I'm warning you, this isn't pretty.
I spent most of the spring and summer in my garden, and so far a good chunk of fall. Most mornings Huckle would come and go from wherever I was working, sometimes watching movies, sometimes helping me dig holes or pull weeds. One June morning, I carried loads of river rock to the backyard, and Huckle was watching Cars for the eleventy millionth time, and all was swell until I heard Huckle scream, "Mom! Mom!" over and over again.
I bolted in the front door and skidded on a puddle of blood on the tile. I couldn't see Huck, and couldn't hear him anymore, but there were splotches of blood every few inches, so I followed his trail through the entire house, screaming his name, until I came to the kitchen and saw a 2 foot by 2 foot spray of blood on the wall, right at my waist height, which happens to be just about Huckle's face level. I could hear muffled screams, so I knew he was still alive and breathing. I opened closets, looked under beds, checked the bathtubs, scanned the backyard, and generally freaked out for some of the longest minutes of my life until I saw a tuft of blonde hair poking out from under a burlap row cover in the backyard.
This photograph doesn't convey the full horror, since you can't see the blood all over his forehead, glasses, shirt, pants, legs, shoes, etc, but it is pretty close.
Here's where it gets complicated. Aside from the blood, there were no apparent signs of trauma. He had all his teeth, no cuts, scrapes, or bruises, his ears, eyes, throat, tongue, gums, scalp, and everything else seemed fine. And he wasn't talking. When I asked him what was bleeding, he said, "My face," and when I asked him what hurt, he said, "My throat and my nose." When I asked him what happened, he said "I don't know," or, "I was standing in the kitchen and then there was blood in me, but it fell out."
Four year old boys are very helpful.
I called my mom, told her that Huck was covered in blood, but that he didn't seem injured, just that his throat and nose hurt, but that whatever had been bleeding had stopped. We decided that he'd probably bumped his nose or something and had gotten a nosebleed, which had freaked him the freak out. All the blood in his nose seemed to confirm that, so that's when I cleaned up the blood, then got the camera out, mostly to show Hubs and my mom, but maybe also to torment Huck with when he's my age and his kids do stuff like this.
So, la de dah, just a nosebleed, we skipped off hand in hand to my bathroom, where I asked him if he would like a bath or a shower (bath), did he want bubbles (of course!), did all that blood come out of your nose? (I think so!)
Huck and I chatted as the water filled the tub and the bubbles foamed, sending the "boy smell" of Irish Spring shower gel through the house, and I suggested he start taking off his shirt. While he lifted his shirt up, he tilted back his head and then I saw the true source of all that fuss.Hmm, maybe that one doesn't quite do it justice.
Just in case there's any confusion, that would be a 1 1/2 inch deep by 3/4 and inch wide hole in my kid's palate. You know, that hard thing at the top of your mouth? That second picture shows the resulting "flap" better than the first, wouldn't you agree? I remembered to turn the flash off for that one. (By the way, the bloody pics are timestamped 12:44 PM, the in-the mouth ones were taken Many Hours later.)
So now we go back: For his fourth birthday, Huckle was given an indoor tent -- it was a Spiderman tent/house that stood up with long plastic tubes fit together with metal joins -- basically black plastic straws with very thick walls. Well, this tent fell apart after a year of abuse, the pole sections snapped, and once Spidey-town could no longer be taped or sewn back together, we got rid of it. We let Huckle keep one intact pole section because he'd turned it into his "magic wand". Like this, but not snapped.
What I eventually coaxed out of him, after a particularly lung-tiring scream, orders to get dressed and get in the car, and another phone call to my mother, was that my SuperBoy had decided to try sword-swallowing. But instead of swallowing the "sword" (tent pole/magic wand), he used ONE HAND to push his sword through his palate. He even explained to me that he tilted his head back so that his esophagus would be at the bottom of his head, not at the back. Oh, anatomy, you cruel mistress. And tissue. You suck too.
Anyhow, I managed to call my husband and say, "Huckle has shoved a tent pole through the roof of his mouth, there's a large hole, and I'm taking him to the hospital now as soon as I find a towel to keep the blood off the car seats. Bye," before I hung up on him and left my cell phone on the coffee table.
Off to the ER we went, and even though there were a number of people waiting, we were triaged and sent back to a room within ten minutes. The triage nurse said, "I've worked here for 14 years and never seen anything like this," but she must take a lot of time off, because the ER doc said, "Well, that's worse than I usually see, but just two weeks ago there was another kid in here with a hole in the top of his mouth." Huckle got a painkiller, I broke off half a Xanax, and fairly soon my mom showed up. It was determined that, as ugly as his wound was, all that was needed was a patch job. For about two hours we waited for a passel of specialists to return the ER doc's calls, since the ER doc doesn't sew up holes in the top of mouths, and it turns out that neither does the ENT or the plastic surgeon.
We were discharged from the hospital and sent a few miles down to the only oral surgeon who sees kids with state insurance, sat in his packed waiting room full of wisdom tooth patients, and between jaw sawings, the OS took a look. We had the option of doing Nothing, just waiting a few weeks until the hole closed up by itself, or having the flap sewn back into place under light anaesthesia. If we waited for it to close by itself, Huck would have to go into the OS twice a week until he had the all clear, and sewing it up meant drugging him. That night, Huckle couldn't eat or drink anything, even with the area numbed, because it hurt so badly, and we decided that -- since he'd already come through bigger surgeries than this like a champ -- the best thing to do was to have the 1 inch by 3/4 inch by 1 inch flap sewn back to the roof of his mouth. For us, it was the best choice, and I think Huckle appreciated it too, because five minutes after he woke up from the drugs, he was asking to go to McDonald's and called every member of my family to tell them that the hole in his head was all fixed. We took him to McDonald's, something that usually only happens when his father travels for work (we started that ritual a long time ago -- daddy leaves on a trip, mommy and huck have a big fun day the first day so he won't be so sad), then loaded him up with non-red popsicles, juice, veggies, and fruits for the next few days.
Here's Huck twenty minutes after coming home from surgery. He always has those circles under his eyes, which some of you probably recall.
On the off chance that you, like my mother, father, husband, the many nurses and ER doctors, not to mention the ENT, oral surgeon, and even a few administrators who heard about us and decided to drop by our room, would like to know what stupid bastard taught a four year old boy about sword swallowing, all I have to say is, "Oops, my bastard."
See, a few days before this unfortunate occurrence, I was planting an agave in the backyard, right next to one of the saddest, most pathetic looking upright rosemary bushes I'd ever seen. Drought is hard, man. Huck was sitting on the patio playing with his cars, and he asked if there were real people who were fire eaters. I said something like, "Oh, yes, there are! There are all sorts of different tricks that people can do. They can eat fire, swallow swords, dance with bears, hang from their earrings that aren't always in their ears, walk on tightropes high above the ground and swing from a trapeze..." And somewhere around there I realized that I was listing things that could be a bad idea for a young, active boy to know about. I lose my defenses around a beautiful agave. I added, "But you have to grow up and go to college to learn how to do those things first. Not even your uncle Andy knows how to eat fire yet, because he's not done with college."
By now, we all know when he stopped listening.