Tuesday, July 17, 2007


We left Oneida Lake early on Saturday morning and drove to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where we met up with some of my many Scranton relatives for an early dinner. Uncle Joe made the best pizza ever, and Rosie provided a chocolate cake, of which my two boys ate at least half. After we left Rosie's house, we checked into a nearby hotel to settle in for the night - we didn't want to keep the kids up late into the night by driving all the way back to Virginia.

A bit before nine p.m., we decided to take the kids for a quick swim at the hotel pool. Shay ran into the bathroom to wash up and Aidan followed. Next thing you know, we heard piercing screams coming from the bathroom. We ran in and - get ready for gross - discovered that Aidan had pushed open the bathroom door, which scraped over the top of Shay's foot and ripped off his entire big toenail.

Yes. It is that gross. I'll pause here while you all recuperate.

Back with me? Okay. The hotel referred us to a nearby emergency room, and the whole family set off to find it. We got there and checked in at about ten p.m. I should have known we were in trouble when I explained what had transpired and the check-in lady typed "injured toe" into the computer. "Injured toe" doesn't sound like much of an emergency - I myself would likely have typed something like "Holy Mother of God! This kid nearly lost his toe and is bleeding everywhere and his mother is about to pass out!" That might have gotten us quicker service - or at least an ice pack.

But no - we were labeled an injured toe and shunted to the back of a very large list, with just one doctor, one nurse and one resident in view. Finally, at about 1:30 a.m., when Shay still hadn't been seen by a doctor (and at least one man with an apparently broken arm had left the hospital because he was tired of waiting), I took the other two kids and went back to the hotel, leaving Bart with Shay.

When the doctor finally got to Shay around 3 a.m., he decided to block Shay's nerves by putting six shots into his toe (apparently they found lots of folks somewhere in the hospital to hold him down for this). They then surgically removed the rest of the nail (ewwwwwww), cleaned him up and sent him home with a prescription for Codiene. Just a prescription, mind you. They didn't give him any actual Codiene. Unfortunately, there are apparently no 24-hour pharmacies in Scranton. So when the toe block wore off, the poor kid started howling.

Suffice to say we both wished we'd bypassed the hotel and chosen instead to drive to Virginia in the dead of the night. It would have been easier for all of us.

We were instructed to soak the wound and change the dressing twice a day. So when we got back to Virginia the next day, we set out to do just that. We soaked it, but the gauze didn't come off. We soaked and soaked, then threw him in the bath to stew, then soaked some more. But no luck. The gauze stayed stuck.

The next morning, Monday, we tried again. And again. Then we took him to the pediatrician. They couldn't do it. So we drove to the ER in Fairfax. That is, I drove. Because Bart was home with the movers - attentive readers might recall that Monday was also the start of packout? So while our house was being swallowed up by boxes, I took a now-very-traumatized Shay to the ER. The doctor there said she wouldn't do another toe block - too painful for the kid. She recommended putting some crazy medicine into an IV and knocking him out so they could pull off the gauze and see if he needed further repair under there.

Shay had other plans. He refused the IV, even after 2 childlife specialists came on the scene and tried to talk him into it. He wouldn't let anyone touch his toe. So they put a bit of topical painkiller on the toe and gave him 30 minutes to get the gauze off by himself. The childlife specialists, two nurses and I all sat around and watched as he slowly and carefully peeled off the gauze - one... strand... at... a... time. Meanwhile, my dear neighbor Kristin was watching the other two kids for me. She'd agreed to watch them for a couple of hours starting at 10 a.m. It was now 6 p.m. with the end not quite in sight. And Casey the dog was at the vet waiting for me to pick him up before they closed. And that gauze - well, it is composed of many, many strands. Trust me. I've counted them.

We made it home, gauze free, in time to pick up Casey and the kids. I think Kristin might have even made her 8 p.m. movie date with her husband, though she missed the previews.

And the movers? They stayed until 10 p.m. and hauled away 800 pounds of airfreight and 6250 pounds of slow-boat stuff. After they left, we went back to our hotel, where we ate pizza and watched Scooby Doo late into the night.

Today they packed up the storage items. Tomorrow they'll haul them away.

So to summarize. We have a near-empty house and forty nine toenails between us, not counting the dog. We've eaten nothing but pizza in the last 36 hours. We've spent hundreds of dollars in the ER. The kids have watched countless hours of t.v., thereby frying numerous synapses.

And we still don't have Chinese visas. Noone seems to know why. Assuming we get them, we're flying out of here one week from today. With or without our toenails.


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