Monday, 10 October 2011

Tickling My Toddler

I was tickling my toddler yesterday, which is a really joyful thing to do. But I was doing it gingerly and gently. I don't think I really need to be careful anymore, but I'm still getting over the trauma of a recent event in our family. I know cognitively that the wound is healed but I know that new skin is sensitive and it's so recently that I was afraid to touch my son's chest at all for fear of hurting him sharply.
As a mom of seven kids I admit to having a few trips to the emergency department, and coming from a family of nurses it's not usually frivolous. (I have a good friend who's an ER nurse and I hear all about the silly people who come in and use emergency resources for hangovers and hiccups and such.). Usually on such occasions we've walked away with either a prescription or a cast and follow up instructions. But this trip didn't lead to walking away after a few hours. It lead instead to an ambulance ride down to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and a three day hospital stay, then to a ream of prescriptions and follow-up instructions. Our toddler, Raphael had suffered a second degree hot water burn to about 9% of his body on his chest and upper abdomen.
I can't really describe the impact of the initial sight of him as I turned in response to his sudden screaming cry behind me. The hot chocolate which he had tried to drink after stepping up onto the footstool at the kitchen counter was freshly poured from the kettle with no milk added. I know that I reacted quickly and immediately stripped off his romper, but it was one of those moments when you feel like you're moving through mud and you can't get your hands to work quickly or dextrously enough. I knew (thanks to my ER friend) that a burn needs to be cooled right away with cold water - and not to put on any of those things that the email circulations tell you to, like flour or egg white, so I ran him straight upstairs to the bathroom and got him under the bathtub tap. I had him at the hospital very soon as we only live five minutes away and then he was assessed, through the wonders of modern technology, by both the ER doc at the local hospital and the plastics doc at Sick Kids through a picture taken and sent via iPhone. Because of this we were accepted to the plastics unit at Sick Kids before we even arrived which expedited our admission once we got there. Then we had to go through medicating and dressing and the placing of various tubes before we finally got to sleep around 3 o'clock in the morning. He was a real trouper, putting up with lots of medical treatment although they did have to put "no-no's" on his arms to stop him yanking out his I.V. and N.G. tube. It's hard to explain the need for these to a toddler! As I said we were at the hospital for three days while the dressings were changed and assessed and his risk of infection was managed and his food and fluid intake was monitored. And then we were allowed to come home with a schedule of return visits to the outpatient plastics clinic and lots of instructions.
I think this is the first time I've really understood the word trauma. And it's only mild I know. But coming home from the hospital I really felt shaken to be walking back into the house that I had last seen in such a panic knowing my child was injured and in such extreme pain. I felt apprehension just walking into the kitchen again and seeing the spot where it had happened. I hadn't really felt much more than a few tearful moments while we were in the hospital, and I had honestly wondered if I was just a cold unsympathetic mother. Coming home I knew that wasn't the case. I had just been in a holding pattern getting through the things I needed to do for my son and learning how to care for his injury. In the haste of the moment when the burn occurred I had thrown his outfit he'd been wearing in a corner and found it still there after I got home. I picked it up with only a glance and threw it as quickly as possible out of sight into the laundry pile. I was afraid to look at it. I was afraid I would find some of the layers of skin that had been shed still clinging to the inside of the fabric, and I didn't think I could take that very well. It took me a few days to get up the courage to look at it and get it into a proper laundry load. After washing it I put it aside and I haven't put him in it since, I don't think I ever will.
But it's strange how trauma works. Raphael had no problem coming home. No apparent issues at all. We went through almost two weeks before I found his trigger. Since he was bandaged we had only been doing sponge baths. But once the time of healing was ending we were to give him a bath to soak off the special burn dressing. It wasn't until I tried to get him into the tub that I realized that that was where he had associated his pain. The timing of the burn had been a few seconds, but the time spent under cold water on the burn had been whole minutes of screaming and crying in pain and fear. It took nearly half an hour to get him into the tub and all I could do was hug him over the side and pour water over his back and shoulders. I'm afraid it was a tearful time for the both of us although I think I managed to hide my tears from him and be the strong support he needed.
It's been over a month now since it happened, but I find I still get very emotional about it. I guess it will just take time to get over it. In the meantime I jump a little more quickly whenever I hear him cry now, as that sound is linked in my head to a picture of pain; I pray more fervently that none of my children ever experience anything like that again; and I learn to tickle my toddler again with pure joy and abandon and cherish his laugh all the more.

2 comments:

  1. What a nightmare! I am so sorry you all had to go through this...Poor baby! It will make me more conscious of what's going on in the kitchen behind my back...

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  2. Thanks Anita, it's definitely made me pay more attention, and I'm glad it can inspire others to do the same.

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