It was a perfectly ordinary day. The kids (3.5 year old Miss M, 2.5 year old Mr. C and 5 month old Mr. O) and I had gone to Costco to stock up on some favourite snacks; veggie straws, goldfish crackers, hummus, baby wipes and a few other things that weren’t on our list but NEEDED once we saw them. (The struggle of any Costco visit and the reason my husband affectionately refers to Costco as the $200 club.)
As a reward for good behaviour, I told Miss M and Mr. C that I would treat them to lunch in the Costco food court. They both asked for a hot dog and fries. Costco might be the only place on earth where you can buy lunch for 3 people for under $8 including drinks. It might also be the only place where you stock up on healthy, organic food and then buy your kids greasy fast food on the way out. I always chuckle at the irony.
With Mr. O sleeping soundly in his car seat in the shopping cart with our loot strategically packed around him, we made our way over to the overcrowded tables. By the time we filled our drinks and got our ketchup and drinking straws, a table opened up. I wasn’t moving overly quick since I was pushing a cart with a baby and a 2 year old in it with one hand while balancing a tray of hot dogs and French fries in the other. So, I pointed the table out to Miss M and told her to run over and sit down at it. It was only about 6 feet away but the place was jammed with people and if I tried to maneuver through with my cart of goods and humans, someone else would get to it first. She did it! Score! I gave her a high 5 as I put the tray down and pulled the fountain drinks from where I had propped them up in the back of the cart so they wouldn’t spill. Miss M and Mr. C were so excited to have a big, huge cup all to themselves! And I loved that they still haven’t clued in that I only put a splash of lemonade in each cup and then fill the rest with water! A Mommy Win!
I pulled Mr. C out of the shopping cart and let him choose a seat at the food court table. Then I unwrapped each hot dog and cut them in half horizontally so they would be less likely to choke if they swallowed a huge piece without chewing. I peeked in the cart to see Mr. O suckling away in his sleep and was quite pleased at how well the timing was working out. He should be waking up to eat in the next few minutes so I can feed him before we leave while my two ‘big kids’ finished their lunches.
We sat at our table and chatted about it being Grandad’s birthday and about making him a birthday card when we got home. The kids passed the paper cup of ketchup back and forth across the table as they ate their French fries. I can’t believe how quickly they are growing up. I absolutely adore watching them have real conversations with each other. Just as we were finishing up, Mr. O let out a little squeal from inside the cart. As I stood up to check on him, from the corner of my eye I saw 2.5 year old Mr. C lean forward to dip one of his fries in the ketchup he was sharing with his sister and then enthusiastically sit back on his seat. He leaned right back as he sat back expecting the back of the seat to catch him. Except there was no back on the seat. It was one of those fast food style tables with the 4 backless stools attached.
CRACK! was the sound of his head hitting the concrete floor. I whipped my head around to see him topple backwards off of the seat across from me, completely out of my reach, landing on the back of his head as his legs flew up in the air over his body. I gasped. The entire food court gasped. If you’ve been to Costco at lunch time, you know how busy it is but for a brief 3 seconds, that food court was quiet as everyone turned to see what the sound was only to find that it was my sweet boy in a pile on the floor.
The sound of his head hitting that floor sounding like a baseball bat hitting a ball. It sent chills up my spine and flipped my stomach as I leapt across the table to scoop him up. With all eyes on us, I grabbed him in my arms and pulled him up into my chest. He let out a huge scream, spitting the French fry out of his mouth and then started to cry. A loud, piercing cry that I had never heard come out of his little body ever before. Tears streamed down his face and he screamed “OUCH!!!! MOMMY!!!!!” as I lifted my hand up to feel his head. There was no blood but there was a bump that was approximately an inch wide and stood up at least an inch off of the back of his head. He yelped as I softly touched it.
Before I could even process what to do next, a lady ran over from the table in front of us and asked if I wanted ice. Hesitant to ask for help, I started to say that I would get it until I looked at my shocked 3.5 year old and baby sitting to either side of me as I held my sweet Mr. C on my lap. “YES!” I uttered and off she went, returning within seconds with a bag of ice which I promptly applied to the back of his head.
As I tried to calm him down, Miss M started to cry and Mr. O started to squeal in the shopping cart. He was hungry. A Costco employee ran over and sat down at our table and chatted with Miss M. She got her talking about what we had bought, what her brothers names were, what shows she liked to watch as I rocked and cuddled my little guy who was still screaming in pain. She said she wouldn’t be leaving until she knew we were okay. Fine by me.
