Watching the news lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking we humans are cruel, but our family this week experienced cruelty’s opposite.
It’s Thursday and I take my son to the skatepark. Sometimes I drop him and swim but today it’s so late I stay in the car and work while he skateboards. The light’s nearly gone when I hear him calling, something in his voice. He gets in, nursing his right arm, a new kink in the wrist, like a hunch on a back, the hand mottling blue. I decide not to look anymore, start the car, try to think.
I call Dr Tig’s office, tell them we’re coming. Nurse Stella says not to. “He’s in pain!” I say in disbelief. By now he’s yelling a word he shouldn’t whenever the car is stationary. “Hospital,” she says firmly. Of course. Just before I hang up, she says, "Nothing to eat or drink. And no pain relief." Stella knows things I don't.
The Wesley, the hospital where my son was born, the hospital I know so well. But my in-head map forms too slowly. At Auchenflower, I call friend Kim, for directions and her voice. Both help.
Wesley Emergency. The only word for the young receptionist is compassionate as I fumble out-of-date healthcare cards. The nurse and doctor, caring, competent, ask the questions I didn’t. “Did you hit your head? Are you sore anywhere else?” They tell us their names, although after I won’t remember them.
The X-ray hurts – holding his now ballooning wrist alone – despite a first blush of snorted pain relief. “The hard part’s over,” the nurse tells his frightened eyes. “You’ll be asleep for the rest.” Her smile. The relief on his face. I would hug her if I wasn’t shaking. I’ve seen the X-ray, the big bone floating free.
Someone asks if I have an orthopaedic surgeon. Perhaps parents of skateboarders do. Our son’s friend Henry is the fourth of six. His mum Alison and I are friends too. His dad Scott, often at soccer, is in orthopaedics. He’s on the way home when they call. He’ll come in, he says. Ditto the anaesthetist. Our neighbours drop my husband to us, take Spike.
Theatre. Doctors, nurses and orderlies jolly him along, lift him one two three to the table, so gently he says, “I’m floating.” I stay until he’s asleep. After, Scott pops in to tell us all’s well before heading home, two hours late. It meant so much to us, to our son, to have him there. I think of Alison, on her own with six kids, texting me to make sure our kid is all right.
We arrive on the ward, the bright blue cast the length of his arm, and there’s his godmother Louise, a nurse by training, helping make up a bed so I can stay the night with him.
There’s cruelty for sure, but, Australia, we’ve kindness enough to overcome.
First published in The Courier-Mail Qweekend 15 August 2015.