At least Dale got to go to the hospital, and for three days! Probably missed some school while he was at it.
I, on the other hand, am about to tell you the story of how I, instead of being taken to a hospital, was flippantly ignored for more than a day after sustaining injuries from a very dangerous fall. I was eight years old when this happened.
During our little neighborhood frolic we ended up in front of our church, a modern structure with nice landscaping that included a sunken gravel pit surrounded by a ten-foot stone wall.
Being the little idiot I was, I climbed up on one of the walls and called for Patti to come join me. When she hesitated, I started doing something dumb to show off. I think I was trying to stand up on the wall to pretend I was on a balance beam or something.
I vaguely remember the backwards fall and hitting some bushes in the gravel pit below, before rolling down all the way to hit my head on some large rocks. I don’t remember anything else about the next ten minutes or so that I spent in the gravel pit. Patti later told me she went looking for a rope to try to pull me out, before noticing there was a stairway leading down into the pit. She came down to escort me out, which I don’t remember at all.
I started to come to my senses as Patti was leading me down the street in search of my house. She feared she would not be able to recognize the house as she had only been introduced to it earlier that day. I remember being in a complete daze, kind of a hazy fog, while Patti continually asked me “Is this your house? How about this one? Yes? No?”
I kept asking her if I was dreaming, since everything seemed so foggy. She pinched me, saying “did you feel that? If you did, then you’re not dreaming. Now tell me where your house is.”
I blanked out again, and didn’t come to until I was standing in our downstairs bathroom, with both my and Patti’s mother washing off my many scrapes and bruises. My mom seemed barely interested, while Patti’s mother kept shouting “what were you two doing, anyway?” to Patti, who was sitting in the living room.
After I was cleaned up, the adults deposited me on the couch and resumed their visit. Apparently, it didn’t register with them that I had fallen from a ten-foot wall, been knocked unconscious, and was visibly dazed to the point that I would not have gotten myself home absent Patti’s assistance. In all fairness, Patti probably didn’t tell them exactly what happened for fear of being reprimanded, since she was, after all, the older one of us. But still. Jesus Christ. Can’t two educated, grown women tell when a young child probably has a concussion? Did the fact that I didn’t even know where I was make any impression at all on them? I guess not.
Later that evening, as I was still lying on the couch, I realized my right arm hurt like living hell. My brother-in-law, who had stopped over for some reason, wrapped it in an ace bandage for me, and I went to bed.
The next morning my arm was still throbbing, and I could barely get my clothes on. I made myself late for school because of my “dawdling,” and my mother’s comments regarding the latter were fairly devoid of warmth. I honestly don’t remember how I made it through the day.
When I got home from school that afternoon, my sister, who was a nurse, was at the house and told me she was taking me to the hospital for x-rays. Apparently, my brother-in-law had gone home and mentioned the injury to her, prompting her to phone my mom the next day to see how I was doing. Marg apparently expressed some confusion as to why my parents didn’t realize I had hurt my arm. And although I wasn’t privy to the conversation that followed, I’ve been told it encompassed various exchanges involving words such as “neglectful and “unfit.” Off to the hospital we went!
About five minutes after we entered the E.R., I was being asked questions like “what took you so long to come here?” and “why on earth didn’t you tell your parents your arm hurt so badly?” How is an eight year old supposed to respond to such questions? I gave one especially cloying nurse a terse response along the line of “because I’m DUMB!” for which I was swiftly reprimanded by my sister.
The doctor who set the broken bone just about killed me, and I repeatedly yelled “why do you have to keep SQUEEZING it?!” at him. My sister kept exclaiming “Thomas!” But I was pissed. I had been grossly wronged on all accounts, and I was ready to take names.
The only satisfying part of this story for me is the memory of the look on my mother’s face when I returned home and walked through the back door wearing a full-arm plaster cast. That, and the knowledge that a little parental guilt goes a long, long way. I still bring this incident up now and again when my mom and I are together, and when I’m on my game, I can make her cry in under ten seconds.