Just about three years ago to the day, David had a nasty fall on his bike. He was eight years old and in the third grade. He and some friends were riding a few blocks away near where a bunch of boys always gathered to play football. The details are still sketchy, but apparently he must have hit a rock or something and flew face first over the handlebars.
Barry was outside when two of David’s friends came running home to tell him what happened. When he got down to the park path, a man who was either walking by or lived where it took place, had helped David start to walk back. We didn’t get his name, still have no clue who he is, but are grateful that he was thoughtful enough to stop and help.
When they got home I wasn’t prepared for what walked in the door. It wasn’t his bloody face, bruised eye, and swollen cheek that concerned me. It all looked fairly superficial, and any facial injury tends to bleed more than if the same thing occurred elsewhere on the body. Barry tends to panic, but was handling himself well. I calmly brought David into the bathroom and started to clean up his wounds. His wrist was badly contused as well.
Once I got him to stop crying, take some breaths, and settle down was when I grew concerned. He was clearly altered. At first he kept asking, “Did I pass out?” I answered that we weren’t sure, but it was possible. I must have answered it three times. Then he would ask other questions, I’d answer them, and then he’d repeat them again, over and over. I’m usually of a watch and wait mindset, but this time I decided we were going to the Emergency Room right away.
In Cameron’s five years on earth, he’d been a frequent flier at Children’s Hospital in downtown Minneapolis, so my car pretty much could drive itself there. That was a good thing because the conversation I had with David on the way was one of the most surreal, weird things I’ve ever experienced. I tried to find some quiet, mellow music on the radio to soothe him, but he just kept repeating things. “Did I pass out? Who helped me home? What happened? Did I fall off my bike?” I’d answer his question, then two seconds later he’d ask the exact same thing. Then he would throw in completely non-sensical oddball statements.
Once we got to the ER, he was run through some tests and a CT scan and all was clear, not even a concussion, which was obviously great news. Children’s is such a great place, and the nurses, the radiology tech, and the ER doc all made him feel so much better, other than a dumbass attending physician who passed us on the way to CT, who said, “Dude! That looks awful!”
By the next day David wasn’t so much upset about the pain, but by his appearance. He looked rough, like he’d gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. His eye was bloody red on the inside, black on the outside and nearly swollen shut, his whole face was tender and huge, he had cracks on his lip, big scabs and contusions all across the right side of his face.
I kept him home from school and he stayed inside all day. He was so worried about what everyone would say about his face, and despite our reassurances that no one would make fun of him, he just was so self-conscious about it. So I sent an e-mail to several of the parents in our neighborhood, giving them a brief explanation of what had happened, and just asking them to please tell their kids to be sensitive if they saw David, and not act shocked or recoil in horror, because it was very upsetting to him.
Everyone was so supportive and concerned about him. His baseball coach sent him a really kind note and a pack of baseball cards, some other friends brought brownies over, his grandparents had the flower shop deliver him a balloon and candy. We were finally able to coax him out of the house when some old neighbors dropped by to check in on him. I sent a note to his teachers and they all wished him well and promised that when he returned to school they’d make sure no one hassled him. But even with all of that abundant and genuine good will, what happened next still angers me, and is what I remember most.
I received a response to my e-mail from an unknown hotmail address.
Dear Jennifer and Barry,
We are all very happy to hear that David will be OK after his nasty bike accident. It can happen to anyone at anytime and it turns out he was very lucky.
I only hope that this unfortunate accident will now force your children to wear helmets at all times. This incident could have been much worse but possibly avoided altogether!
I am sorry but I felt I needed to send this message, the fact that your children do not wear helmets is a serious matter – I hope that this accident serves as a wakeup call and your kids , as well as the others in our neighborhood who do not wear helmets will now start wearing them.
Are you kidding me? Was this some sort of joke? As if I, as a parent, didn’t already feel terrible enough every time I saw my beautiful baby’s face, all bruised and battered, his sweet brown eyes looking up at me through bright red burst blood vessels? Do you think the thought hadn’t crossed my mind that maybe he should have been wearing a helmet? Do you think the doctors and nurses at the hospital hadn’t already brought it up? Did I not know that when I took him in for a follow-up visit with his pediatrician I’d be getting the same lecture? Barry’s mom was preparing for an extremely serious neck surgery in five days, we both worked full-time, and were trying to manage a household with four kids from ages 1 to 8. Barry and I already felt stressed and inadequate as parents. I hope it made whomever sent the note feel good to kick people when they were down.
I honestly don’t know what “friend” didn’t have the guts to approach us about these “concerns” directly. I fired off a pretty sharply worded reply, as did Barry, but no one ever responded or came forward. I’ve never been so appalled by the lack of compassion, class and decency from someone who obviously knew us, but felt the need to hide under a cloak of anonymity to fire off a such spineless and unproductive response.
Can you tell this still bothers me???
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011