I picked up the phone. My husband was on a conference call and had already missed his call waiting twice. “This is Sherry from preschool. Your son hurt his finger and the nail has ripped off. He’s been a trooper so far but can you come?”
“We’ll be right there.” We were already in the driveway, on our way to pick the other car from the mechanic’s. We headed straight for preschool as I cursed the 15 minutes it takes to get there. We finally arrived, jumped out of the car and they took us to him. He held up his thumb and started to cry as I picked him up. A Band-Aid hung loosely around his thumbnail. His thumbnail hung loosely at the top of his finger and his hand was covered with blood. The preschool director explained to my husband that the kids were cleaning up and a little girl dropped a block on his finger. He’d asked them for the Band-Aid. She gave us a wet washcloth to wrap around his finger to absorb the blood.
We got him in the car and raced to the emergency room, my husband driving on the median and tearing up the road. We got to reception and they took our info, which took forever. They could see that my three-year-old son was bleeding. Then they made us wait. We watched “Dog With a Blog” in the children’s waiting area. While we waited, we told my son the hospital would help him, but he wasn’t convinced. He held on to that washcloth like a pit bull playing tug-o-war. When we finally got in, he cried that he didn’t want anyone to take the washcloth off his finger. We kept telling him they’d help his finger to stop hurting.
The nurse came in to get his vitals. She wanted his good hand to get a blood oxygen reading. He screamed and made a fist. We wrestled him until they got the tiny wire taped to his finger. He screamed and cried as I held his hand immobile. The machine cycled and cycled but wouldn’t give a reading. They tried another finger. More screaming and wrestling. Again the machine cycled and cycled and nothing. They tried one more finger and got him riled up again. Same thing. The machine didn’t work. The nurse left.
We waited about ten minutes for the doctor. When she came in he started, “Don’t take off the towel! Don’t take off the towel!” I got the towel off as he continued to scream. The doctor was young and very nice. She held his hand still as she took off the Band-Aid. I struggled to keep him on my lap as he screamed and tried to wriggle free. I looked at his finger. His nail was completely off and hung free, along with part of his fingertip. The doctor told us he’d need an X-ray to make sure his finger wasn’t broken. She explained that the nail had completely ripped off and nothing was left in the nail bed. She’d sew it back on but his nail might never grow back and his finger would have permanent scarring.
My son was hysterical. I tried to calm him down as my husband said he needed some air and left the room. My daughter immediately said she wanted to go too and she followed him. I tried to talk to my son but he kept screaming. I struggled to think of something to calm him, then I began to recite “Bad Dog Marley.” We’d been reading it before bed for a month, so I knew it pretty well. I talked softly in his ear and he began to calm down. Thank God. It took a while but I got him quiet and began to tell him about the X-ray.
“They’re gonna take a picture of your finger,” I began.
“I don’t wanna take a picture!”
“It won’t hurt. They won’t even touch it.” I hoped that was true. “They’ll bring a big camera in and they’ll take a picture.”
“I don’t wanna take a picture!”
“Don’t worry about it, Honey. They don’t even touch it.”
The X-ray techs came in. They wanted him to hold out his hand so they could see his thumb clearly. He screamed and cried. I grabbed his other fingers and held them away from his thumb and tried to lay it on the pad. They had to take a few pictures but they did and left.
I tried to calm him down again. I resumed reciting “Marley” until I had an idea. When my son goes to bed, I read him a book and then play two songs from You Tube. My husband started that. I always sang them myself with my daughter. I got my phone and queued up “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with the Gigglebellies. It worked. He never gets to watch the screen so he was mesmerized.
We waited some more until the doctor came back. She said that the X-ray didn’t appear to show a break, and she’d reattach the nail. An assistant came in and said they’d wrap him in a sheet and hold him down for surgery. She read my mind. Clearly my son wouldn’t sit still for surgery on his own. So the doctor prepared her instruments and the assistant and I wrapped my son in the sheet. I draped my arm across his belly and the assistant leaned on his chest. She and I both held his arm so the doc could get to his thumb. He kicked his legs but she was able to immobilize his thumb. She pulled out a needle and stuck it in. My son screamed. “This is the worst part,” she said. He kept screaming. Once the anesthetic started to kick in he calmed down and I asked my daughter to find something for him to watch on the phone. Once he started watching “Bubble Guppies,” he went quiet. It was a 45-minute video so we were covered.
I stole glances at his finger while the doctor reattached the nail and his fingertip and sewed it up. I am not normally able to look at medical stuff but it must be a mom thing because something kicked in. I wanted to see how bad it was and when I did, I didn’t feel anything but pain for my son. The stitches took a long time but when the doctor was done, she explained that the nail was back in the nail bed and she was hopeful that the nail would grow back, but no guarantees. She wrapped his thumb with some gauze and tape, and once my son got off the table, he showed everyone his new blue “Band-Aid,” ate some potato chips my husband had brought from the vending machines and danced around with his sister. She was trying to tap dance and I taught her some steps. That was the first time six years of tap and jazz came in handy.
We got a prescription and our exit paperwork and left. On our way home my husband ranted, “What kind of ‘block’ would do that to him? What kid would do that? If she did it on purpose, she doesn’t belong in that school. I’m gonna go to that school tomorrow and find out exactly what happened.”
It was past bedtime for the kids when we got home. My son had started potty training this week — that’s another story — and my husband thought he should give it up. He hadn’t peed at all at the hospital but he did pee in the potty when we got home. We missed dinner so we gave the kids sandwiches and we went to bed. As I pulled on my son’s pajamas, he got upset, “It’s caught! It’s caught!” I pulled his fingers out from the sleeve and realized his bad thumb was bent backwards. I quickly got it out and felt sick to my stomach. My poor baby, all that and now Mommy hurts him. I kept saying I was sorry. Once his thumb was freed, he recovered quickly but I didn’t.
The next morning, my husband met with the director of the school, and she showed him the “block” that maimed our son’s thumb. It was a round piece of tree trunk, with no bark and rounded edges. It sounded heavy for something that preschoolers would play with but he concluded that it was an accident.
My son’s thumb is still pretty well maimed, but the doctor at urgent care said the nail was still in place after two days. We follow up with a local pediatrician this week. My son is doing fine and being careful with his injured thumb. He’s learning to do things without it and he’s continuing his potty training. I’m grateful that the little girl didn’t drop the block on his head instead of his thumb and that the doctor was able to fix him up. I’m also grateful for all the support we’ve received from friends and family. Everyone has a story about someone who hurt their finger worse than my son and everyone’s fingernails have grown back. Their stories give us hope. We’ll see how he heals and I’ll keep you posted.