It’s been two weeks since my first trip to the emergency room with my daughter.
What started out as pizza and bowling with some family and friends turned into a parent’s worst nightmare. Our very curious two-year old picked up her Papa’s 11 pound bowling ball and tripped. As it goes with accidents, it all happened in slow motion.
First the lift.
Then the stumble.
Then, the ear piercing high-pitched screams of a child in pain.
Papa scooped her up and shuffled her to the bathroom to examine the wound—I stopped at the concession stand and grabbed a bag of ice. A man at the far end hears the wails and checks on my family,“We need some ice over here!” Emotions overwhelm me. Excuse me, zit-faced country concession kid, can you move any slower with my ice?
Entering the bathroom was like being the star of a B-grade Hollywood murder movie. Blood streaming down her tiny little hand and tears dripping from her eyes like a mountain spring branch. My experience with blood is simple: I faint. But, not tonight—not now.
With 15 years of leading expeditions into the wild with the North Carolina Outward Bound School and a certified wilderness first responder under his belt, Papa is calm. He leads the family through this frightening time, giving clear directions.
We’re on the same team; in times of crisis, this can be hard to remember. Our clarity can be diluted with emotions.
My role, was simply to hold my baby girl and love her. We rushed her home so that Doctor Papa could clean and bandage her. I held her on the ride, child seat be damned. She needed me close. Opening the blood stained paper towel and removing the ice from her hand, Papa got a good look in the bathroom light. “Ok Mom, we’re going to the hospital. The nail is coming off the thumb and the gristle is hanging out of the index finger. This is above my pay grade.We need help.”Into the truck we went.
Usually I am the navigator, but tonight I am quiet. I send all my love to the little angel in my lap who is drifting in and out of consciousness. The pain wells up inside her and she screams. Then, the hormones dump to numb the pain and she settles into my bosom. I nurture my little girl by comforting her with my body, whispering sweetness into her ears as tears stream down my face.
The hospital? It’s worse than I ever imagined.
I’m not trained in medical anything. I’m not a reiki healer. I’m not a guru. I am a woman. I am a yoga teacher. I am a mama, possibly my greatest gift to humanity. Leading my little girl through life by example. So this is it—it’s show time: “How the heck can I be strong when a piece of me is in so much pain?”
And then it hit me like a 90mph fast ball: the yogic knowledge we’d gained in India. This knowledge was now becoming an experience. It was shifting from knowledge, something I learned, into wisdom, something I experienced. Guruji’s words echoed in my inner ear, “Everything is unfolding exactly as it should. Everything is perfect.”
Perfect? How could this be perfect? We are sitting in the ER on Good Friday. My baby girl is losing blood. She is traumatized and exhausted. The doctor is nowhere to be found. And, to make matters worse, Grandma and Grandpa are on their way up from Florida for Easter with just a text that said, “bowling accident, on our way to the ER, no phone calls please.”
I’ve never been an advocate of Western medicine—I take pretty good care of my family so we don’t have to visit the doctor. We eat fresh organic food, gluten free and vegetarian.
Then Doctor Roland appears; the hazy outline of the hallway lights illuminated his tall slender body. It was like God sent an angel for my little girl. His heart opened up to us. He too has a little one about her age. He opened her hand to evaluate the damage—her little thumb was swollen to this size of carrot and about the same color too. The tendons inside her index finger were split open and exposed.
She wakes up and I am forced to hold her still while the doctor cleans her wounds. Papa has her arm and wrist and I hold her squirming body. She cries out in pain. We are sent to radiology. The nurse wheels the whole bed down the hall. I reassure India, “The doctor wants to take a picture of your hand. Remember Mr. Bones from the yoga studio? He wants to take a special picture of your bones inside your hand. Some of them might have been broken.”
Then, the words that break my heart.
“Mama,” she chokes out between sobs, ”I want to go home.”And, like an arrow straight through me, her request fuels the surge of emotions I had been trying to subdue. The xrays were quick, and it was back to our hotel suite in the ER for four more hours of waiting. Exhaustion had set in. India fell asleep on my chest with her boo boo hand lifted on my shoulder.Mama in the bed and Papa surrounding his girls with a bubble of love.
