I hope you never have to experience what I did yesterday. I watched my little three year old boy get hit by a car.
We were riding our bikes to the farmers market, crossing a street in the crosswalk. I always pull in to the middle of the street, then wait for both kids to cross the street. Anna was in front of me, and I think I went a little further than the middle of the street before stopping to wait for Eric. I don’t know why, I think I either thought he was closer behind me, or I felt safe since we were crossing at a crosswalk and the light was with us. In any case, I stopped about halfway through the adjacent lane, and looked back to wait for Eric.
I saw the car start to turn in to the cross walk, right where Eric was riding. I’m shaking my head no no no even as I type this. I started screaming “NO WAIT STOP NO NO!” but he kept right on turning. In that flash of an instant, it occurred to me that all of my fears as a parent were coming true right then. I see Eric get pulled down, but then I can’t see him any more, and I’m running and screaming at the top of my lungs. The car finally stops, and Eric is pinned under his bike, the back tire of the bike is under the car’s front tire. I can’t get him out, I bang on the hood of the car and scream BACK UP BACK UP BACK UP! I’m a little fuzzy at this point. I’m not sure when I stopped screaming, but I think it’s when it sunk in that Eric was also screaming, and moving all of his limbs. I stood there, holding my screaming boy, not sure what to do next. We were surrounded by dozens of people who had either seen it happen or heard me screaming.
Some kind soul helps me sit on the curb, and Eric is just frantic and writhing and screaming in my arms. I’m talking to him, reassuring him, and I can hear that someone is on the phone and that help is on the way. I make eye contact with a woman, “My daughter! My daughter is over there!” Thank you, woman who retrieved Anna. Thank you, quick 911 caller, thank you people who helped me sit down.
It breaks my heart to remember Anna’s little face when she came around the car. She looked so scared, like she wanted to cry but she didn’t, she was trying to be brave. The rest of the day I go back and forth from feeling badly that it took me that long (a minute, maybe two? an hour? 3 seconds? who knows) to send someone for her, to being impressed that I even remembered that she was there. Poor little thing.
Matilda the bank manager at the U.S. Bank on the corner brings us water. I make us all drink some, thinking, “this will keep us from going in to shock.” Not sure why that occurred to me, and if that would even help, but at the time that’s what I thought. She also brought a wet little towelette to cover Eric’s legs, so he wouldn’t see the blood. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Matilda the bank manager.
The police arrive first and start collecting information, followed closely by the ambulance. I ask about our bikes, which someone has retrieved from the middle of the street. Thank you.
I’m still holding Eric sitting on the curb, and Tess and Wendi the EMTs are inspecting Eric. A bystander leans over to me and asks if there is anyone else he can call for me, so I have him call Brian. Thank you, bystander man.
Tess and Wendi put a neck brace on Eric, which he really thinks is a bad idea. They don’t think there’s anything seriously broken, but of course we have to check it all out. I see the driver, hanging back and looking anxious. I give him a thumbs up and mouth, “They think he’s OK.” I thought he was going to collapse.
Tess and and Wendi strap Eric’s poor little tiny body on a back board, which he thinks is an even worse idea than the neck brace. “I want this whole thing off of me RIGHT NOW!”
Bank manager Matilda assures me that the bikes are all safely in the bank, and offers to hold the helmets for us as well.
Eric is being loaded in the ambulance, and I turn to the driver. I’m not sure why, but we hug, and I start crying. I think he was too, or close to it. I’m crying, “I should have had him closer to me.” And he says, no no no, don’t say that. I realize Anna is right behind me, and I say, “I can’t cry now, I have to pull it together, I can’t lose it yet.” Anna and I get in to the ambulance, and Eric hasn’t stopped screaming this whole time. Driver man asks me to let him know how Eric is later, then the doors close while Tess & Wendy give Eric an IV and attach EKG stickers.”Is that just in case?” I ask. They answer, “We don’t think there are any internal injuries, but kids are fine until they’re not. So we’re setting it all up in case we need it, because if he’s not fine, we need to be ready.” Please be fine. Thank you, Tess and Wendi.
On the way to the hospital, Tess is asking Eric questions while she takes his blood pressure.
“Do you like Toy Story?”
“You don’t? Do you like Spider Man?”
“Really? How about dinosaurs? Do you like dinosaurs?”
“I do like dinosaurs.” Eric’s screaming has decreased in intensity. Finally, Tess is done doing whatever and lets me near his head. I’m kissing him, and we’re talking, and he’s finally down to a whimper. “I just want to go home,” he says. Yeah baby, me too. “I think we should just walk to the farmers market next time.” OK baby. “My whole body hurts.” I know baby. I’m sorry.
Roughly 10 doctors and nurses and what have you are waiting in trauma room 1 at Emanuel. They seem to absorb Eric like an amoeba, surrounding him, and I see a lot of rapid activity. I know he’s safe, and I almost collapse. A kind social worker introduces herself as Jill and hands Anna a bag of activities and toys. I tell her that Brian should be there, and needs to get in, and that Anna needs food, as we were planning on eating breakfast burritos at the farmers market. Anna gets graham crackers and orange juice, and Brian is brought in. Thank you, Jill and the trauma responders.
My parents are on the way, and Jill tells me some friends are here. “My parents?” No, they said they are friends. It’s Shannon and Charles. Tessa offers to go give them an update, and Eric & Brian are going in for x-rays and CT scans.
They’re all clear. No internal damage. Probably no broken bones, but they can’t really tell with kids. Significant road rash, but we can go home.
Brian has to take his truck back to work, so I go back in to solution mode. Brian will go finish up work. I send Anna with my parents to get some food. I ask Shannon and Charles to go to our house to get my car. Thank you, Mom & Dad. Thank you, Shannon & Charles.
Once all that is arranged, I go in to the bathroom and fall apart. I’m crying so hard, it feels like my insides are melting. I realize I’m on a bathroom floor in a hospital, and that Dayl would say that’s not clean, so I get up and wash my hands, wishing Dayl was there with me.
Before long, we’re at home. Shaken and traumatized. But whole. I hesitate to define us as “OK,” when we’re not OK. Nobody died, but we’re not OK.
It’s taken me 3 hours to write this post, because I keep crying, and I’m trying to help the kids deal with the after effects as well. Anna is making everyone cards to help us feel better. Eric can’t walk, his leg is so swollen. I have to change his bandages again, but he hurts so much, and I can’t bear it that I’m causing him more pain, even though the ministrations are really making it better.
We’re not in very good shape over here today, but it could have been so much worse. And for that I am nothing but grateful.
PS: thank you, Eric, for not dying and for being so tough! Thank you, Anna, for being so brave and caring!