November 8th, 2010
I had been planning to write today about my great uncle Milt Goerzen. Milt passed away last Thursday after a long struggle with dementia, and his funeral was this morning. I was there, and was inspired by a few things I heard.
But that will have to wait, because today brought one of those few moments in life that’s a sense of an impending possible great loss. I can remember two others: one was when Terah passed out, and the other was when we heard that our place was on fire and our house had burned down (it turned out the house hadn’t, but much of the rest had).
I got a call during Milt’s funeral. I didn’t answer because I was, well, at a funeral, and the phone was on vibrate. When I had the chance to check the voicemail, it went something like this: “I think we have an emergency with Jacob. He got run over by a tractor. He says he’s OK, but I’m taking him to the doctor right now.” I tried to return the call, but cell phone reception wasn’t cooperating. The most I got was “he’s OK”.
It’s hard to describe how a moment like that feels. My mind jumped to telling Jacob “I love you”, and how lately when he hears that, he will snuggle in for a big hug, and say, “Dad, I love you toooooooooo!” On the one hand, I heard the “he’s OK” part, and on the other hand I couldn’t forget the tractor running over him part, and my mind leapt at the worst.
It turns out that, while I was at the funeral, Jacob had been standing on his usual spot on the tractor, sort of to the side of the driver. He was enjoying himself like usual. The tractor hit a large hole that wasn’t really visible. The combination of the jolt and the dip the tractor took towards Jacob’s side knocked him off and he went directly under the big rear wheel before the tractor could be brought to a stop.
I caught up with him and his grandpa after he had seen the doctor and just as he was being admitted to the hospital. He saw me and crawled over, making his sort of sad and scared sound — he sometimes doesn’t want to verbalize things when he’s in that mood. I held him close and he seemed to appreciate it.
He had to have blood drawn, and he was scared of that. I remembered his inquisitive mind, and reminded him how much he liked watching the tube fill up with blood last time he had a blood test (which he calls a “blood shot”). That wasn’t helping, until the actual blood test started. He cried when the needle went in, but then calmed down as the nurse, getting into the act, pointed out that there was blood filling up the tube. “Hmmm!” said Jacob. Then she gave him a band-aid. “It has an airplane,” said the nurse. “Um-hmm!” said Jacob. I pointed out that it looked like the airplane we were on when we flew home from New York. Jacob got a big smile and said, “Yes, it IS that one!”
He got a sticker there too.
Then it was off for an x-ray to check for broken bones and a CT scan to check for internal injuries — the tractor had gone right over his abdomen. He had to get an IV at the CT scan, which he certainly didn’t like. After it happened, however, he found it very interesting — especially when the nurses explained that they would give him a drink through the hose attached to his hand.
After that, we went to his room, with orders for him not to eat or drink anything until it was clear he didn’t have digestive problems.
While we waited at various steps along the way, Jacob wanted to sit on my lap and watch train videos on YouTube on my phone. He loves train videos, and brought my phone’s battery nearly to depletion through the course of the afternoon.
Jacob eventually seemed to get back to a bit of his usual self. At one point, while Terah had made a run home to pack an overnight bag and grandpa ran some errands of his own, Jacob wanted to leave the room. He had gone “exploring” in the hospital with me before: when Oliver was born, and when Terah had her thyroid surgery. So this was something he just associated with the hospital. That and lemonade, which is free any time of the day or night in the cafeteria.
So we went exploring, even ventured outside into a courtyard for a bit. He was walking fast and seemed good. We had several visitors: grandparents and his aunt and uncle. Jacob got a stuffed rabbit and a colorful bug box with windows (for putting bugs inside for observation).
Eventually the doctor came by and gave us the results: the x-rays showed no problems. The labs showed some elevated liver enzymes, which he expected, but no serious trouble. The CT showed contusions on his lung and bruising on his heart — which would heal completely in time. He allowed Jacob to have a liquid supper (so I quickly got him the lemonade he had been wanting while the nurses got him some Jello).
The doctor examined Jacob, pushing at various places, asking “Does it hurt here?” “No.” “Does it hurt here?” “No.” “Here?” “No.” “Are you hungry?” “Yes.” “Does it hurt here?” “No.” He gave me a look that said: “really? It doesn’t hurt ANYWHERE?” What could I do but shrug my shoulders?
Jacob has some abrasions on his face, arms, and back, which will probably eventually hurt (and sure enough, about 10 minutes later he started getting a little pain when he tried to move, which the doctor checked out)
Then the doctor said, “I hope you know you have a walking miracle today. This is just amazing. You have some thanking to whatever guardian angels you like tonight — all I can say about this is that the Lord must have had some other plan for him. There’s no way he could have survived that.”
Jacob’s doctor is one that we really respect: he’s scientific in his analysis, cites studies as a matter of routine, doesn’t prescribe antibiotics for things that he knows they have a small chance of helping, is common-sense about not over-treating things and yet always engaged in an emergency. That little speech from him was something I’d never expected to hear from him.
He went on to add that “I always visit my sickest patients first. You were my last visit this evening, so that should tell you something. Any other kid as healthy as he is, I might discharge already — but I’m just not justified doing that with a boy that’s, well, been driven over by a tractor this morning.” He also wanted to monitor Jacob’s progress throughout the coming day, especially his digestive system.
They wanted to measure his urine output, which he, predictably, found to be very interesting. Terah said “I think it is about 150 ml.” Jacob said, “No mom, it is closer to the two hundred line.” Me: “Since when does Jacob know about the number 200?” Terah: “I… don’t… know…. he’s 4, where would he have gotten it?” Between that, and using every opportunity to tell people that there were not one but TWO red light switches in the x-ray room, Jacob’s definitely himself in some ways already.
So, that feeling of some impeding great loss is gone, replaced by being more than a bit overwhelmed by how fortunate we were today. We also appreciate all the help we’ve had with Jacob and Oliver today.