The tale of the CT scan

Many of us know, all too well, that Cranio makes our lives forever different. This week we had a reminder of this.

On Monday Zoey was playing with David on the couch. In a typical sibling outcome, she ended up getting pushed off the couch. Her arms failed to catch her, and with a sickening crack, she landed face first on the carpet. While in the middle of a meeting I received a text message from my beloved letting everyone know about this, and that she believed Zoey broke her nose.

A flurry of fear filled me, and my heart was pounding. I tried to focus on what must happen, as I was methodically tracing my next steps. I was shocked with the thoughts flying through my mind. As an adventurous boy, and adult, my nose has ended broken 20+ times. I know the game. Ice, time, black eyes for a bit, and move on. But not for Zoey. For her, ‘normal’ has a new definition. Anything involving the face or head is not a small deal. So much time, so many surgeries, and more to come, all mean that things are different.

We debated on rising her to the ER. Spending the countless hours waiting to be seen, all for an x-ray. Instead, we reached out to her Craniofacial team. We sent pictures, a narrative, and our fears. Then we waited. We waited for an email or a call. Something to tell us we were crazy, or what our next step was.

 

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It came, a CT scan was needed. I knew what this meant. Surgery, either to fix or the next one we have been discussing was rushing back to the table. My fears were only lit aflame by the bruising that Zoey had the next day. It was telltale and bad. But every time I looked at Zoey, I could see the braveness forcing itself through. I saw my sweet little girl smiling, but I saw the pain.

So, today we loaded up the family and made our trek to the hospital. Zoey was in high spirits. We told her what was going to happen. As our silver van sailed the laughter wafted from the back while Zoey and David joked. My heart was still.

Check in was fast, and our wait was short. When it came to be our time, Zoey took my hand, and we walked. The long hallway caused our footsteps to echo, click, click, click. We almost made it past a beautiful mural filled with butterflies. As I feigned exuberant excitement to point them out to her, I looked at her. And my heart fell a little out of my chest. For the first time, in a very long time, I could see a little fear poking through her eyes.

We walked into a room that, to be fair, I wanted in my home. Freshwater fish scenery adorned the walls and hid the machines. Bass, trout, otters, even a carp with moss covered rocks and flowing plants. There was a light show on the ceiling giving the appearance of rippling water on a lavender and rose summer evening. I bent down to look at Zoey. Her eyes missed all of this, and we’re locked in the machine in terror. Her little hand quickly tightened around my finger.

For the next few minutes, we had to fight her. Her strength and agility were providing a great deal of surprise to the experienced technician. Every breath from Zoey was a scream of “No!”, “Mommy!”,”Stop”, and “Daddy.” That last one ripped shreds off my heart. It was full of fear, anxiety, and hurt. I fought tears as I kept reminding her that I was not going to leave her, that I was there, that I would never let anything bad happen to her. But I know they were falling on deaf ears. Undaunted by this, I kept talking to her. Holding her, and taking my place right next to her.

The fretted bindings that were holding my heart together wholly unraveled as she fought through those that were holding her down. The technician looked at me and asked if I wanted to call it off. My heart was screaming “Yes, please stop this!”, but my mind knew better.

It’s a tough row to hoe being a dad. Our entire job is, or at least it should be, vying for the welfare of our children. Protecting them from any harm that comes our way. And as my daughter lace screaming for this to stop, writing on the table, fighting against the straps, and the hands, I knew that this needed to happen. So, we fought on.

Finally, I found a way to hold her. Though it was not soothing her in any way, I was able to contain her. In a matter of moments, the X-ray and ct-scan were over. As they pulled her bed out of the machine, I can see the streams of Tears along her cheeks. Like Jewel filled streams of water against the blackened eyes from a broken nose. I Let Go. I stepped back just take a photo of this moment, preserving it and posterity and something else that she has yet again had to fight through. Something that her adult self may look back upon as she wonders about the journey her life has been. The time that she can look back and see her little 6-year-old body strapped to a table and remember that she overcame it.

The moment that the straps were freed she bolted upright. She left into my arms and held me tight as I could quickly feel her tears soaking my shirt. I held her so damn close. Whispering to her that this was over, that she did it, and telling her how proud of her I was. It was at that moment that she finally saw the fish, the Otters, the plants, the light show on the ceiling. “Like daddy’s fish tank” for nearly hoarse voice proclaimed in my ear. With a shuttering thump, I felt my heart begin to beat. My smile matched hers as I looked deep into her eyes. That brilliant sparkle of wonder was finally returning.

A few hours later, after copious amounts of cookies and regaling of her day, who received the long-awaited email. Her nose is fractured but not displaced. No worries about surgery at this time. Reading these words brought great elation to me after a long day.

It’s my job as her dad to protect her. I do not, and will not ever, take this aspect of my life lightly. But it is also my job to remember these moments period to capture them for her and her brothers. So that some dark day, when I’m no longer here to do my job, she will remember these hard days when I did my best.

