When I heard my son shriek in the backyard, I knew he took a spill in the wheelbarrow. Papa gives him rides and Liev had not met his monthly bruise quota. I ambled out back expecting to give hugs and sprays of Bactine.
The seriousness of the situation escaped me. Papa cradled Liev, holding him at a strange angle. I thought this odd and did not recognize panic until I looked into my husband’s eyes.
The wheelbarrow had flipped, dumping its weight plus Papa’s on top of our son. Liev turned to me, screaming. I stood aghast as he spat out mouthful after mouthful of blood. I grabbed some towels and met them at the car. We rushed Liev to the nearest emergency room.
I shook the whole ride. Liev shrieked nonstop, while Papa soothed with absolute calmness.
A triage nurse determined Liev had lacerations on his lips and gums. He had no obvious broken bones or concussion, and his bleeding had slowed. I reiterated how much he had bled at home. He must have lost a cupful before my eyes. The nurse reassured us that facial wounds bleed a great deal and not to worry. She gave Liev a popsicle and juice, asking us to wait for the doctor.
Keeping Liev occupied until the doctor arrived was easier than expected. He quit screaming, “I need a doctor, I’m going to die!!!” although he wailed when he saw himself in the mirror. He finally cuddled on my lap and listened to stories.
The doctor told us Liev had bitten a thumb-sized hole in is upper right lip, but it would heal easily. More problematic was the injury that caused his profuse bleeding. Liev’s top lip under his nose had been torn loose from the gums.
A debate over getting stitches arose. Stitches would mean an all-nighter at a different hospital with a pediatric facial reconstruction surgeon. Liev’s injury was serious enough that stitches were recommended, but not so critical that they were mandatory.
Our ER physician called all over town to see if anyone could help us sooner. He quickly perceived that Liev would spend the balance of the night poking at his injury while hopping around the emergency ward. Egor and I concocted activities for Liev as we waited. Every patient in the ER was privy to our pursuits. I hope they enjoyed knowing their room numbers and the height of every letter on the eye chart.
No specialist could be reached, so we decided to take Liev home. Instructions abounded. No school. Liquid diet. See your pediatrician. No picking at his lip (ha!). No jumping (hahahaha!). And so on.
Despite the excitement, Liev conked out immediately. I spent the night next to him, grateful we installed a queen-sized bed in his room.
Liev slept well. Papa and I did not. I brooded over the accident, replaying horrifying alternate scenarios till morning. Papa ached from the fall. The next day he confided that he thought he was having a heart attack in the ER. His pain turned out to be an Idaho-shaped bruise over his chest and shoulders.
The next morning, Liev resembled the loser of a lengthy, contentious boxing match. By noon he recovered enough for a few half-hearted hops and by dinnertime, he tired of popsicles, juice, and jello.
After Liev fell asleep, I washed the accident laundry. The reddening water gripped me; each agitation deepened the hue. I doubled the detergent and watched pink foam froth. Rosy suds churned like whip cream, obscuring the dark water beneath.
I contemplated water and suds, how the water and foam are a part of each other, despite their differing appearances. My son’s cast-off blood would be rinsed away to rejoin the earth. His atoms fueled life before him and will continue their impersonal work after him.
Life is fleeting and frail. I am so thankful for the time I have on earth with my family.
Liev woke up the next day, full of hops and strange observations. I gave him a long, tight hug.