So this is a post you hope you never have to write.
This weekend, Jack and his stroller fell down a flight of stairs outside our front door. It was terrifying and awful and is still hard to talk about. One minute Josh was unlocking the front door and the next he turned to see Jack's stroller flipping end over end down the five steps, landing upside down, with our baby boy inside of it.
I was coming in the back of the house as they were coming in the front and I instinctively knew what happened. We have a set of stained-glass windows in our front door and you can see when someone is outside. I heard Josh's keys and then I didn't hear the alarm chime and I saw him move away from the door and I just knew.
By the time I got to the porch, Josh and a passerby had the stroller back upright and were trying to get Jack unstrapped. I grabbed the stroller straps and lifted him out and looked him over.
He was fine to the eye, crying, but not a screaming-bloody-murder cry, more of a scared cry. Josh looked as pale as a ghost and was badly shaken. I was remarkably calm, thanking the man and his son who helped Josh and getting him into the house and calming the crying.
I could see a bump on the back of Jack's head and it was starting to turn red. I calmed him down in the house and took charge. I told Josh where the pediatrician's phone number was, instructed him to call and tell them what happened and to get a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer to ice his head.
The on-call doctor asked if he had lost consciousness and if he seemed himself. We said he was awake the whole time and had stopped crying. He was a little quiet, but we attributed that to his surprise at the fall, more than anything else.
The doctor said we should keep an eye on him and it sounded like it would be OK. But as we hung up the phone, I looked at what was now a large half-dollar sized bump on his head surrounded by red bruising and I told Josh I thought we should take him to the ER -- better safe than sorry. As first-time parents, we're allowed to be psychos. If this was our second kid, I would have told him to rub a little dirt in it and get on with the day.
So to the Children's Hospital ER we went. Strangely enough, there was not a single person in the waiting room at 5 p.m. on a Saturday. Odd. So we were seen right away.
After checking Jack out and asking us about everything that happened, they decided he was on the cusp of needing a CT scan. All kids with head injuries younger than six months get them, but his injury was not presenting any crazy signs either. They elected to do one -- again, better safe than sorry.
After putting his head into a device that would hold it still and swaddling him so he couldn't move, they stuck a pacifier dipped in sugar water in his screaming mouth.
Seriously? WE NEED TO GET THIS SUGAR WATER FOR HOME USE. I could bottle this shit as a tonic for crying and fussing and be a gazillionaire.
He sucked like he had the nectar of the Gods in his mouth. I think I have never seen him quiet down so quickly. They said we could stay in the room with him, and had us don some jaunty lead aprons. The technician paused before handing me mine and asked "Are you pregnant?" "BWAHAHAHAHAHA. Ummm. NO. Just, ha, no."
So we stood next to the machine and Josh sang to Jack while the scanner whirred and clicked around his head. In two minutes it was over and we were heading back downstairs to the ER room.
So we were just chilling in the room, entertaining Jack, aka "Mr. McFlirty Flirt of The Chicago Flirters," when the nurse came in to take his vitals again and dropped this casual line on us.
"So, I don't know if they told you that he does have a slight skull fracture, so we'll be keeping him overnight."
Whaaaaa? Are you kidding me? Josh looked like someone had shot him, my breath caught in my throat, Jack screeched because I would not let him bend down and lick the dirty hospital bed.
The doctors came in a short time later and said there was a small fracture on the CT scan, but it was in the sutures between the plates of his skull, so a relatively good place for it to happen. They did not see any bleeding in his brain on the scan, which was good news, so he did not need surgery.
The fact he might have needed neurosurgery hit us like a ton of bricks. I mean he fell down some steps, yes it was awful, but you never think about needed to cut your child's skull open because of that.
So up for overnight observation we went. The father who looked like he was having flashbacks of the fall every 15 seconds, the mother who was trying to keep it together and the baby who was smiling at every passerby like he was their long-lost best friend.
We stayed overnight, I next to the crib in a very uncomfy chair/bed, Josh in a cot across the hall. Jack slept well for the most part, completely fascinated by the wires protruding from his jammies that monitored his heart and breathing.
The next morning, they pronounced him fine and we were able to go home. But even during his short stay, I was able to get some perspective on things. Jack's roommate was definitely under a year old, but had a surgical scar that ran across the top of his tiny skull from one ear to the other, held closed by metal staples in his skull. My baby might have fallen, but at least he didn't have brain surgery. My heart went out to his mother, who did not speak very good English, and sounded like she struggled to communicate with the doctors and nurses. She was also alone. Josh and I wondered where the baby's father was or if she was doing this all alone. I felt awful.
The neurologist assured us they see this all the time in kids who fall. They are resilient and bounce back quickly. As evidenced by the fact Jack didn't even have the bump on his head anymore the next morning.
They told us it will heal on it's own in eight weeks and we should follow up with their office in two weeks just to be sure everything is fine.
All in all, a completely terrifying ordeal that could have been MUCH MUCH worse. We have gone over a million what-ifs since Saturday. What if we had bought a cheaply-constructed stroller and it collapsed in the fall? What if he had been facing forward instead of backward and fallen face-first down the steps? What if he had not been strapped in to the stroller and fallen out?
So here's my public service message for the day. No matter how close you think you are standing to the stroller or how stable you think it is or whether you have done it a million times before and nothing bad ever happened, always always ALWAYS lock your stroller wheels when you take your hands off it.
Every. single. time.
It takes two seconds to lock it and another two seconds to unlock it, but you can save your baby from a cracked noggin. Trust us, we will never make this mistake again.