Leading up to these events I was amazed private care an outpouring of affection that we received from so many others. Before the moment when we walked in that room, crossing the threshold, I was confident that this would have been easy for Zoey. “It’s just a CT scan,” I told myself over and over again. I had failed to remember the fact that nothing is as it should be. That many of the things that many other parents take for granted are entirely different for us. I’d also done the disservice I forgetting that my daughter can be scared. By failing to remember that countless things can disrupt the brave face that she puts on every single day. But for now, and I listen to her sleep in the room next to mine, I find peace. This was only helped by finishing some fine scotch and getting these words out.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

It all started on a hot and rainy night

I stood outside of the door, the heavy heat clinging to my skin. Though the sun had set hours ago, there was no escape from the humidity. Off in the distance the thunder rolled heavy and long. A storm was coming, and it was coming soon. On the faint breeze there was the tell-tale smell of the sweet summer pine married with the cooling freshness of the nearby rain. I knew what I was here for, and what was going to be done, or so I thought. I steeled myself, drawing in my last fresh breath for some time. As I reached for the door a cool raindrop fell on my bare shoulders, and a hiss roared from the blacktop as the storm had come.

All of the freshness left my lungs as my nostrils were assaulted by the smell of stale cigarettes, cigars, beer, sweat, and God knows what else. My heart skipped a beat as the thumping bass and screaming vocals blaring from the speakers hit me in the chest. I knew this sound, and I let it enrobe me.

“I wander out where you can’t see. Inside my shell I wait and bleed” the strained voice of Slipknot’s Corey Todd Taylor screamed at me. My eyes darted around the space. Dimly lit, with a heavy haze of acrid smoke in the air. Over the blaring music there was laughter, yelling, and a few yelps of pain. Under the music there was a sporadic and faint buzzing that you could only hear if you were listening to it, or when the CD changed songs.

What was I doing here? Maybe there is still time for me to escape. Almost knowingly, as my eyes moved to the door, a woman dressed in leather pants and a shirt about, two sizes to small, for some band that I had never, heard of reached for my hand. “You are right on time sweetheart.” she said. Her smile was welcoming, but her eyes betrayed the things that she had seen in her life. She took my hand and guided me over to a chair.

Before me sat a face that I knew, but in these surroundings it felt unfamiliar. His long, graying beard leaving just enough space for his smile, more link a sneer. He said something, but over the music I could not hear it. I leaned closer to him as he raised his voice. “Veronica, this is his first time!” he called to the woman who had just let go of my hand. Her eyes brightened as she cracked a smile. In other circumstances the smile might have been attractive, but I felt like the wounded prey being circled. “Oh really?” a devilish smile took over her face. Her eyes widened in excitment, “Don’t worry, I will sit with you. We will take good care of you”.

Ralph looked at me and asked. “Ready to do this? There is no backing out once we begin”. Veronica, now sitting next to me, took and again squeezed my hand, her other patting my thigh. I swallowed, hard, and blinked slowly. In my most confidant voice I responded “yes”. With that Ralph used one arm and leaned me back. He leaned close and there was a sting in my arm. Fiery pain wrecked through my body, and an instant cool sweat covered my neck. This quickly switched to a primal ecstasy as my nervous system went into overload.

This night from 17 years ago comes back to me from time to time. My life, and my body was forever changed. Something happened today that warranted this post, as I continued a journey started oh so long ago. After a decade away, I could not wait any longer…

I finally got some more ink added to my half sleeve. This is the first of what will be a long string of visits. Though the place I am going now is far removed from where my first encounter with tattoos began (not just by distance, but in cleanliness as well), the ride is still the same. Pure, unbridled, exploding ecstasy.

So much more to do, but things are going to come together nicely. Pictures will be posted on my Instagram later to show what I started with, and were I am now.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

 

Travelling: Becoming a Storyteller

Travelling. Once a great mainstay, and a measure of a person, seems to come and go with the ages. Every few months a map makes its cycle around my little sphere of social media.  You all know the one, with the states where people have visited highlighted. It is funny for me to see some of the reactions, comments, excuses and proclamations that accompany these maps. Perhaps it is because, well, to be frank, my map was completed nearly a decade ago.

Travelling provides a chance to see life in ways no others have.

Ibn Battuta once said “Travelling. It makes you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”. I have done my best to become quite the storyteller. I flex my lexicon to paint the beauty of a sunrise over the Atlantic. The sweeping colors pouring into view over an expansive, white capped, sea. I pull on the heartstrings as I capture the stillness of a single tear fall from the cheek of a parent in a waiting room. I bring the undeniable smile when expressing the joy of being smothered in the kisses of my children. All of this in an effort to give you an opportunity to travel. To close your eyes, sit in the stillness, and picture the scene I have laid before you.

A new thought on travelling for me.

But, those silly maps, the ones that cause me to chuckle have sparked an idea. What if, I were to complete the map with my children before they become adults? Would they enjoy travelling? I am sure that they would. More so, they would enjoy the stories that I would tell about some of my favorite places, while we are there. They may be inspired when we stop in a field and lay there on the grass. To look up at the clouds in the sky in wonder. To explain to them that this is but a starting place, and it is about the journey.

So, the days, and years, ahead I will be overjoyed to expand my stories as we travel. However, I feel that the real excitement will be in watching the new generation of storytellers. Watching them take in all that they can from our travelling journeys. Listening as they become speechless, and begin painting pictures with their words.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.