Vacationing in the ER

It may be invasive and uncomfortable, but it’s still the highlight of our trip.

Who knew colonoscopies could be so relaxing?

Of course, it helps that my sister, Rachael, and I aren’t the ones being violated. Instead, we’re waiting in recovery as our stepfather, Marty—high as a kite and eerily tolerable—comes down from the meds after letting his doctor get to fourth base.

We’re back in Ohio for the first time since our mother’s death, and with six young kids between us, this afternoon in outpatient surgery is the only real break we’ve had in a decade.

Not that it’s my first trip to the hospital during this visit.

We’re on vacation, after all.

The other day, my husband, Ben, suffocating from boredom after just two nights in Toledo, decided our year-old son’s blonde ringlets somehow weren’t masculine enough.

“He looks like a girl,” said Ben, as I folded Sam’s hand-me-down lavender footie jammies and put away his My Little Pony figurines.

“He needs a haircut.”

“Really?” I replied. “Because I’m not sure that’s the only thing undermining his manhood.”

Undeterred, Ben gathered up my only male heir and took him to Dale’s Barber Shop for his first-ever trim, convinced they were minutes away from creating a precious father-and-his-girly-son memory.

What could go wrong?

Quite a bit, apparently.

An hour later, Ben returned with a nearly bald pygmy bleeding from one ear.

“What happened?” I snapped, while scooping up the midget skinhead formerly known as my third born.

“Well, Dale’s not as young as he used to be,” Ben explained, pressing toilet paper against Sam’s head to stanch the flow.

“And his tremor isn’t getting any better.”

Busy calculating how long to withhold sex from my husband for turning our baby into G. Gordon Liddy, it took me a minute to notice Sam’s elbow.

His floppy, shouldn’t-bend-that-way elbow.

“Oh, my god! What’s wrong with his arm?” I yelled, by now planning to go ahead and install twin bunks in the master bedroom.

“Well, he does seem to be favoring it a little,” Ben replied sheepishly as he hoisted Sam’s now-dangling limb back up to an acceptable angle.

Sam, concentrating on the please-don’t-sue-me lollipop Dale had given him, didn’t seem to be in any pain, so we figured whatever had happened wasn’t particularly urgent.

Nauseating, yes. Life-threatening, no.

Still, this was vacation, so we bundled Sam into the car and headed for the local ER.

Two hours later, we had our diagnosis: Nursemaid’s elbow.

“It’s pretty common in toddlers,” said the earnest young doctor who didn’t seem like the type to call Child Protective Services.

“Little kids’ elbows can pop out of place really easily, so if you somehow pulled on his arm recently”—such as earlier this morning, when Ben had swung a delighted Sam around the yard, I didn’t interject—“it could’ve caused his joint to dislocate.”

Trying hard to forget the words “pop” and “out,” I got woozier as the doctor went on.

“Here, let me show you how to twist it back into place if it ever happens again.”

Preferring to rest my forehead on the exam room’s nice, cool tile floor instead, I ignored the rest of the demonstration and vowed to be fitted for a Loin Taser on the way out.

“Well, that wasn’t so bad,” Ben sighed as we drove back to my stepfather’s house.

“You’re right,” I conceded, watching a now-sleeping Sam holding his Dora the Explorer pillow with two working arms.

“And at least we’re done with the hospital.”

Which brings me back to today’s colonoscopy.

“Good news!” says the earnest young doctor reviewing Marty’s films. (Say what you will about Ohio doctors, they’re all young and earnest.)

“His colon is clean as a whistle, and you can take him home now. He’ll probably live to be 100!”

Or 50 years longer than most of our relatives.

“Are you sure you don’t need to do anything else?” I say, stalling for time. “Because we’re not in any hurry.”

Still high on fumes from five straight hours with no one fussing, puking, or otherwise oozing on us, Rachael and I are hoping to spend a few more minutes in this most sterile of Club Meds.

“No, really,” the doctor replies. “You can go.”

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