Seeing me turn to look in at Mr. O in the cart, another lady came over and offered to rock him for me. She shushed and rocked the cart back and forth trying to calm him down for me so that I could focus on Mr. C.
People are good.
It was all such a blur and happened so fast. I wish I could have collected contact information for these 3 complete strangers who stopped what they were doing and ran over to help a mom in need. I tried to get Mr. C to speak. He started babbling jibberish which scared me but as he caught his breath he was able to muster out “My head really hurts, Mommy!” I know, Baby. We are going to get you checked out.
The kind lady rocking Mr. O asked me if he had a pacifier that she could give him to help me out. Unfortunately he doesn’t take one. He is just hungry and is exclusively breastfed so he was going to have to wait. The ladies who had run over to help me and the Costco employees who came to help offered to help me get the kids and our things to the car. Looking at my kids’ faces, I think they were a bit intimidated by the crowd that had gathered around us amidst the trauma so I politely assured them that I would be alright on my own and that I would be taking Mr. C to the hospital to get examined. They all agreed that this was a good idea and one lady reminded me not to let him fall asleep in case of a concussion which I greatly appreciated. I am trained in First Aid and deal with accidents at my work all the time but was not thinking clearly when it was MY baby boy who was hurt.
I loaded Mr. C into the cart and wanted to make sure he was okay to go in the car before I left. He was still pretty hysterical but calmed down when I passed him the giant bag of veggie straws from the back of the cart and opened it in his lap for him to hold. He thought that was pretty cool and dug his hand in to start snacking. Phewwwwf. If he can eat, he must be okay.
I started to clean up the disaster that was our table at this point but was stopped by an employee who told me to just go and that she would take care of it. I thanked her and started to cry. Not because my boy was hurt. I was running on adrenaline and had barely processed his injury but because I was so moved by the kindness of strangers. I wish I could thank them all for their help now that I can breathe.
I loaded the kids and our purchases into the car and then called my husband from the parking lot. Naturally, he asked what was going on since all 3 kids were crying from the backseat. I told him that Mr. C had hit his head really hard and asked if he could meet me at the hospital.
Miss M calmed down when I told her that Mr. C was going to be okay and asked if she could be my big helper. She smiled and nodded. I got her set up with the bag of ice and she held it on her little brother’s wound and assured him that he would be okay as I drove to the hospital. I was so proud as I glanced at them through the rear view mirror and saw her holding the ice tightly on his head while stroking his arm and telling him that he was going to be okay and that we were almost there. Poor Mr. O screamed his head off the whole way wondering why I wasn’t feeding him. “It won’t be long, Buddy! I’m sorry!” I yelled back to him.
Fortunately, Hubby arrived at the hospital just as I had got Mr. O buckled into the stroller, Miss M out of her car seat and was just trying to figure out how to carry Mr. C while pushing the stroller and holding Miss M’s hand. We made our way in like the circus that we are and I breastfed Mr. O while Hubby took Mr. C to be triaged. A sense of calmness fell over me. Probably because for the first time in 30 minutes, no one was crying. Mr. O was fed and content. Miss M was excited to play “I spy” in the Emergency Room waiting area (Side note: The hospital could really add a few more colours to their branding to help make future games of “I Spy” a little more interesting.) And, Mr. C was in the right place and happy to have his daddy there to cuddle him.
While holding a sleeping Mr. O, I tried to bring just Mr. C over to the registration desk but Miss M was not about to miss out on the action so all 5 of us and a stroller made our way over to the poor registration clerk. She was great and gave both toddlers stickers to keep them occupied while I got Mr. C registered.
Once his hospital bracelet was wrapped around his wrist with the right fruit shaped sticker attached, we found a place to sit and wait. It was busy. Miss M, Mr. O and I sat on one seat while Hubby and Mr. C sat in the next aisle. Mr. C whined because he didn’t want to wear a brscelet. Miss M cried because she didn’t get one. Yikes.
We got chatting with a couple who had been waiting over 3 hours to have their baby seen for projectile vomitting. I felt so bad for them and the others who seemed like they had been waiting forever. As someone on the other side was called in to the E.R., a lady who was sitting nearby called over to tell us that a couch had opened up where we could all sit together. We shifted over so we weren’t talking over people and bothering them. Miss M basically assumed the role of ‘candystriper’ and made her way around the cluster of chairs chatting with all of the people as they waited before sitting down and offering to let the lady beside her play her phonics game with her on my iPhone.
