Thumbs UP

Tuesday, June 9th 2015

After spending the whole morning at the school embroiled in a parent volunteer project per usual, I made it back across town to my favorite cafe for some productive office and writing time. It was about half an hour before I got the CALL, from the number I recognize so well: School Nurse. Curious as to which of my children got bonked or scraped this time, I calmly listen as Mary Margaret implores me to come asap this time. ClaraJane has smashed her thumb in the bathroom stall door and she needs to see a doctor right away.  When I arrive she is ensconced in the doting care of Donna the Lunch Lady and Mike the Custodian who are busy entertaining and distracting her with animated conversation.

Entertaining ClaraJane

Entertaining ClaraJane

Nurse Mary Margaret swaps out wet paper towels for gauze in the first of many traumatic dressing changes of the day, and somewhere in that flurry ClaraJane’s thumbnail goes missing altogether.

2015-06-09 12.39.43

Off to the Doctor


As her pediatrician has no openings, we head to Cambridge City Hospital to see the first of a parade of wonderful, intelligent, competent, communicative and compassionate medical professionals.


The Joy of Stethescope


Somewhere during one of the (many painful) examinations, I capture this glimpse at the offending wound:


Ouchie-Friggin’ Wa-Wa


The hugeness of ClaraJane’s tremendous heart and and intellectual curiosity carry through all this chi-chi, even having while having to contort her hand in all different -and motionless- positions for X-Rays:

X-ray Time

X-ray Time


One great bonus when your child is sick or injured is that a) every other priority disappears, and the only thing that matters is, b) being together.  To that end ClaraJane enjoys a little diversion from her perch on my lap:

My Little Pony (thanks wifi)

My Little Pony (thanks wifi)


In the afternoon Daddy joins us after work.

Daddy's Here

Daddy’s Turn


Just in time for the next dressing removal, yay!

Not happy



Turns out in addition to ripping off the thumb nail, our dear daughter also managed to fracture the bone in the tip of her thumb AND deeply lacerate the nail bed, which would require some mending in order for it to have a chance of eventually healing properly (like regrowing the nail, for example).

Turns out Cambridge City Hospital doesn’t have any Pediatric Orthopedic Plastic Surgeons on hand (ba dum ch, go figure), so we are faced with a most spectacular 1st-1st World Problem:  Boston Children’s Hospital or Mass General?  This was honestly our dilemma yesterday; WHICH of these two world class medical institutions would we like to be referred?  Although my instincts said Children’s, the relationship with these doctors and our insurance etc. begged a much smoother transition experience over to MGH.

In a dubious but imperative move, ClaraJane and I stop for the much promised trip to our friendly neighborhood ice cream store.

Ice Cream Break (between hospitals)

Ice Cream Break (between hospitals)


I didn’t have the heart to tell her yet that her ordeal was far from over.  Nor did I exactly anticipate that eating ice cream at 3:30pm would make her ineligible for surgery until 9:30pm.   (NOR that surgical teams would be available at that time!)  But it worked out on account of the most surreal part of this day for me; having to drop Daddy and ClaraJane off in downtown Cambridge and leave them to take the T to MGH without me because in the middle of it all I had a GIG.

Off to MGH (Mama off to gig)

DLove & CJ off to MGH, Mamma off to Work


One hop on the T-stop over the river from Kendall/MIT and they are at MGH.  (Shudder to think we actually considered that I would drive them there in rush hour… yikes.)  Now Daddy gets more lap time with our Angel Brave.

Hanging Tough

Hanging Tough and Sending Love


ClaraJane finally submits to exhaustion before the anesthesiologist even gets to her.  Not the first time DLove has held his baby while watching Red Sox in a hospital.

Hospitals and Baseball



I arrive at the unexpectedly exquisite pediatric wing of the MGH E.R. just as the Plastic Surgeon and supervising physician are ready to explain everything in explicit, thoughtful, fascinating detail.  The sedative drug they use is “Ketamine” -of horse-tranquilizer and rave fame- but in a pediatric safe, appropriate, tried, true and tested dose.  It induces a “twilight sleep,” within about 30 seconds, after which Paul and I were kindly excused from the room as they set to work deeply irrigating the wound, stitching up the nail bed and implanting a tiny aluminum stint to keep a slot open for the nail to (hopefully) grow back.

She comes through like the trooper she is;  with “the strength of a hundred men,” as the doctor said.

Coming out of Surgery: Thumbs Up

Coming out of Surgery with a “Thumbs Up” Rainbow Cast


The doctor had also been impressed with ClaraJane’s powers of reasoning.  She’d tried every tact to convince ClaraJane to let her examine the wound for example, and ClaraJane demurred and reasoned against her at every turn.

“If I can’t see it,” posited the doctor, “How can I fix it?”

“Oh I’ll just tell you about it,” countered ClaraJane.

