Logan, my three-year-old dynamo, sat quietly, propped on pillows during our last hours of a one-night hospital stay two days ago. We’d been watching something on the television, sharing the hospital breakfast (or trying to, neither of us had much of an appetite), and not talking. We’d hardly slept over the last 16 hours. We were ready to go. She looked at her splinted, throbbing right hand for a few minutes, and turned to me with the cutest, most confused face I’ve seen on her, and asked,
“Mom, I ah smaw ow I big?”
Am I small, or am I big? She’d never asked me that before. She makes statements of being both big and small – “Mom, I a big gow, I do id mysowf,” or, “Mom, I too smaw to weach dat, tan you det id?” She’s never wondered. Her question really struck me. Both my daughters are intuitive beyond their years. Logan knows so much about so much, and she gets things you wouldn’t expect a toddler to understand. We’d had a great morning that day, at the park, in the sprinklers, having our faces painted. We’d been headed to the museum, my girls and I and my 4-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew. We were coming up from the subway and were taking the escalator. I headed up first with my nephew, followed by Logan, my niece, and Ryleigh. I was just getting off when I heard Ryleigh screaming for Logan to keep moving, but it wasn’t a warning scream, it was a panicked scream. I turned around and walked back immediately, seeing that Logan, who had already exited the escalator, had turned back as though to walk back down. Her water shoe, thin and flimsy, had come off and been sucked into the top of the escalator. Logan was bending down to retrieve it. I saw her hand and screamed for her to stop, SCREAMED. I got to her just as the tips of her fingers went in.
In literally about 3 seconds, I don’t know how, but numerous thoughts ran through my mind:
Her entire hand is rolling in.
Her entire arm will roll in.
I have to pull her hand out.
The escalator is going to rip her fingers open.
I should have been with her.
This was such a nice day.
I am so sorry, Logan.
I hope Logan doesn’t die.
As soon as her fingers went in I grabbed her palm and squeezed. I pulled against the stairs, still rolling into the top of the escalator, and started to cry even before I got her hand free. I felt the tugging as I pulled. Her hand came out bloodied and dripping. One finger was open in the middle, a gash about half the length of her baby-carrot sized finger, and two fingernails hung at the end of her fingertips having been pulled completely back. I walked Logan away from the escalator, yelled for someone to call an ambulance, and sat on the ground crying with her in my lap. Ryleigh was a few feet away, sobbing uncontrollably. Logan moaned and looked at her hand, now all red. Blood was smeared all over my legs and lap. I grabbed a towel from our bag and wrapped it around her tiny hand and applied pressure. I dialed 9-1-1 from my own phone but when they answered I could not think of anything to say – I opened my mouth and nothing came out, and the phone dropped from my ear.
Roughly fifteen people were on hand to help, including a medical student who fashioned a tourniquet from Ryleigh’s swimsuit top, and made an ice pack with a glove he had and a cup of ice another woman had rushed to retrieve. A middle school teacher held Ryleigh the entire time, until we got into the ambulance. We were taken to the hospital and every hour the news was worse. It went from a few sutures with general sedation, to cut tendons, a cut growth plate, an endangered joint, and a fracture. She was going to the OR, she was going to be intubated, she was going to have a pin placed, she was going to need therapy. But she was going to have all her fingers, and her hand. She was going to be fine. She was young, they said, and so would heal beautifully.
I often say on my page that I am alone, but not lonely. I was lonely that night. I was lonely as I sat on the ground with Logan bleeding in my lap, watching everyone around me on their phones and taking care of the other three children. I was lonely in the ambulance when the driver asked if I was mom to all four kids and I replied, “Yes,” only to interrupt him mid-sentence, seconds later, and blurt, “These aren’t all my kids!” I was lonely at the hospital trying to remember all I was being told, viewing x-rays, meeting team members, consoling Ry, stroking Logan, navigating my guilt. I didn’t even try to pinpoint something to feel guilty about, I was punishing myself with general, all-inclusive guilt. I was lonely when the doctors changed their minds about letting me be with Logan until she was fully asleep after the anesthesia was administered (I think they were worried about my reaction to the tubes?), and Lo was wheeled away crying for me. I was so exhausted by then, 2:30 a.m., that I didn’t even argue. Just watched her go and resigned myself to the recovery room to wait. I was lonely as I waited there, alone. It took a lot longer than they’d said and I honestly thought, “What if something horrible has happened and they’re waiting to tell me until they’ve cleaned her up?”
Lo was out of recovery at 3:30 and we were admitted to a room at about 4:30 am. She never woke up after the procedure, which I was told was very normal for toddlers who had such sedation so late at night. She’d awaken in the morning, they said. She’d done very well. The pin had been placed and her fingers were sutured and wrapped. We went to the room and by 5 the nurses were done with all their ‘welcome’ stuff. Logan had an IV in her left arm. She hadn’t been allowed to eat since 6pm that evening, I knew she’d be hungry when she woke. I hadn’t slept by the time she was up at 7 wanting to nurse. We ate breakfast and crayons and paper were brought in for Lo. The more she did, the more she realized: I can’t use my right hand. She looked at me with confusion and pain in her eyes and cried. (I suppose that day was all she needed, because ever since it’s been like she’s DARING someone to tell her there’s something she can’t do.) Shortly after, just before discharge, was when she sat back and asked me,
“Mom, I ah smaw ow I big?”
“Both, Lo,” I replied. ”You’re a small person, but you’re a big girl now. You can do a lot of things but you still need help sometimes, that’s okay. And you really need to listen to me when I tell you to be careful.” Logan’s eyes watered.
“I know Mom, I dis made a mis-dayke. You need to pud me in a cawee-uh if I det on dose esca-yay-duhs.”
Of course, it was my fault. :)
“Okay, Logan, I will. But you also have to listen to me, okay? I am small and big, too. I’m tall and I can do a lot of things, but sometimes I am too small to help with certain things. That’s why I say be careful, because I know if you get really hurt we will have to ask the doctors for help.”
“Oday, Mom. Mom,” she started to make her crazy face as she prepared to mock one of her doctors. ”I don’t YIKE doctuhs, dey tawk yike dis, “Hey, you, hey, no food!” I started cracking up. The entire time, Logan had been most upset about not being able to eat or nurse! And I smiled at how quickly she was getting back to herself. I sat there exhausted, worried, empty-bellied; and the patient with the pin and the sutures and the splint was cracking jokes.
She is so small, but she is so big, too.
This will not be my last hospital visit with Logan, I just know it. She is too fearless, too fierce, too independent, she rocks too hard. She doesn’t just dance to the beat of a different drummer, she is determined to beat the drum and dance, all at once. Like just that same morning when I’d asked her repeatedly to not climb 5 feet high and hang upside down. She never listened. But she was fine. She usually is; and sometimes she won’t be. I think that comes with the territory of having a strong-willed child. I’m new to it. But I will learn to embrace it. I won’t stop worrying, ever, I know that. I won’t stop crying during these hospital visits, I’ll try, but…
I’ve learned that I need to save my energy for these moments when her spiritedness really does cause her harm. I need to let go of those things which may worry me but which she has under control, though it may not look that way to me. Logan has an agenda; I have a duty to keep her safe. Somewhere, there is a balance. I’m still working it out. I’m a big girl, too. But some days, I feel so, so small.