The Pain of Parenting – Johnny’s First ER Trip

Posted by on May 29, 2005

On Wednesday night, our two-year-old son Johnny had to go to the emergency room to get his first stitches. I wasn’t prepared for how traumatic it would be for him, and for Eleanor and me.

Here’s what happened. Johnny was running from his bedroom to the living room. Out house has wood floors, and from time to time, they’re slippery. He’s fallen before but never like this. I heard him go down, and by the time I looked up, he was face down on the floor, screaming like I’ve never heard him scream before.

When we helped him up, he had blood on his forehead. Eleanor grabbed a towel and we applied direct pressure. When we took it off to check it, we could see that the wound was deep.

Next we put Johnny and Joshua in the car to head to the emergency room. At this point, Johnny had calmed down and was even a bit sleepy – probably because it would have been his bedtime – but we were a bit concerned since he had a head injury so we kept him awake.

We signed in and then had to wait over half an hour in the waiting room before we saw someone.

At that point they told us that we had two options. We could wait (possibly all night) for the “main part” of the emergency room where they could give Johnny a general anesthetic or we could go to the part where they do quick procedures right now. Well, it seemed crazy to have Johnny knocked out for a couple of stitches so we decided to do the quick route.

The doctor told us that he would give us a local anesthetic that we could hold on the wound (under pressure) for half an hour and then Johnny wouldn’t need an injection. This sounded good so we did it. Johnny didn’t appreciate the pressure on his wound, but Eleanor and I got him through it together by singing to him and telling him stories.

Then the doctor arrived to do the procedure. We agreed that there was no need for both of us to witness it so I stayed.

First they wrapped Johnny in a sheet so that he couldn’t wiggle. The nurse tried to make it seem fun by telling Johnny that he was a burrito. He wasn’t buying it. Next they positioned me so that Johnny would be able to see me well. That seemed good to me.

But then they covered his face with a cloth that only had a little circular opening in it to expose the wound on his forehead. Johnny started screaming bloody murder! A tech was holding his head, but he would still wriggle it around so that he could see through the hole. Then the doctor or nurse would move it.

“Help me, Daddy!” Johnny cried. “Uppy!” (Which means, “Please pick me up!”)

I kept telling him that I was there with him and it would all be OK soon, but poor Johnny had no idea why his father was part of this awful thing that was happening to him. Why wouldn’t I help him?

Eventually they finished the four stitches and I got to pick him up. He was visibly shaken.

I knew that it was necessary to stitch up the wound, and I had explained it to Johnny about a dozen times before the procedure, but there was no way a two-year-old could really understand that.

We also found that he couldn’t express his fear and concern about the experience afterwords. All Eleanor and I could do was hold him.

He seems to be much better now, but every so often he says that “Daddy is going to scare me.” I think it’s connected to his experience.

You can see from this picture (taken the next day) that he’s mostly OK, but the poor guy will need some time to get over his experience. And so will I!


As it turns out, today (Sunday), I was scheduled to preach about God’s healing. One of the tough issues there is that God’s healing often doesn’t come the way we want it to.

I’ve had times in my life when I’ve cried out to God, “Help me! Uppy!” – wondering where God was, feeling like God was either doing nothing or worse yet, part of the horrible thing that was happening to me. That’s how Johnny felt. He had no idea that what was happening to him was in his best interest. And I think that’s how it is with God. I think God works for the best for us, loves us, and stands beside us – even when we can’t figure out what’s happening or why.

We’ll never fully understand God, but we can know that God loves us, stands beside us, and works for the best for us. That ought to be enough to help us trust even when we’re wrapped up in the sheet with our heads covered and can’t figure out why. At least God is there with us comforting us.

That’s my consolation for the situation with Johnny too. At least I was there with him to comfort him as much as possible until he made it through that difficult experience and I could take him into my arms again.

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