A visit to the E.R. after Daddy closes a door on a child’s finger becomes a rite of passage kind of moment: a moment that says to you, you are a parent now.
Yesterday, I smashed my 2 year old daughter Satya’s little thumb in the doorjamb of the atrium door at my friend’s house where my family was staying for a little sojourn in San Francisco.
I was closing the door and she was to the right of me, so I didn’t see her finger in the jamb. As I was closing the door, it became hard to close, so I pulled a little bit harder (I didn’t know if there was a catch or the door was off center as older doors sometimes can be)…and well, I heard a loud pop, only to look down and see a little finger in the jamb, a drop of blood and my Satya screaming.
We were all out of the house within 5 minutes, on our way to the E.R. at UCSF. We spent almost three hours there. Two nurses/doctors eventually looked at it briefly. The joint was not impacted. If the bone was broken there’d be nothing they could do about it anyway, they told me. It would heal on its own. Even if smashed into bits, at her age, it would heal on its own in 2-4 weeks.
Well the adrenaline had worn off, we were weary, and as I began to come to a fraction of my senses, it began to dawn on me what the writing on my daughter’s insurance card was saying, which is that for an ER visit, they cover 80% of the costs after the deductible is met, up until the annual limit is met.
The deductible is $2,000, the annual is $3,000.
I went for a walk to quickly make some necessary calls. I came back with food for everyone, which was a good move. When half of the bagel with cream cheese fell on the floor, face down, we all looked at it longingly, with a pause that said, “Should we still eat it? Can we?” As I bent down, a nurse walked by and said “two second rule,” supportively. Then quickly she followed-up, “No wait, this is the E.R., it doesn’t apply here. The floor is really dirty.”
I started thinking about our innocent, arrogant E.R. visit, and how bourgeois it may’ve been. Not that I cared too much from the privilege and gratitude perspective, just that from the wallet perspective, I was, well, trying to keep it all in perspective. I started to hear the words “clinic,” and “health center,” and “pediatrician,” and stuff like that in my head. I was still ramped up for an X-Ray to see the damage I’d done and to know if was broken at all, broken a little bit, or really smashed—which was really important to know.
Interestingly enough, in the course of the 2 hours the swelling had peaked as had the discoloration. It was as if the 2 year old, 1/2 inch thumb tip was healing in front of our very eyes. The first nurse said an X-ray wasn’t necessary, which is what my wife was hoping to hear at that point. The second nurse said we might as well, which was the direction I was leaning.
I said “Fine, let’s do it.”
More waiting ensued. During that time I took the opportunity to call our local health clinic, speak with a nurse, get advice and a referral to an X-ray center near our house.
I realized that it could be 3 more hours in the ER to get X-rays taken and then interpreted, and also that it would probably cost many times more at the hospital than at a private center. They could bill each film individually at uber-retail rates, and the radiologist might charge separately for his services.
We were outta there! We went back to the apartment and chilled. For the most part, Satya really was back to her old self already. She slept a lot that afternoon and evening.
Today we made it to the imaging center, and within 15 minutes we had three X-rays and a doctor’s report in our hands. It was $42 cash (well, credit card actually), reduced from their insurance-billing rate of $70 (!). (Yesterday they’d quoted $54, but turns out that was a mistake.)
Yes, I did fracture her little thumb. That’s what we know so far.
And yes, that popping sound haunts me like a torture if I let myself ‘go there.’ Which I have been doing from time to time to remind myself, or justify my guilt, be sure to learn the lesson, because I’m slightly in shock, or because it could’ve been worse. Or because maybe it is. Who knows? We don’t know for sure yet. What if she has a misshapen thumb and pain for the rest of her life? I’m a first-time parent; I get to be uncertain about these things!
We’ll bring the X-rays to her pediatrician tomorrow. Maybe to an orthopedist later in the week.
Seeing the x-rays left me with a few questions: does the distal thumb phalange actually taper off to a thin point when photographed from the side in a two year old? And when photographed from the top does it actually normally kind of end in a little bulb? I sure wish we’d X-rayed the other thumb for comparison purposes.
So my wife and I brought our daughter to the E.R. together yesterday. after I’d closed a door on her finger. It was a rite of passage kind of moment. If ever there was a moment that says to you, you are a parent now, this was definitely one of those.
Jeffrey Roth is an innovative, creative, original thinker with unique people skills. After starting at U.C. Berkeley, he looked past offers from Harvard, Dartmouth and others to attend Naropa University (née Institute), studying psychology, theater and dance—as well as the world through his own eyes. He has since gone on to explore diverse subjects and created a company to explore conscious capitalism, GiftedTouch.com.