"A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu
For the Pettit family, our proverbial journey began with not a single step, but with a single step stool. Or rather, a fall from the top of one.
The morning of May 27th, 2015 began like any other Wednesday. The usual morning routine, coffee on the go, and the daily kiss goodbye accompanied by Leslie's mandate to "drive safe". Like every other week, our niece Violet would arrive at our house around the time I got to work. Once our daughter Penelope was awake, it would be time for breakfast, followed by your typical brand of two-year-old fun and games. At least, that was the plan.
It wasn't typical for Leslie to call me at work. She is more the texting type to begin with, and besides, the cubicle workspace doesn't work too well if you're looking for privacy in your conversations. So, when I saw her name pop up on my phone, I figured it was probably something important and that I should answer. Turns out, it was very important. As in, you need to leave work and meet me at the emergency room immediately kind of important.
Leslie had filled me in on most of what had happened during our brief phone call - there really wasn't much to tell, after all. More than the words she spoke, my memory is of the urgency in her voice, the fear for our beloved daughter's well-being, and the need for me to be by their side as soon as possible.
When I arrived at Parkview Hospital Randallia (which is, thankfully, not very far from our house), a nurse quickly led me to one of many small, glass-front patient rooms which line the walls surrounding the central nurses' station. Our room had the curtains drawn, and the lights turned off. I heard no crying or talking as I approached, so I opened the door and entered as quietly as I could. There, sat in the middle of the bed, was my superhero of a wife, holding my sleeping daughter in her arms. Leslie began to quietly fill me in on what I had missed - apparently not quietly enough, as a moment later Penny popped up her little blond head and said, happy as can be, "Oh, hi daddy! I fell off the stool and hit my head!"
Breakfast had gone smoothly, as expected. After Leslie got the girls down from their chairs, Violet that said she needed help going potty, so Penny was told to wash her hands at the kitchen sink, something she had done many times before. From the nearby hall bathroom, Leslie then heard the terrible thud of head hitting linoleum, followed by the terrifying cries of a child badly hurt. Wheeling around the corner, she found little Penny, on her back on the kitchen floor.
The trip to the hospital might have been considered optional were it not for two factors. The first was that Penelope, who normally takes the usual toddler bumps and bruises in stride, was totally inconsolable. The second, and more frightening issue, was that she kept saying that she wanted to lie down and go to sleep. Neither of us are neurologists, but it didn't seem like a good sign for someone who had just cracked their head.
Violet's dad soon arrived to pick her up, and mother and daughter hurried off to the emergency room. Penelope stayed awake during the drive to the hospital, which, no matter how short in reality, is an eternity to a frightened mother with a weeping, injured child in tow. During check-in, Penny threw up in the lobby, then again while waiting to be called. Once in the small patient room, she was looked over by a nurse, followed by a pediatric specialist. At some point, they said that it would be safe to let her rest and, if she wanted to, go to sleep. Apparently the concussion she was suffering from was mild enough in their view to not pose any danger if she decided to fall asleep.
It wasn't long after the doctors left that I arrived. After hearing all of the details of just how much suffering Penelope seemed to be going through just moments earlier, Leslie and I were both surprised at how, all of a sudden, it seemed that our little girl was instantly back to her old self. Sure, she was red-eyed from crying, sweaty, and with just a hint of vomit smell, but all things considered it was a pretty quick turnaround.
Over the next several hours, we were swept into a whirlwind of activity, starting with Penny's first ambulance ride (courtesy of the hospital) to transfer us to the pediatric wing in their newer, shinier hospital up north. Followed by (in no particular order): pain medication, head scans, and a litany of nurses, pediatricians, neurologists, and even a visit from the friendly neighborhood CPS representative. Nice. [Disclaimer: the guy was a total sweetheart, and I understand that unfortunately, not every child's trip to the hospital is because of an accident.]
In the end, the doctors had us stay overnight for observation, which was fine by us, considering the scare we just had. Penelope had a mild concussion, but was acting about as well as could be expected, considering. The scan results also showed a small, hairline fracture in the back of Penelope's skull, near her right ear. This lined up with our assessment of how we think she fell, which was that she caught her foot somehow, and fell backwards over the side bar of the stool. Oh, Cosco stool - you have helped me paint many a room, change a few lightbulbs, and turned my world upside-down. And yes, for your information, I still use it to this day. Don't judge; it's still a super useful tool. ;-)
By the evening, Penny had her appetite back, which was the main thing the doctors wanted to see happen.
The overnight stay wasn't all that bad, and the next day they sent us home with a book from Kate's Cart, a pillow case, blanket, and plush ambulance - probably the least used stuffed toy in the house, no surprise here. Once back home, things got back to normal pretty quickly, and we seemed to be in the clear - emphasis on the word seemed. Little did we know that we would be fretting over the contents of our daughter's skull for months to come.
While much of this story is about the events themselves, the fear and worry aren't the main takeaways I remember about the experience. What I remember most of all is the unflinching positivity that my young daughter held throughout all of the poking and prodding by the hospital staff - an attitude that she has carried with her through all of the doctors visits to follow. What I also remember is the overwhelming support and love that we received from those around us. The doctors and nurses, our family, friends, and coworkers all showed a level of care and concern that I will never forget, and will always appreciate. We were shown that same caring a few months later, just a few days before Thanksgiving.
But that is a story for another time.
Until then, thanks for reading, and thank you for your support of the Brave Bambino Clothing Company!
Ian (aka Dad)