India’s pain surmounts and she wakes a few times over the next couple hours to scream in pain. The nurses ask if she wants some toys, to keep her quiet, no doubt so they can finish eating their dinner. The smell of lentils, onions and garlic are most unpleasant mixing with the smell of fear and blood as it wafts down the hall into our room. Grandma and Grandpa arrive at the hospital close to 10pm. The hospital staff won’t let them in to see her.
It’s after hours and the results are in: the thumb is broken. The nail will fall off. The index finger needs stitches. Now, the moment of truth arrives.
Can I be strong for someone else? I have to hold her tightly with my arms and legs. Papa has to hold her arm and wrist. Patrick the nurse has to hold her hand still so Dr. Roland can put the stitches in her tiny hand.
First, the novocaine—her hand is so little he is having some difficulty with the needle. It’s in. Now, we have to wait for the painkiller to kick in. Tom Petty was so right when he said, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
The stitches had to go on the inside of her index finger. The awkward angle of India’s hand gave Dr. Roland a little difficulty. Her hand dwarfed in comparison to the medical instruments. The doctor evaluated her thumb—the break was right under the nail, which was swollen, lifted and blackened. He told us the medical texts would require you to remove the nail, but looking into her innocent eyes, no doubt reminding him of his little boy, he said he didn’t see any need to cause her any more grief.
After a few moments the stitching begins. By the sound of her screams echoing through the hospital halls, the painkiller had not yet taken effect. He put two stitches at the knuckle joint. The split was so cavernous, Papa requested two more. Sensitive to our needs, the Dr. agreed even though this tight space between her fingers proved to be a challenge.
Then it happened again: the pleading sobs of a pure heart, “Mama, I want to go home.”
I have never felt more helpless in my life. A whole host of other unpleasant emotions pour out. And then I hear it again. “Everything is perfect and it is unfolding exactly as it should.” I console my baby with little more than whispers in her ears and love in my heart as I pin her down so the doctor can finish the stitching. And it hits me, as helpless as I feel, everything is unfolding perfectly.
This combined experience in her life, in my life and my husband’s life is perfect.
My role is to be a caregiver and support; to hold space for her to feel comforted and loved in a time of need. My husband’s role was to be clear and directive and set the tone for the family. Our daughter’s role was to have this traumatic event take place in her life. Maybe to prepare her for some other role she will play later in life. Who knows?
I am reminded of a story of a Chinese farmer:
He was in the fields one day and a horse ran out of the woods over to him. All of the villagers said, “Ah, what good luck.” The farmer responded, “Maybe good luck, maybe bad luck. Who knows?” The farmer’s son grew fond of the horse and began training it. Soon, he fell and broke his arm. All the villagers said, “Ah, what bad luck.” The farmer responded, “Maybe good luck, maybe bad luck. Who knows?” The next day, the army came to town recruiting young able—bodied men. They passed the farmer’s son because of his injury. All the villagers said, “Ah, what good luck.” The farmer replied, “Maybe good luck, maybe bad luck. Who knows?”
India was patched up and we were released from the ER around one a.m. It had been five and a half hours since we had arrived. She was bandaged up and splinted to protect her boo boo hand.
The next morning we met India’s friend, Henry, and her grandparents at the park for an Easter egg hunt. She found 20 eggs! She had forgotten or ignored her injury—Mama and Papa were more shook up than she was.
For days after, I was still in a fog recovering from her accident. My daughter went on about her business as if nothing had happened.
The perfection of the universe was unfolding and it maybe good luck, maybe bad luck. Who knows?
Cassie McClellan studied surfing and the art of Aloha at the University of Hawaii. In 2008, she began studying yoga seriously with Baron Baptiste. She studied Sivananda Yoga in India and is certified through the Baptiste Yoga Institute and the Government of India. Co-creator of Go Yoga Asheville, through a Space of Love and the Science of Yoga, she and her husband JP, are on a mission to raise the vibration of the planet. She lives and plays with her husband and daughter, who are her greatest teachers, in the mountains of Asheville, NC. You can find her retreats, classes and workshops at www.goyogainc.com.
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Assistant Ed: Karla Rodas/Ed: Bryonie Wise