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A girl with a bandage on her face

November 1st, 2004 · 4 Comments

When I see a small child with a large bandage on her face, I feel vulnerable, as if I were the one wounded. Especially if the child is my daughter.

Twice now Ted and I have taken a daughter to the ER. Abigail’s trip happened before her fourth birthday. Michaela’s turn happened Wednesday while we were visiting family in Los Angeles.

She slipped on the floor at a relative’s house, hitting metal railing in her descent. From the gush of blood and cut near her eye, Ted and I both knew we were headed to the hospital, wherever it was. Uncle came with us and provided directions.

On the way over, I held a bag of ice beside the gauze pad on her brow as we drove to the hospital. I tried to keep Michaela chatting by asking her questions. She answered me but seemed quiet.

It was an efficient ER, much faster than our previous visit. A triage nurse interviewed us before we registered and then saw the doctor. It was also one of the most masculine medical experiences I have had: I saw only one woman working there amidst many men.

The wait wasn’t long and soon it was our turn. Michaela was incredibly brave: “the best of the night”, the nurse said. The doctor had hoped to use dermabond to glue the wound together, but then determined that it would require stitches. He moved fast, perhaps too fast, before the anesthetic had had much effect, but courageous Michaela lay quiet and still, even when the stitch had to be removed and re-done. As the needle went into the skin, she said “owie” but that was all: no wiggling or thrashing or screaming. Later, when praised for her bravery, she would say she “relaxed” in the ER.

As we were leaving, the nurse brought her two stickers. One is a picture of snake with stitches in its tail and the other says “I was a star in the ER”. Michaela was tickled. Soon she was her old self, smiling about the stickers, happy to show them to her sisters later.

But I don’t think I am my old self. Going through these ER experiences as a parent changes me. While the doctor was stitching up Michaela’s face, he asked “anyone…getting ill?” My stomach felt sick later, when I realized what had happened to her. I cringed when the needle had to be used for a second stitch. I started crying but I didn’t want her to see. Perhaps she is braver than I am.

Seeing her lying on the ER bed, I realized how little I can protect her. As a mom I’ve made many choices, seeking what would be best for my girls, pursuing what would ensure their safety and health. But the truth of parenting is that I can’t control everything. I will see them suffer at times and I won’t be able to fix it.

In recent months I have doubted God and wondered why He allows what He does to happen in the world. Looking at Michaela’s face though, Ted and I were amazed that she had not gotten a larger wound. She could have gouged her eye. She could have broken her nose. Or she could have received more trauma to her head. The fall could have taken teeth.

It could have taken her life. Perhaps it is a large leap to jump from a single stitch to death, but these emergency trips remind me how fast it can happen. Here one moment then gone the next.

Suddenly it became easier to see what God doesn’t allow.
Something or someone must have caught Michaela and kept her from further harm.

Psalm 91 makes bold claims about God’s protection and it is a hard psalm to read when one is wondering and suffering.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

I’ve never seen an angel lift me up so I would not strike my foot against a stone. But I believe an angel must have lifted Michaela so that she would not strike her eye against a railing. And when I see this in faith, I can begin to see other ways God protected us. I can be grateful for what has not happened.

If I could go back in time I would keep Michaela from falling. I wouldn’t want it to happen again. However, this small but deep cut on my daughter’s face has spoken to me in deep ways.

Earlier in the week Ted and I had discussed whether our children would remember this trip to LA. Two-year-old Elisabeth is probably too young. But Abigail would remember, we figured, at age six, and now Michaela probably will too, whenever she sees the scar.

And whenever I see Michaela’s face, I will remember what I learned when we visited the city of angels.

Tags: faith

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Nov 1, 2004 at 12:07 pm

    Sorry about the cut and stitches, glad about the faith you find and spread around, happy to catch the perspective you share.

  • 2 jenny // Nov 1, 2004 at 9:16 pm

    So sorry you had another ER trip with one of the girls… I understand the emotion… I’m glad she is fine and very thankful her little “trip” wasn’t more severe!

  • 3 Mike // Nov 13, 2004 at 11:58 am

    As a father of three (2 girls & a boy, 27,24 &21) and grandfather of three boys, I can tell you that a father experiences the same feeling of helplessness as he watches one of his in pain. I think that emotion is only surpassed by the joy experienced at the birth of his children. I’ve been fortunate to be present for the birth of all three of my children, and two of three grandbabys.

  • 4 Katherine T. // Feb 4, 2005 at 6:58 pm

    I hope youor child gets better but i read your story in the magazine people and one day we hope to meet your daughter and help her in any way we can!

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