to 10 - rate the pain - 10 being the highest." He answers 9. I feel a crazy mama moment coming on. I want to say, "Perhaps someone else should read the x-rays and give a second opinion." I have visions of that Terms of Endearment movie scene when her daughter is in so much pain and Shirley MacLain is running around the hospital screaming at the nurses to give her daughter some medication for the pain. But my father is there and this helps me keep perspective and behave myself.
Then they tell him that he needs to get undressed and put on a gown. Are you kidding me? He can't sit up. He can't move his neck. But ok. We get him up and get the gown on. The doctor comes in to examine him. It is determined that he has a cervical sprain and a sprain to the trapezius muscle, thus the inability to hold the weight of his head or lower his shoulder. The doctor informs him that they are going to get him a support collar and give him some drugs and he will just have to wait this out. The doctor asks my son how and where he wants his shot. She leaves the room.
A nurse enters with his shot. She warns him that it is going to sting. She asks him if he wants it on the side that hurts and they laugh. She gives it in his other arm. It does sting. She leaves the room. We wait for it to take affect. About ten minutes later, he and my father are in a banter back and forth about where he should "take his shot". My dad says, "How about straight into my neck where it hurts. I can take it." Son #1 responds, "How about right in my eye. I can take it like a man." I am pretty sure that the drugs are working now.
The doctor returns with the instructions. No football for one week. Neck brace to be worn at all times except when sleeping. Alternate ice and heat. Absolutely no driving for one week. Fill the prescriptions for the pain killer and the muscle relaxer. Good Luck!
Right now, he is heavily drugged and sleeping on the couch comfortably. Definitely out of it though, the muscle relaxers have this normally slow moving teen at a complete stand still. I am just so happy that his pain has been relieved and that he is okay.
I keep thinking how could this family have missed someone calling for help 2 floors below for 2 hours? How could I have slept through that? How could my daughter have heard it and chosen to roll over and go back to sleep? It's bizarre to say the least. That mom-guilt wants desperately to take over.
Then I think about that dog. That golden is closer to Son #1 than anyone else in the family. You hear stories all of the time about dogs that keep their families alive or somehow get help for their owners. I don't think that golden retriever will be sleeping in my bed next time my husband is gone- apparently he was too cozy on my queen-sized bed with my quilted comforter to alert us to a problem. Son #1 is the one who feeds that dog and takes him out every day. You'd think he would have been more concerned about his food source. Maybe we need a St. Bernard.
Now - I know that it could be conceived that I took this situation lightly when I wrote this - especially since I focused on the lightheartedness of the all of the medical workers that were involved. To that thought I say this...
When I heard the words "he thinks he broke his neck" - I was overwhelmed with fear. I cannot begin to tell you how scared I was at what in the world I was about to find. Though it was only minutes - it felt like an eternity as I ran to my baby boy. The adrenaline rush was intense and my anxiety was high. I was terrified. After I saw that he was "in tact" and we were not on death's immediate door - the relief I felt was immense. Just those few minutes of terror were enough to remind me drastically how precious it all really is. It certainly could have had an entirely different outcome. We could have been dealing with paralysis right now or even worse. Thank God we are not. In a split second, as simple as descending a flight of stairs - with the mishap of one step of a foot- everything can change. That reminder is certainly sobering and that feeling will stay with me a very long time.
I truly do appreciate the gravity of what happened. But right now, the flood of relief out weighs my fear. I am so grateful to those that kept the levity in the situation to help me keep calm. In fact, I am so relieved at this moment, that I might even be able to let it go that Son #1's room is a complete disaster - well maybe I shouldn't get carried away...