Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The $150 Pencil

She's usually the Girl Who Cries Wolf, but this time her shrieks seemed more than the typical over-exaggeration of a minor pain.

In between the screams, we made out "I stepped on something" and "It's bleeding a lot."

Now "bleeding a lot" to this particular 9-year-old could mean that she saw something red in the next room a couple days ago. She is prone to hyperbole and hypochondria and probably any other behavior that starts with "hyp."

But it was bleeding. A bit. Esteemed Husband took a look at her foot, while I went to the couch (where she had either stood on or jumped on whatever-it-was) searching for the guilty party. Didn't see anything - not even a pine needle.

EH thought it looked like a splinter - and I'm pretty good at removing those. Needles, tweezers, rubbing alcohol. Target-dollar-aisle reading glasses for super-sharp close vision. Soaked her foot in warm water to clean it off. Got my needle and prepared to work whatever out of her foot.

The 1/4-inch cut has a grey edge. Graphite. Esteemed Husband finds the weapon wedged in between the back couch cushion and the seat. Pointed upward, with our daughter's name on it. Literally. It's a personalized pencil, without its point.


I'm prepped to operate. I know what I'm looking for. But I can't see the actual point in her foot. Chuck the cheap glasses and remove contact lenses for better close vision. Still can't see anything except a gash that looks deeper than your typical splinter. Start to feel woozy; luckily I was already sitting on the floor.

This is above my surgical skill level. Call pediatrician's office. It's 9 PM and the office is closed. Is this an "emergency" worth tracking down a doctor on the phone or an "emergency" worth a visit to the emergency room? Foot is slightly swollen, so the answer is ER.

Esteemed Husband is the hero in the climax of our story. He carries daughter (who he later finds out weighs 94 pounds) off to the car and to the hospital while I stay at home with the elder sibling - a tween who spends most of her day attached to mp3 player and/or Nintendo DS and interacts with the family in a most disaffected way. She bursts into tears when I tell her what happened. She's so used to her sister's, um, vocalizations that she didn't even come out of her bedroom to investigate the earlier drama.

While Tween and I wait for news, I employ a diversion tactic: The Simpsons Movie DVD she got for Christmas. It works, and she's laughing and asking for popcorn. Instead, I let her eat limitless Xmas stocking candy while I collapse gift boxes and barely notice Spider Pig. Even Homer cannot distract me from my worry.

Anyway, a mere hour (a millisecond in ER time) later Husband and Daughter are on their way home. A minor surgical procedure removed what we hope is all of the pencil point. The doctor wasn't sure he got everything and sliced around a bit, but did all he could without causing "further tissue damage." Doc said she'll most likely have a residual "tattoo" from the graphite for the rest of her life. (If I can restrict my daughters to tats on the bottoms of their feet for the rest of their lives, I'm good...)

Esteemed Husband marvels at how our histrionic daughter barely whimpered during her ER treatment. Daughter shows off her gauze-adorned foot. I look over the antibiotic and gauze-changing schedule and wonder if the pain shot she was given will wear off during the night.

Anyway, so here we are. Her foot hurt a lot this morning, but hopefully Motrin will be the trick. She gets to be a princess today and be waited on hand and foot ;)

Oh yeah, the post title -- our co-pay for the ER visit was $150. Luckily, they take Visa.

Happy New Year!


At December 31, 2008 11:10 PM, Blogger Merujo said...

My foot flopped around on the floor reading this. I'm glad everyone is home and things appear to be okay (well, until the pain meds wear off.)

Years later, your daughter can tell friends and potential suitors she got that tat in a beatnik coffee bar fight, taking out an angry poet, or in a coming-of-age ritual while researching the legendary Graphitalo tribe of Upper Lower New Jersey. :)

Heck of a way to close out this year, eh? May 2009 bring fewer ER trips and writing instrument accidents!

At January 05, 2009 11:15 PM, Anonymous speener said...

Seriously - scars build character the longer you have them, especially if they're obscurely placed.

At January 07, 2009 8:53 PM, Blogger Cyn said...

I've got a couple of childhood scars myself (talking physical, not psychological)...and each tells a story (even if they're really boring stories...)

Anyway, guys, thanks for your encouraging words. Things seem to have healed pretty well after a week of enforced sloth. It's still bleeding/oozing a bit, but we escaped infection and hopefully all of the point was removed (the doctor wasn't sure...or at least if anything is left it will eventually surface on its own.


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