Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Humor Me: Yes, my 4-year-old fainted at the hospital when he thought his mom had been turned into a robot

When my wife had knee surgery last week, I knew it would be tough on our three sons. Mom was going to the hospital, she would be under anesthesia, and the next time the boys saw her she would have bandages on her knee and be a little out of it. Pretty scary, even before the boys – ages 9, 7 and 4 – faced the reality that dad would be cooking for the next few days. Child Protective Services probably should’ve been notified.

I expected that it would be frightening for Ryan, Cooper and Nathan. What I did not expect, and in no way could’ve prepared for, was my 4-year-old fainting in the recovery room because he thought his mom had been turned into a robot.

I must be exaggerating, right?

I’m not. Not at all. Poor little Nathan, still Mommy’s little clinger, thought that his No. 1 person in the world was no longer a person. And so he dropped like a sack of potatoes next to her bed.

I know it begs explanation, but first I’ll roll back that morning an hour or so. I was out in the hospital waiting room, trying to entertain my kids in a spacious area with no televisions. I had read books, told stories, encouraged art projects and answered the question “when are we going home?” a dozen times. I was also fighting a very powerful sleep monster. We had to be at the hospital by 6 a.m. that day, so I was in a relentless pattern of the about-to-fall-asleep neck snap that I remember well from college lecture halls.

Finally, about 15 minutes before, in my estimation, one of my son’s would have another in a headlock, the surgeon came out with an update. Everything went well, he said. That was great news, and also the last thing he said that made any sense.

He then went through a series of about 30 photos of inside my wife’s knee. “Here’s the meniscus,” he said, pointing to one of the photos. I could’ve been looking at the surface of the moon. Or egg whites. Or the inside of a peppermint patty.

Here’s the plica. Here’s this. Here’s that. We smoothed this out. And this looks good.

Oh yes, I could see that it looked great. After all, I had once taken a biology class and stayed awake for part of it. Thank goodness for those frog and pig dissections, because all the knowledge gained from that was clearly applicable.

I just responded with “uh-huh” and “hmm,” which basically served as “yes, move along, because I have no idea what you are talking about and my 4-year-old may soon attempt a backward somersault off the couch next to you.”

After a few more photos of the inside of a knee, or perhaps the cross-sections of Little Debbie snack cakes, the doctor told me that the photos were mine to keep. Our family will treasure them, obviously. Maybe we’ll get some nice frames or use one of the photos on a Christmas card.

Then the doctor told us that Janell was headed to the recovery room. In a few minutes, we could go back to see her.

Finally, the magic words. We collected our books and art projects and headed back to the recovery area, where my wife was waking up from robot-reassignment surgery. I talked to her for a few minutes before bringing back the boys, who were impressed by all the hospital equipment and miraculously didn’t knock any of it over.

“What’s that?”

“It raises and lowers the table.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a heart-rate monitor.”

“And what’s that?” said 7-year-old Cooper, pointing to the self-adhesive electrode that was attached to my wife’s side.

It was a little sticker with a snap on the outside. As I sat there with 4-year-old Nathan on my lap, I noticed him look at it. But I didn’t think much of it as I tried to get my other sons to stay quiet as we prepared to leave.

I was gathering up our stuff as Cooper said with a laugh, “she looks like a robot!”

It was funny to Cooper and 9-year-old Ryan. But to Nathan, who was now standing next to his mom and looking at the snap, it was too much. I can’t imagine what was going through his head.

“Dad said mom would be in the hospital for a few hours to fix her knee. And now (as a cold sweat of panic begins) she’s a robot!”

Nathan flopped to the ground, and fortunately, he landed on his side and didn’t bang his head. I picked Nathan up and laid him down across my legs. His face was pale, his eyelids fluttered and his eyes rolled around for a few seconds. It was like a wacky cartoon, but scarier – especially for me and my wife, the robot.

After a few seconds, Nathan was back. He was groggy, and it took him a couple of minutes to get his color back. But by later in the day, he was back at full speed. Everything was fine, and so was his mom. Her knee was sore, but she was still fully human.

After talking to Nathan about the sticker, I think he is now convinced that his mom is not a robot. But of course, he hasn’t seen the photos of the inside of his mom’s knee. He’ll probably think the photos are cool in a few years.

For now, I’ll just tell him that they are photos of something in outer space. And maybe they are. I wouldn’t know the difference.

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