Thursday, July 07, 2005

Calm... then Chaos

It's been a while, hasn't it?

Well, back in mid June we were out of town-- and I mean WAY out of town. This was our annual sojourn to Amish country in western Wisconsin. No phones, no tv, no computer. Just me, Ryan and the kids. And a big ol' fireplace (in which Joseph built his first fire) in a lovely cottage on an organic farm.

Hikes, games of catch, books read alone and together. That about sums it up. The hammock photo takes me to that quiet place whenever I need to go back. And lately, that's been often...

Shortly after our return, two of my sisters and their children arrived for a week-long visit. Including Joseph and Evan, there were six kids in all. And four of these children were under 5-years old.

Did I mention that this was a week-long visit? Uh-huh.

I love my sisters-- the three of us are very close. But the events of their stay pushed all of our stress levels to the brink.

Let's start at the very beginning, shall we? Teresa and Marion (4 and 8 years my junior, respectively) completed their two-day drive from Massachusetts on Thursday, June 23rd. I should have known that the timing of their arrival would not bode well-- it was the 1-year anniversary of the tornado that came through our neighborhood, literally ripping mature trees out by the root just a half a block away. Marion (or "May") was here last year for that event. It was her first trip to Wisconsin.

And now here she was. Back again -- this time with Teresa and all their kids.

Soon after their arrival, Teresa was sitting on the dining room floor doing a jigsaw puzzle with Joseph and her 10-year old daughter, Alanna. I was chatting with May in the adjoining living room, and "The Littles" (as Teresa liked to call the younger kids) were scattered between the two rooms. Just as I turned to ask Teresa a question, I saw her 4-year old daughter Valerie, who was standing just a few feet from her mom, lean into our very old, very beautiful, antique floor lamp. And in almost the same instant, I saw the lamp go crashing down. This is the lamp Ryan got before he ever met me. The lamp with the extremely heavy glass shade.

For a split second I thought "Ryan's gonna freak." But only for a split second, because as I bounded into the dining room and looked from the fallen lamp to my sister, all thoughts of the lamp disappeared. Teresa was still sitting on the floor, surrounded by puzzle pieces, the lamp's glass shade, and the shattered remains of the broken bulb. The upper half of Teresa’s body was swaying in half circles, as if she were dizzy. And with one hand, she held the top left side of her head.

That's when I saw the blood.

It was pouring out from between her fingers, as she continued to hold the injured side of her head. Quickly, we went upstairs to the bathroom. She tipped her head over the sink– I guess hoping it wasn't that bad, and that if we just cleaned the wound it would be all right. But when she lifted her head, blood poured in frighteningly wide streaks down the side of her face.
For an instant, I froze.

"Help me," Teresa said in a voice that was both calm and full of fear.

Immediately I ran and got a clean dish cloth to put on top of the wound. I told her to hold it there.

"Call 911," was the next thing she said.

The folks at 911 asked lots of questions. It was hard to hear because the kids were completely losing it. Except for Joseph, that is. He was helping May try to keep the younger ones calm.

Alanna was nearly hysterical. You see, on top of having been seated next to her mother when the glass shade struck her, Alanna is deaf. Although she has two cochlear implants, she still sometimes misses a lot of what is happening around her, and for now, relies heavily on lip-reading. I can only imagine how frightening it must have been. To have witnessed such a gruesome-looking accident--involving her own mother-- and only be able to pick up bits and pieces of what was going on. She kept desperately calling out for her mother, crying "is she going to be all right? is she going to be all right?"

"Yes," I kept saying. But I wasn't so sure. As Teresa sat on our bench in the front hall, awaiting the arrival of the paramedics, she told me the left side of her face was going numb.

"Am I going to be all right?" she asked several times. I held her shoulders, looked into her face and answered in as firm a tone as I could muster, "yes, you're gonna be fine." But I was so damn scared. If she started vomiting, that would be bad. If she passed out, that would be very bad. Thank god, she did neither. And after the paramedics arrived, and examined the ugly looking, more than an inch-long gash, we were told that "yes, she's gonna be just fine."

Instead of an ambulance, I drove Teresa to the urgent care clinic, where a doctor confirmed the paramedics' prognosis.

The remainder of the week consisted of wound-checks, constantly feeding kids, some kid-friendly activities... but only a few moments when my sisters and I really got the chance to just hang out and visit.

On the eve of their departure, tempers flared between we three sisters over a disagreement that seemed so important at the time, but was soon made ridiculous after Teresa got a call from back home. It seems a young acquaintance of Alanna's -- a 10-year old girl who was also deaf -- had just died.

She choked on a fruit roll up. A goddamn fruit roll up. Dear. God.


Shannon said...

I had a visit from Jeff's Aunt, Uncle and Cousin for about a week...which turned into 2. Aside from Jeff's cousin catching a stomach virus the first night they were with us and puking all over our kitchen for hours, Jeff's Aunt fell all the way down the stairs (about 13 of them) and broke her ankle.

Ah what a lovely visit.

All that aside, those head wounds are a lot scarier than they tend to actually be because they bleed so profusely.

Glad to hear all was well...sort of.

Tekakwitha said...


Oh my god. That must have been very scary. I've taken first aid and cpr and am prepared (as much as I can be) for my OWN diabetic emergencies, but I've never had to act in a situation like that. I'm glad you were able to keep a level head and try to keep her calm. I'm also glad she's okay.

The thing about siblings is that no matter the argument, they are still family. Living with my brother really makes that apparent. We bicker about dishes, shoes left at the door, who gets to buy the next bottle of wine... but minutes later (okay, sometimes longer than that) it passes. I think it's harder for our third roommate than it is for us! :)


Tiffany said...

Sandra, I am so glad that your sister is alright. As I heard someone say once (a doctor no less lol) "Head wounds bleed like stink".

I hope you had a nice visit in spite of the general insanity and the incident with the lamp. As for the fruit roll-up...holy moly all I can do is shake my head in astonishment!


type1dad said...

Right there with you. Just got home from a week at the shore with my Mom and Dad, two sisters, brother and six kids counting my two. It takes most of the week to get comfortable enough to fight again. No blood this time though.