Thursday, April 2, 2015

Hold My Hand, Part 1

It was yellow, but a spot of red had somehow ended up in one spot. As the plastic disc moved toward my friend, Keith, who would catch it, toss it to my sister, Holly, who would, in turn, send it back to me, I saw the red twirl like a wash cloth in a spin cycle.

It looked like a brush stroke of paint. It hadn't arrived to me that way when Holly threw it to me, so the red must have come from me.

I looked at my right hand, the hand that had sent the yellow Frisbee, and saw a small pool of fresh blood in my palm. A narrow streak lead from the palm, away from my thumb and down past the wrist, where it continued around to the other side. I had to twist my wrist the other way to see where the blood continued.

The laceration was more than two centimetres long, on my forearm, just below the wrist. The skin had spread and I could see bare bone. The bright-red blood flowed freely.

We had been playing on our side lawn, our house being on the corner of Chesterton Drive, and Woodmount Crescent, in Nepean. With such a large space to play, and with a front lawn and back yard, we had a virtual park on our property. But my father, who bought and sold cars, also used a small portion of the side lawn on which to park a car that he was selling privately.

Usually, the car would not be an issue. It was out of the way, near the street and next to the single-laned driveway. We had plenty of room to play. But when Holly had thrown the Frisbee to me, before I sent it on its bloody way, it had bounced off my hand before I could grasp it, had hit the lawn on its edge, and rolled under the 1974 Datsun 240Z, near the front wheel.

I ran after the Frisbee, grabbed for it, and as I pulled it out from just under the wheel well, I had grazed my arm against the shiny metal mud flap. It hadn't hurt, I hadn't felt anything other that the touch of skin on metal, I didn't know there was a problem.

Until I passed the yellow disc.

Keith, the eldest, was calm and collected. He ordered Holly to run to his house, to get his mother, who was a nurse at the Riverside Hospital. He told me to grab the wound, to try to squeeze the spread skin together, and to apply pressure. I did so, but the blood was a steady drip and I was starting to shake. He took me gently by the arm and, in a hasty walk, lead me into my house.

We went straight to the bathroom that was off the kitchen eating area. Keith turned on the tap and moved my wrist under the cold water, told me to remove my other hand while he washed the wound. The bone turned a bright white that outshone the cleanest sheet of paper. The blood mixed with the water and ran down the drain, mixed with pink soap suds.

My knees gave out on me, and made contact with the floor. Seeing my reflection in the bathroom mirror, the colour had left my face.

Keith maintained his grip on my arm, had helped ease my descent, and assured me that I would be okay. He called out from the bathroom, to my mom, who was upstairs and didn't know about the commotion that was going on. As she came down the stairs, Holly and Mrs. Haartman where there, Keith's mom carrying a First Aid kit.

My arm was expertly secured, and my mother was told to take me to the Riverside Hospital. Mrs. Haartman would call ahead and let her staff know that we were on our way.

The emergency waiting room was only moderately full, and as I arrived there was only one new patient whose injury took priority to mine. Another kid, a little younger than me, who had been playing baseball. Another player had swung a bat, not knowing this boy was behind him, and had caught him in full swing, square in the mouth. Broken jaw and missing teeth. Bruises bigger than dinner plates*.

But my wait wasn't long and the nurses had checked my bandages when I first arrived, had confirmed that Mrs. Haartman's handiwork had held firm. Before I had a chance to get comfortable in my chair, my name was called and two nurses ushered my mother and me down the hall and straight into an operating room.

The surgeon arrived quickly. One nurse assisted him while the other nurse, a large, motherly woman of my mom's age, comforted me and explained what would happen to me. She removed the gauze bandages and inspected the wound.

Five stitches: that's all it would take.

She showed me the tools and explained the procedure. I was going to be given a couple of injections: one, to freeze the nerves so that I wouldn't feel any pain; the other, a booster inoculation against tetanus or whatever infections could try to attack.

"You can hold my hand," she said in a gentle voice, and I placed my left hand in hers. It was a warm, soft hand, with plump digits. Feeling her hand, lightly squeezing mine, I felt calm. Not relaxed, but I was assured that I was safe and that no further harm would come to me. I had cut my wrist to the bone, but I was going to be okay.

The doctor had me lie on the operating table and extend my right arm onto a side board.

"You will feel a couple of pin pricks," the nurse warned me. "If you like, you can squeeze my finger." I wrapped my tiny fingers around her index finger, turned away so that I wouldn't see the other nurse stick the needles into me.

When I felt the first needle go in, I felt a slight pain, and I squeezed tight. And twisted, unintentionally.

I could see the shock in the nurses face, hear her take a deep gulp of breath. I released my grip before I caused any more pain.

"I'm sorry," I said, releasing her finger and trying to remove my hand from hers.

"It's okay," she said, "you don't have to stop holding my hand if you don't want to."

My hand stayed put and she gave me another gentle squeeze. The warmth comforted me while I felt the tug of threads passing through my flesh, pulling tight.

Though my mother told me, afterwards, that my face showed anything but comfort.


* Thanks to The Smiths, "The Headmaster Ritual."

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