Monday, January 12, 2015

Sorry Kids! Your Mom's a Nurse

My son went to the skate park yesterday. The place was hopping with skateboarders of all ages perfecting tricks. But the first thought that entered my son's head was: "Mommy would not be happy. Look at all the kids riding around without a helmet!" 

Yes! My crazy insistence on injury prevention has seeped in. My boys know that I will call out to any random kid on wheels, "Where's your helmet?!" Because I am a nurse in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. I have seen firsthand the protection that a little plastic bowl can provide your noggin... and the horrifying effects that a hard hit on concrete can leave on an unprotected skull. I wish I could pass out business cards with photos of kids who have suffered head injuries. Too much? Yeah, you're probably right, but it's annoying to see kids needing hospitalization for injuries that might have been prevented if they had actually clipped their helmets in place.

And yet... being the child of a nurse presents an interesting dichotomy. My kids know that while you can never be too careful, you're never quite sick enough to need an ER visit. Is your arm still attached to your body? Then you'll be fine. It's barely hanging on by the ligament and you're bleeding profusely? Well, maybe we should call the advice nurse... right after you use your good arm to clean up that blood!

My older son had a broken clavicle last year. I'm embarrassed to say that we didn't even get x-rays until 5 days later. Hey, don't judge! He came home after flipping over his bike handlebars and complained that his shoulder hurt. In retrospect, I should've known that a broken collarbone is the most likely injury from this kind of Superman stunt, but I was more concerned with whether or not he had been wearing his helmet. And, in my defense I wanted to take him in at least a day earlier but he insisted he was too busy with school projects to find time for a measly doctor's visit. Surprisingly, he toughed it out without much complaint, but loves to tell people how his parents neglected him for the good part of a week.

Heaven forbid either boy has the sniffles though! He will whine all day about his congestion and how his sore throat feels like it's on fire, and how he hates the gross-tasting medicine. On and on. Yeah, we've all had colds. Buck up Buttercup! You'll manage.

My younger son came down with a mysterious illness right as winter break ended. I think it might have been a nasty strain of "I enjoyed my time off and don't want to go back to school just yet". I wasn't falling for it and insisted he'd be just fine. I'm not really impressed unless you have a raging fever and some color change. I sent him off to school with the assurance that he could come home if he truly felt miserable at school since both mom and dad were home and available at a moment's notice. After running errands and doing housework I noticed that there was a message on the machine. A sad little voice pleaded, "I'm not really feeling good. Can you come pick me up?" The time indicated that he'd called three hours before! (My husband didn't hear the phone when I was out.) I rushed to call the office, picturing my baby lying on the hard cot all alone and miserable. She assured me he hadn't been in and patched me through to the classroom. My son's teacher didn't know he had tried to call earlier so nobody looked up my cell number to reach me. When asked how he was feeling and if he needed to be picked up early (with only an hour of school remaining) he said he felt fine. Like 7/10 good. This is why I never worry right away.

Well that's not really true. When you work with extremely sick kids you see a lot of scary diseases that can spring up unexpectedly. Nurses know too much and sometimes we freak out unnecessarily. I'm guessing most people's kids don't wake up to a parent leaning over them with a stethoscope or shining a light in their eyes, or bending their chin down to their chest to check for meningitis. Is it a headache or an invasive brain tumor? A twisted knee or osteosarcoma? Oh my  God - leprosy??? Oh, wait, that's just a hangnail. Yeah, okay, time to dial it back a notch.

We all have our weird parental neuroses. My boys' immune systems will be stronger for having battled mild diseases without the help of antibiotics. They'll know how to tough it out when they sometimes feel like crap. That doesn't mean there won't be whining, but they'll be fine in the end. We got this.

Pass this on to anyone who was lucky to survive having a nurse for a parent!

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