After waiting for about an hour, Hubby realized we had been parked in the drop-off area for longer than the time allowed. He went out to move our cars and took Miss M with him. As they left, Mr. C started asking about everything he could see. “What’s that for?” He said, pointing at the hand sanitizer dispenser. “That’s for cleaning the germs off of your hands.” He innocently looked down at his hands and decided he needed some to get all the germs off. A few people sitting near us chuckled.
As time passed, he started asking for his blankie. Unfortunately, I didn’t have his blanket with me. I wished so badly that I did but with only planning on a quick run to the store, I had only packed the bare necessities. Overhearing our conversation, a gentleman 2 seats down pulled a Spider-Man blanket out of his bag and offered to share it with him. Mr. C declined his gesture with a polite “No, Thank you!” but really enjoyed looking at his cool blanket.
A lady who had been sitting with us earlier sat down with a mask over her face. Mr. C pointed and asked why she was wearing a mask. I started to explain when she hopped out of her chair and offered an explanation. She also asked him if he wanted one and offered to take him over to the registration desk to get one while I was feeding Mr. O. I was hesitant at first since she was a complete stranger asking to take my 2 year old somewhere but she assured me that they were only going to the counter about 8 feet away and that they would be in clear view the whole time. I agreed and my heart pounded out of my chest as I watched my little boy walk away but he was only a few steps away and was happy to run back and show me his surgical mask with Mickey and Minnie printed on it.
He walked up and down the aisle showing each person his mask before deciding he was thirsty. I couldn’t blame him. It was so dry in the hospital and we left before he got to finish his extremely watered down lemonade. Since the vending machines were quite a distance down the hall, I told him that we would get him a drink once Daddy returned. I didn’t want to miss him being called in to the E.R. He didn’t like that answer. He started to cry saying that his head hurt and he was so thirsty. Again, I normally have snacks and drinks but since we were only running out for an hour, I wasn’t prepared.
Overhearing our conversation, the daddy of the sick little baby that we were sitting with when we first arrived, walked down and said “If it’s okay with your Mommy, you can have this! Is is alright, Mom?” as he offered an unopened bottle of cold apple juice from the vending machine. Wow! We graciously accepted the bottle of juice and my injured little boy squealed “Yay! Juice! Juice! Juice! Juice!” I tried to offer the man some money but he refused.
Again, people are good.
Mr. C sat down and asked for my phone so he could watch songs from Frozen. I pulled them up on YouTube and told him that he could listen as long as it wasn’t too loud. He started to turn the volume up as he played “Let it Go!” I asked him to turn it down and jokingly told him that it might not be everyone else’s favourite song. A lady across from us jumped in and said “Actually, I love ‘Let It Go!’ Her husband agreed. So did the ladies beside us. So Mr. C started a bit of a ‘ Let It Go’ singalong which really made him smile.
While it was unfortunate that our little guy got hurt, if there was ever a day to be at the E.R., today was it. There were so many kind people that helped to pass the time and make our wait a little easier.
When Mr. C was finally called in, I said that I would take him in with Mr. O while Hubby stayed in the waiting room with Miss M so we wouldn’t all be squished in the curtain-walled “rooms” of the E.R. Once we saw the Doctor the first time, I texted Hubby and said that we wouldn’t be long so if Miss M was getting restless, he could take her home. He responded saying that she didn’t want to leave. She wanted to make sure that her brother was okay. So sweet. Plus, she was having the time of her life.
The E.R. Doctor performed a neurological exam on Mr. C and saw no reason for concern. (Thank God!) He said he didn’t want to do a CT scan because of how much radiation Mr. C would be exposed to at just 2 years of age. He called it a mild concussion and said there would be no permanent damage. We were free to go home as long as we kept a close eye on him and woke him up every 3-4 hours. While happy to finally go home, Mr. C was pretty upset that the doctor didn’t put a bandaid on his head. He settled for having a Popsicle when we got home.
Two days later, Mr. C is back to his usual spunky self and I couldn’t be more grateful for his full recovery as well as the incredible kindness bestowed on us from a variety of complete strangers. Accidents happen. “It takes a village to raise a child.” From the bottom of our hearts, we are once again thankful for the help from the village. Whether it was getting a bag of ice at Costco, reassuring this mama that a trip to the E.R. was the right decision, or making conversation with a bored toddler in a waiting room, all of these people made an impact on our family and made this hectic experience easier to handle. While we may not get the opportunity to thank our helpers in person, we will be sure to pay it forward.
People are Good.