It was a dark and stormy day...the kind of dark and stormy that makes a school teacher ruin your week by announcing "No outdoor recess today. Quiet play inside only." The groan of despair still echoes in the darkest recesses of my mind. If that alone weren't enough to scar me for life...read on.
My fourth grade teacher probably never won any awards for his craft. He would frequently leave us alone in the classroom while he ran off for a smoke break. Does any teacher really expect 9 year olds to sit quietly in their seats while being left totally unsupervised for 10 minutes at a time? Certainly not any sane or responsible teacher.
As the rain pelted against the windows, we were once again left to our own devices. Most of the kids did remain in their seats, reading or drawing. I was happily coloring with markers. Paul Reiner decided to raid the playground equipment closet. He helped himself to a shiny metallic baseball bat and began to swing vigorously at the pretend pitches Doug Smith was lobbing his way.
Being a rather cautious sort, I gave Paul a wide berth as I ducked low around behind him to reach the sink area in our classroom. I washed the marker off my hands, had a drink from the handy water fountain built into the sink, and then tried to duck back behind Paul again to return to my seat.
At the last moment, Paul decided to turn away from the windows and swing toward the classroom door. It happened so fast, neither of us had time to react. You could hear the crack of the bat connecting with my head ring through the room like a gun shot.
I don't remember falling to the floor, but I do remember the look of horror on Paul's face a split second before the bat hit me in the face.
Next thing I knew a hand was on my shoulder and someone was shouting in my ear, "Are you OK?!" It was Doug. I was sitting up cross-legged on the floor. I don't remember how I got that way. Paul was standing in front of me babbling "I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry...I'm so sorry..." obviously in a state ofshock. I didn't respond right away. I was trying to figure out...WAS I OK? What happened?
I heard a girl scream, "She's bleeding! She's bleeding!!" and I remember thinking, "I am?" Sure enough, something warm was flowing around either side of my eye, down to my chin, and dripping into my hands that were laying rather lifelessly in my lap. I stared at the blood. I guess it was a good thing I had such thick eyebrows. It's also a good thing that I look down when I'm walking.
Doug yelled at Paul, "Go get her something!! Hurry Up!" Paul looked around helplessly and finally ran to the sink and grabbed a handful of paper towels. He held them in front of my face. I looked at them and him, but I couldn't quite figure out what he wanted me to do with them. My hands and arms wouldn't work. Finally he just let them go and they fluttered down into my lap.
I heard another girl scream, "Go find Mr. Timmons!" A third one interjected, "No! Go get the nurse! The NURSE!" Doug yanked open the classroom door and sprinted down the hallway. (I don't know what I ever saw in Alex D. Doug turned out to be WAY cuter a few years later.)
Moments later, Mr. Timmons strolled back into the classroom, saw me sitting on the floor surrounded by all my classmates and yelled at me to get up. The din of everyone talking at once about what happened drowned out any further reaction from him. The nurse arrived and asked if I could walk. I had no idea. My arms didn't seem to be working and I hadn't made a sound or movement since I was hit.
She helped me up, and I was relieved to find that my legs DID work. She walked me back to her office asking questions and pressing those paper towels over my left eye. I couldn't speak until I was sitting down on the exam table. She cleaned off as much of the blood as she could while trying to keep pressure on my head. Finally, she must have pinched the wound closed and tacked it in place with 2 or 3 bandaids. I only saw the bandaids. I still hadn't seen my head.
The nurse called the emergency contact numbers in my file. There was no answer. She kept looking over at me with a worried and rather freaked out expression on her face. I wasn't in any pain. I was...numb. It was like I was watching this event unfold but I wasn't really THERE. I was merely an observer.
After several failed attempts to reach someone, the nurse asked me if I knew any place else my Mother would be. I tried to think of all the places my Mom might go during the day while we were at school. The Burlington Mall? The nurse had her paged at the Mall. Nope. Mr. Gene's Hair Salon? Nope. Her appointment there wasn't until Wednesday next. The supermarket? Nope.
I was slowly kicking my feet and letting them swing while I stared out the door of the nurse's office. I could hear high heeled footsteps in the hallway echoing off the ugly checkered linoleum. Next thing I knew, my mother was walking past the doorway with my little brother in tow. She didn't look in my direction until I heard this unearthly scream of "Moooommmmmmyyyyyyyyyy!" (I assume the scream came from me.)
She spun around and it took a second for her to recognize me. She turned white as a sheet and rushed into the room yelling, "What happened to you?!" That is when the tears finally came.
"Ppp...aul Ra...Ra...Ra...einer hit meeeeee!" I hiccupped between sobs of relief. I clung on to her and tried to pull her close, but she was holding me away from her with a frown. Now I realize she was trying to keep the blood off her clothes. Turns out she was at the school for a parent-teacher conference with my brother's kindergarten teacher. I was so freakin' lucky that day.
I was bundled into the car and rushed to the tiny clinic at Hanscom AFB. After a long wait, the doctor on-call there took one look at me and said there was nothing he could do. The wound was too deep for them to handle. She would have to bring me to the big hospital at the Army base that was more than an hour away.
(That's one of the problems with being a military family. Sure, they paid for your health care coverage, but you HAD to go to a military hospital for treatment. If they had taken me to a regular ER, they would have had to pay for some or all of it. If it had been MY child? I would be headed straight for the nearest ER, regardless of cost.)
Mom was finally able to reach Dad. He came to meet us and make the drive to Fort Devens. My mother is one of those people who can't drive anywhere she hasn't been to before or is further than, say, 20 minutes from home. It's a phobia that drove me mental over the years. Especially after I got my own driver's license.
The ER at Fort Devens was the second time I'd been in a huge hospital (that I could remember). The first time was when my brother was an infant and he nearly died from spinal meningitis. The nurse who took me back to be examined was so nice. She told me if I were brave, then I could have any color lollypop I wanted from the glass jar at the nurses' station. I wanted a green one.
In the exam room, I was strapped down to a table and my parents were told they had to wait outside. After having watched every episode of the TV show ER since the beginning of the series, I now know why they do this. When kids get hysterical, parents tend to do the same...and oh BOY was I hysterical. You should have seen the size of the needle they stuck me with! Over and over they stuck that needle into my head and INTO my wound. Ouch. Then I finally SAW it for myself as this large round mirror was lowered to reflect more light onto my face.
The sensation of being sewn shut is one you never forget. Once the pain was gone, all I felt was this odd pulling and tugging. I listened avidly to the doctors and nurses as they talked. Apparently I was very lucky. The bat had split open my skin just above my eyebrow clear down to my skull (bone was visible) but I had no skull fracture. My "eye orbit" was intact. A half inch lower and I might have lost my eye.
The doctor also wasn't happy about the long delay prior to my being sewn up. I would have a scar, but he said it should fade with time. And it has. It's hardly noticeable now.
I have an exceptionally vivid memory of that day and I became quite the classroom celebrity after that. Everyone was interested in my head wound and how many stitches I had. That incident was the frequent topic of conversation for the rest of the year. Paul sort of avoided me after and became rather subdued. He was such a rowdy kid prior. The change in him was rather alarming, but I was back to my old self.
No real harm done.
Except that I hate baseball.
And the name Paul.
And green lollypops.