I was busying myself in the kitchen preparing the Christmas feast. It was a traditional menu for us and pretty much like the Thanksgiving repast. Sometimes the macaroni and cheese made way for mashed potatoes and gravy. I always fixed twice the potatoes we would eat so there would be leftovers for potato patties the next morning. It was a big job to prepare all the food but I was up to the challenge. Cooking was one of my hobbies, anyway. Cleaning up after wasn’t but the dirty dishes were the sign of a well-blessed table.
From my vantage point, I had a good view of the inside of the front door. It swung open and here came DS1 and DH. DS1 was holding his left arm up high and DH was right beside him. I thought, “He has torn his shirt!” It wasn’t until he came up the stairs into the house that I saw the blood and the reason why DH was sticking to him like glue. There was a makeshift tourniquet around the upper part of his arm. I gasped and asked, “What HAPPENED?” Obviously, DS1 had tangled with the chainsaw.
I turned off everything that was on and we got into the car and headed for the emergency room. It was maybe five miles away and we were there in record time. The rest of the story was it was hard starting the saw the first time. The plan for one of them to hold it and the other to pull the starter rope wasn’t a good one but it seemed it would work. They hadn’t counted on the recoil. The chain was barely spinning but it was enough to slice into the back of DS1’s upper arm. It was a long cut and wide since the chain gouged a strip of meat probably half an inch across.
Emergency rooms can be busy places on holidays but they took DS1 right in. They left me to get him registered and sign all the papers. All in all, it was good that I had something to occupy my mind other than what was going on in the treatment room. Would he have full use of his arm? Was there serious damage?
After what seemed like hours, DS1 emerged with his arm swathed in bandages. The doctor talked to DH and me and said it was fortunate the saw was new. It could have been a lot worse otherwise. It was a clean cut but it would leave a large scar. He’d had to pull the skin together over the gap to put in the stitches. All told, he had 21. One for each year he’d lived. I’ll have to admit I had to ask and here’s his reply, “21 stitches…. 21 years old.”
We hadn’t been asked for money. When we were asked about insurance, I said we didn’t have any. I knew there would be a bill involved but I had no idea how much it would be. Getting DS1’s arm repaired was a necessary expense and all my sewing expertise wouldn’t have helped. It was definitely not a do-it-yourself project.
I resumed the preparations when we got home. It wasn’t as fancy as it would have been but it was as delicious. DS1’s appetite was as good as ever. Nothing ever took that away, not even the pain meds he’d been given.
The rest of Christmas was low-key. I don’t remember if they went back out to try the saw or not. For me, it had been an exhausting several hours. Stress can do that to a person.
When the bill came, it seemed enormous. It wasn’t even $200. These days, it would probably be five times as much if not more. After I’d had time to collect my wits, I remembered I’d taken out full coverage with the university insurance on DS1 back in the fall. It was to pay for any accident 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including vacations and holidays. I got the necessary paperwork together, sent it in and it was paid.
After the cut had healed, DH decided he could use his skills as a former medic and take the stitches out. There was a long keloid-type scar in day-glow pink. It has faded over the years but it will never go away completely—but he still has his arm.
It was back to the campus for the firstborn and back to homeschooling for the third. DS2 was still with my mother even though she was having second and third thoughts about her decision to take him in. She’d gotten in touch with me about selling my piano to buy him clothes and I told her to go ahead. It was a studio upright, not as large as a full-sized upright but not as small as a spinet. I hated to see it go. My aunt gave it to me when I was born but it was more to spite Mother than anything else. She’d tried to give it to her and she wouldn’t take it. She said, “You can’t keep me from giving it to the baby!” So the piano I had my first lessons on was sold and DS2 had some new threads.
January, 1986, we were contacted by DH’s brother. His dad was in the hospital with blood poisoning. He’d been working on a wire trellis and the wire had stuck in the heel of one of his hands. He’d made it bleed a lot and washed it well with peroxide. My mother-in-law had insisted he needed to go to the doctor for a tetanus shot but he was a stubborn sort of person and refused. He’d be okay. He was tough. The next day, he woke up with his arm throbbing. The swelling and red streaks were halfway up his upper arm. Time was of the essence. He didn’t argue when my MIL put him in the car and took him to the emergency room. It wasn’t until he was situated that she called her eldest son.
DH canceled whatever flights he had scheduled so we could go see his father. He understood his condition at that point was touch and go. It was important that he could be there to support his mother, too. What would we find when we got to the hospital?