Word of the Day: Terror
Remember I said that Lyra had fallen off the bed while I was moving my dad?
We were putting Lyra into her car seat to visit Dad yesterday, when I noticed a little bump on her head. It was about 2 inches long and it felt like a bubble of fluid. My heart started to palpitate as I dialed the pediatrician. As the phone was ringing, I was thinking about the day—did our Nanny drop her and not tell us? Did she bang her head in the pool when we were swimming just now? The pediatrician said to come on over. They took a look at the bump and thought it was probably nothing, but we still had to go and get it x-rayed to be sure it wasn’t a fracture. It was only after this that I remembered the fall back at Dad’s house and how she must have landed on her head.
So, off we went to the emergency room. Marty kept Ripley over at Dad’s new apartment (See June 27th entry), which is right across the street from the hospital. I waited in the emergency room for our name to be called. About an hour and a half later, I carried Lyra into a little, curtained-off room where a doctor took a look at my baby’s bump. She was fairly sure it was nothing either, saying how she’s seen many babies with fractures and there are always very clear signs of trauma. Lyra hasn’t had any change in behavior whatsoever. She had just finished sucking down 6 ounces of formula, and one of the signs is loss of appetite. Still, she was going to need a CAT scan to be sure. Marty finally came back from Dad’s with Ripley and we were moved to a room closer to the CAT scan area. Marty went with Lyra for the scan. He said she was great as he was draped in lead and then he held her still to get the image. We waited for a half an hour for the results.
The doctor returned saying she needed to eat her words. There was a problem. Lyra had a small fracture with a little bit of bleeding. I started to spontaneously weep. I think I went into some kind of shock. I started to shake uncontrollably. Another doctor brought me a blanket since I was shivering. They informed us we had to have her transferred down to Westchester Medical Center where they had the best children’s hospital in the area with specialists in neuroscience and surgery. At first, they thought they might send a helicopter for her. However, even in my state of terror, I knew that was a little bit excessive. Instead, they sent an ambulance. I went with Lyra to Westchester and Marty took Ripley home.
At Westchester, they loaded us into their emergency room where one doctor scared me to death saying she might need surgery. We had to wait for the neurosurgical team to look at her CAT scan. He also said they had to call social services since it was state law for any injury of this kind. I really didn’t care at that moment; the word surgery was still like a neon sign flashing before my eyes. He could have been a little less of an alarmist.
They gave me a cot near her crib in the emergency area and we attempted to sleep despite some noisy staff members watching TV. It was around 2 a.m. at this point. Finally, I complained and a room conveniently opened up in the children’s intensive care unit. There, we slept a little bit more. I was still basically in shock, but went into robot drive that morning, asking the nurses for the right formula, the right size diapers and a clean onesie. Everyone was extremely kind, telling me their stories of their children falling off beds. Seems like every parent has one. By this time, I had talked to our nanny and she swore that nothing had happened to Lyra on her watch. I was very convinced at this point that it was the fall on Friday that had caused this fracture. Other doctors were not so sure, saying we’d have seen some evidence of the fracture sooner. But I knew nothing else really could have happened because we were always with her, or she was with our nanny. Eliane is very religious and I knew she would never lie about such a thing.
Around 9:30 a.m., the head resident of neurosurgery came in. He said the CAT scan looked very mild to them. In their opinion, there wouldn’t be any need for surgery, or anything else for that matter. Babies are very resilient and this would just heal on its own. There would be absolutely no damage to her brain. The tiny bit of blood would naturally be absorbed. I almost collapsed with relief. He said that their opinion just needed to be confirmed by the head of their department who was looking at her pictures now.
As soon as he left, two women from social services from Connecticut arrived. Again, they were very clear that it was state law to interview us about potential child abuse. Believe me, the irony was not lost on me. Here Marty and I are two major creative sources on Sesame Street, and we’re being interviewed to be sure we don’t abuse our children? Egads. They asked very pointed questions about Lyra’s fall, about her behavior and our ways of disciplining and parenting. I had to point out that you don’t discipline a 5-month-old! They agreed, but these are the questions they have to ask. And then a police officer showed up from our hometown! The police also have to check for potential child abuse. He was very nice and professional, and as soon as he learned the accident happened on Long Island, he shook my hand and left. It was out of his jurisdiction! Thank god that at this point, I knew Lyra was going to be just fine or I would have needed a Valium.
My savior came in the form of Dr. Mohan, the head of neurosurgery at the hospital. I swear, he looked like he was 25, but he was the head honcho. In front of the social services ladies, he confirmed that the injury was completely consistent with a fall that could have happened several days earlier. The same thing had happened to one of his friends whose child had hit his head in Babies R’ Us and it had taken a week for the injury to present itself. He also agreed that she would make a full recovery without any intervention. He just needed to see her again in three weeks. He gave me his card and left. I swear, a celestial choir was now singing in my heart. And the social services people had heard the whole prognosis!
Still, they had to go see our house and our baby’s home environment and interview Marty. I called to tell him and he wasn’t fazed at all. The same thing had happened both to his best friend, whose son had a much more severe fracture when the babysitter dropped him, and his ex-wife when Caley, at 1 year old, pulled a hot iron down on himself.
Meanwhile, Lyra and I had to wait another 7 hours (!!!) for one more test of her eyes to be sure there was no blood behind them. It was a horrible test, flashing a bright light in her eyes. She cried and cried. I was weeping again, but at least when it was over, we could finally check out!
After 30 hours in emergency rooms, an ambulance, ICU, scans, x-rays and blood tests for Lyra, meeting with police and social services, Marty pointed out that, in the end, we were told to do nothing but give her a few drops of anti-seizure medicine which she most likely didn’t need. Sometimes, nothing is the best medicine. And Lyra slept well that night, like a baby.
Our swim just before I found Lyra’s head fracture. Ripley is giving me her classic “Baby Power” sign.
Lyra’s head bump is on the other side. I’m surprised I didn’t see it while in the pool, but I’m always focused on keeping her mouth out of the water.