It’s hard to tell if something is fake or real when it comes to my son Dreamer (8). He wants to be a spy when he grows up, is perfecting the art of deceit and is fond of calling me from school because his stomach hurts. I’ve written about this before. Sometimes I can tell right away he is lying, especially when I can see him. But other times I am not so sure. So I have a list of symptoms that I ask about: does it hurt all over? Does it start and stop? Did you eat lunch? Did you poop? He doesn’t understand, yet, that if his alleged stomach ache goes to his arm for five minutes then back to his stomach it’s a fake. But blood? That doesn’t lie.
I was told by his brother, Fearless, who ran into the restaurant bathroom last Saturday:
“Mami, Dreamer fell and is crying.”
“Is he okay?”
“There is blood.”
Oh boy, here we go again.
I ran outside and saw Joe and someone else over what seemed to be Dreamer. He was crying with his face down. Then I saw red through the huge wad of tissue paper that was pressed on his head.
I don’t know. I don’t panic in situations like that. It’s like the maternal instinct kicks in and I become very matter of fact. Then again, I do have some experience with head injuries:
Dreamer didn’t vomit, pass out or anything alarming. I took the napkins out and saw it was stich material. And since it was the head, there was blood: lots and lots of it.
Joe and I looked at each other and simultaneously said “urgent care”.
Except some ladies had already called the ambulance.
“An ambulance?” I asked somewhat surprised.
“Yes, the boy needs to go to the hospital.” They answered as if I didn’t know.
Because of my insurance, I only go to the emergency room when it’s really bad. Like in this case:
And an ambulance? That is reserved for heart attacks, car accidents, things that require care on the way to the hospital. And knock on wood, we haven’t had any of those yet.
Was I a callous mom? Because in truth, I was thinking in terms of dollars. Urgent Care has a $50 co-pay whereas the hospital, or anything attached to the hospital, it’s $250 and it goes towards my deductible. The ambulance ride is even more. And I didn’t feel the need to pay for any of it. So Joe and I drove to the Urgent Care Center about ten minutes away.
Coincidentally, the day before, Dreamer and I were at the playground when we heard some girls screaming and pointing to a little boy with his arm up. He was crying. I ran to them, and reached him just as his mom did. The boy had a clearly broken arm as it bent in the wrong direction. Yet there was no blood and no bone sticking out.
The mom carried the boy and consoled him. She was with another woman who was going to drive them, and I told them where the Urgent Care center was. I also helped them getting to the car, opening doors, looking for keys, etc.
They took off and about five minutes later another woman approached me and asked if I was the mom of the boy who had fallen. I thought it was an odd question given that I was still there, perfectly calm, and my son was not crying. I told her they had already left to the Urgent Care.
She told me “they should’ve called an ambulance. It will take them a long time to get there with this traffic. And they should go to the children’s hospital, they won’t put a cast at the Urgent Care center.”
I felt terrible. Small. This woman was speaking to me as “you didn’t know what you were doing.” But where the heck was she when all this was going on? It’s very easy to judge me when you weren’t even there in the first place!
I felt so bad I actually called the Urgent Care center. It turns out, they do not put a hard cast because you need to see an orthopedic doctor for that. They will take an x-ray and put a temporary cast to tide you over until you see your doctor. They will actually do that much faster than at the Children’s Hospital.
As I held my own son, in my own car, heading to the same Urgent Care Center I sent the woman to on Friday, I knew this was the right decision for us. Dreamer ended up with three staples on his head and we were out in less than two hours.
I watched Dreamer like a hawk for any sign of a concussion and none were to be found. So Monday he went to school and I received the call:
“Mami, my head hurts.”
Could be valid, but this is Dreamer we were talking about so I had to double check.
I asked about the pain and he said first it started where he hit his head, then it went to his eye, and then it hurt when he touched his collar. I spoke to the school secretary who told me he seemed fine and I told Dreamer to suck it up.
After school I took him to the pediatrician just in case, and she confirmed that though he might have a little headache nothing serious was going on.
And today, four entire days after the fall, I was greeted at school by Dreamer’s teacher who said:
“Are you sure he is okay? Because he says his head hurts and he’s got a whole list for you.”
I had to assure her, again, that he was fine; that I am not an irresponsible, stingy parent that puts dollars in front of her own child’s welfare. If she had looked at the paper Dreamer wrote she would’ve read this:
My favorite? “7. Couldn’t think.”
Dreamer is a happy kid but one who would rather forgo the whole “having to go to school ordeal.” He remains a straight A student, has lots of friends, but took after his father in not conforming to a “system.”
And as his mom, I am proud to say I am getting better at judging when to panic, when to take out my frequent visitor card at the Urgent Center, and when to simply tell him he needs to work on his acting a little more before I can believe him.
How about you? What is your ladder of care? When do you go to the doctor, urgent care or hospital?