“Touché!” said the doctor, who doctor eventually had to just go for it, only to encounter ClaraJane’s “strength of 100 men.”

Eventually she regains both her senses and functioning, all the cables and wires are removed, papers are signed and we are discharged home around midnight.  Whoo!

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home


It was only about a 12 hour ordeal.


ClaraJane’s version on the phone to her beloved Bubble Wow today: “I slammed the bathroom door on my thumb and the nail ripped off.  And there was blood.  And I was crying and had to go to the nurse’s office and get some ice.  Then my mamma came and then I went home because I couldn’t go to school.”

In the inimitable way of kids, she has adapted to the use of one hand with zero adjustment period, and has been happily playing around the house as Daddy and I work to regain our senses (as I do by dallying in this blog).  In fact here is her victory pose from underneath the box she’s playing with, which otherwise houses all the play dough toys you see coincidentally spread before us.

Victory Be Yours Forever!

Victory Be Yours Forever


And that’s a wrap on my “discretionary” time today.  Wouldn’t you know it’s time to go back to school to retrieve (and reunite with) Brother, who graciously stayed with Bubble Wow last night, who was our savior for keeping him.  It’s actually time for his annual check up with our pediatrician.  We’re gonna have a lot to talk about today!

PS:  Incidentally, the Pediatric Ortho Department claims to see a LOT of this type of digital obfuscation from getting crunched in doors, albeit most often from “Sib on Sib” aggression (aka: slamming doors), which pretty much describes how I lost my toenail once when I was a kid, but that is another story.  (No worries Bro; you’re the best!)




About circuskitchen

performing artist, mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece... just a regular extraordinary person
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5 Responses to Thumbs UP

  1. Baba/Bubble Wow says:

    Brother Gavin’s initiation into the Society of Slammed Fingers occurred — ouch! ouch! — on my watch, although as he kindly recollects, he at 5 y/o slammed my car door on his own finger, and as he can currently demonstrate, sustained no lasting damage. As shocking and painful as is the traumatic door/finger interchange, it seems, sadly, inevitable. How could it not be as children move toward independence in the physical world? Most people have such a childhood incident in their memory. How to internalize the lesson of finger safety as you learn the door-dance everyone must perform multiple times daily? Often, it’s a shocking painful accident that teaches just how careful one needs to be in ordinary tasks — with oneself as well as with siblings. I slammed fingers, my sister did, probably all my kids. ClaraJane unfortunately suffered a particularly nasty version. Fortunately, these are seldom life-threatening, unless you count the risk of heart attack in the parent.

    We just can’t protect them from everything, as much as we want to. As it happens, this week Cousin Miles is undergoing another fairly common sad childhood experience, losing a grandparent; in his case a greatgrandparent and a grandparent only weeks apart. A lot of funerals for a 7 y/o. And Grandpa was only 63 and died with relative suddenness.

    Life is mostly good, but there’s a lot of it, so not all so great. Sometimes we get powerful reminders to savor all the good parts, and appreciate the resilience of children.

  2. Thanks Mom. I also loved what you shared from Jane Ann: Fwd: CJ ordeal provoked memories of Murray’s home remedies from his down on the farm childhood, applied to us, recalled by Jane Ann…”I remember getting a car door slammed on my thumb once. Horrible. Never forgotten it. But no particular residual drama or after effects. I think Daddy did one of his home remedies but not sure which one. I remember a wad of “chawed” tobacco for wasp and bee stings, benedryl for itches, calamine lotion for poison ivy, finely crushed aspirin blown down your throat on folded paper for sore throats, just wrapping tightly a bandage around a half sliced off finger instead getting stitches at the doctor (cutting out paper dolls with a knife cause Tuffy had the scissors and nearly slicing my finger off. Still have a knot on my left index finger.), using a needle sterilized by a match flame to dig out splinters. Can’t remember what else. Don’t know what Daddy did
    when I slammed my thumb. I think he iced it down.” … In those days CJ would have grown up without a thumbnail! It’s so iconic that Jane Ann’s finger drama would have involved paper dolls, and that there were only “the scissors” — one pair in the house. Which is why I always have a dozen of everything– clocks, scissors, tape, kitchen timers, & oversized food portions. Became allergic to household penury.

  3. And Mom I love that you proffer words such as “penury.”

  4. Baba/Bubble Wow says:

    “Penury” is actually not the right word (It means “extreme poverty” and that wasn’t the case). My mother’s extreme Scots frugality, perhaps, or just what was customary at the time. Absence of abundance, perhaps. Tools like scissors, clocks, and kitchen timers weren’t in those days mass-manufactured in China and sold cheaply enough to afford multiple pairs per household. Plenty of paper dolls in the 1950s, however, of that we can be sure! (Another story for another time…)
    I love that you use words such as “proffer”…

  5. Pingback: Tobin Montessori Room 283 | circuskitchen

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