I remember being at a cricket match about three years ago and having a drink with another Mother who at the time had two young boys. She asked idly, just to make conversation, I think, how many times we'd had to go to casualty.
Gertie was four, immaculately behaved with a penchant for sedate pastimes like reading and beading. Dipping her toe into waves at the seaside was about the limit of her daredevil activity.
I laughed and thought the other mother was joking. But no, it transpired that this was a regular occurrence in her household. There had been falling out of trees, from bikes, in the playground. It was a world alien to me as I cradled my baby boy and watched as Gertie worked away at her tapestry. (I embellish a little, for narrative effect, but you get the idea.)
Fast forward to last weekend and our very first 'A&E' experience. Another sunny Saturday afternoon at the cricket, home team on the verge of what would be a tight victory. A cry from the long grass. Gertie comes running over because Eddie has fallen. Eddie's arm hangs limply by his side and he is emitting a strange wail that I have never heard before. I scoop him up in my arms and run to Hearth-father pronouncing that we have a 'situation' on our hands. There is an off-duty nurse at the pitch side. She takes a look and doesn't like what she sees.
Hearth-father looks longingly at what is left in his pint glass and decides that it isn't worth the risk with the inevitable drive to the hospital ahead.
Hearth-granny is called to babysit the big kids. Hearth-mother is crying, convinced that x-rays will reveal the worst. (She's not entirely sure why she has slipped in to third person at this stage, except that it also contributes to narrative effect.) Eddie doesn't stop screaming for the entire journey, despite being cradled by his mother all the way. She feels every bump and jolt and corner even more than she did in labour on the same route two and a half years ago.
It is Saturday night and the accident and emergency department is standing-room only. A queue of unfortunates line up waiting to be seen. Eddie has cried himself to sleep and now looks unconscious, which gains some sympathetic glances from the other casualties.
The triage nurse provides painkillers and unhelpfully wakes Eddie in the process of weighing him. Agrees that the signs are not good. Eddie perks up a bit when he sees the toys in the paediatric waiting room, and we are at least now away from the drunken melee in the main waiting area. Eddie tries to play, but cannot move his arm and feebly plays left-handed. Another boy, about the same age is being tickled by his daddy. Eddie wants us to do the same, but is too protective of his arm to find a giggle.
Two hours pass. All the toys have been played with. Conversations have been struck up with the other parents. Everyone now knows everyone else's business. Eddie has inadvertently revealed that Gertie was giving him a piggy back when he fell, much to the consternation of his parents and the amusement of everyone around. Oh. That puts a slightly different complexion on things, exacerbating the extent of the injury. He has fallen from a greater height than we originally thought.
Two more hours pass. There are still fourteen people ahead of us to be treated. Eddie is becoming increasingly fractious (that's one of my favourite euphemisms). We decide to leave and get some sleep. It it past midnight by the time we reach home.
Eddie wakes screaming at 2am and we give him more medicine. In the morning his arm is still useless. He tries to eat cereal and screams as he raises the spoon. We phone NHS direct and they advise us to go straight back to casualty. We cancel our plans for a visit to friends, and bring plenty of snacks and activities to the hospital. The big kids are excited by the adventure, though Gertie is a little sheepish about her role in events, and her reluctance to impart crucial information the previous evening.
Three hours and three x-rays later, we discover there is nothing wrong. Nil. Nada. Eddie high-fives me. With his bad hand. Which has miraculously come back to life with the news. I manage to refrain from throttling him in full view of a number of health officials. It really is a very good job that he's cute.
We try to salvage something of the day by going out for lunch, but Eddie is grumpy and we abandon the mission. Hearth-mother is unsympathetic. (See, detaching myself again).
Eddie wakes up on Monday morning and with a twinkle in his eye asks if we can go back to the hospital and play with the toys. My response is unpublishable.
I come home from work to find that his nanny is 'really worried about him' and has him lying on the sofa with his arm in a sling. She is mopping his brow. Seems perturbed when I am undisturbed. Eddie realises that the game is up and hops up smartly to begin playing with his siblings...
Ouch. Not sure who has been hurt more by the whole episode. I am just aware that I lost seven hours this weekend that I won't get back. Eddie: not his real name. Might change it to 'Flimflammer'.
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