The following is one of those parenting moments that you think will never happen to you. It’s the kind of thing you’d read in a magazine or see on television. You’d feel sorry for those parents, but never in a million years would you be those parents.
This is what happened last Friday…
Kyle came home from work to find Eva still down for her nap. She isn’t usually asleep that late, but we’d gone to Costco and our day had been thrown a bit off. We’ve also been collectively sick as a family for the last week or so, so a little extra rest wasn’t going to hurt anyone. As we were catching each other up on our days, we could hear the baby starting to wake up in the other room, so Kyle went to collect her and surprise her with a little Daddy time.
He brought her out almost immediately and said, “We have a problem.” Then he turned her head to the side and I could see that her ear and cheek were covered in dried blood. It’s amazing how many conclusions your mind can jump to in a microsecond when you’re in charge of a tiny being that’s apparently been injured. Aneurysm? Foreign object? Bar fight? A quick sweep of the area revealed no cuts, so the blood had to be coming from inside of her ear. All sense of reality left. Was her brain coming out of her ears? Is this what they said would happen if she bonked her soft spot?
It was, naturally, ten minutes after the pediatrician’s office had closed, so I had to page the doctor on call through the service. In the meantime, I spoke to my father (also a doctor) and he calmly theorized that she had ruptured her eardrum. Apparently if you have an ear infection and it gets really bad, the fluid can build up until it actually tears the eardrum. I guess it isn’t too big of a deal, except for the part where we’re such awesome parents that we didn’t notice our baby had an ear infection. The pediatrician on call phoned in and added a second vote to the eardrum rupture theory. He told us to take her in right away to see someone to make sure that no permanent damage had been done.
All of this, by the way, is surreal when it’s happening. I have always thought hospital-related stuff is surreal. One minute you’re debating about frozen pizza vs. enchiladas for dinner and the next minute you’re trying to pack a supply bag and grab insurance cards so you can head out to the emergency room for what may very well be a 12+ hour stay. Kyle and I have become pretty comfortable with emergency rooms thanks to my heart’s tendency to go into a-fib, but we’ve never had any reason to take Eva. I admit, even for a “minor” eardrum explosion, it was a little terrifying.
We live less than ten minutes from the best pediatric hospital in the valley, so we took her to that E.R. They got us into a room quickly and started doing little tests. Temperature: normal. Blood pressure: normal. With every single test, I managed to come up with some alternate ending to our evening. A ruptured eardrum that results in permanent loss of hearing in her right ear. A ruptured eardrum that results in a permanent loss of balance, restricting her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. A rare condition in which the brain actually does liquefy and fall out. It was all possible.
Fast forward an hour or so to the doctor coming in to see us. Kyle held a screaming Eva while the nice woman peered into her ears with the scope and pronounced her eardrums to be perfectly healthy and intact. A careful examination of the ear revealed a tiny scratch, pinhead-size, in one of the top folds, probably as a result of Eva’s careless fingernails. A dap of antiseptic and 20 pages of paperwork later and we were released to make room for the legitimately sick children coming into the hospital.
The parents who took their kid to the top pediatric hospital in the state because she had a microscopic scratch on the outside of her ear. Yeah, we’re those people.