The ambulance arrived and I noticed the first of many looks of pity we would experience that year. The scene they walked into was certainly one of desperation. A half-naked screaming child. A tear-stained, dumpy-looking mom trying, in vain, to comfort him.
Something about being strapped down on a gurney sent Justin into a new screaming fit that lasted the entire ambulance ride. But, you know, there is protocol. There was absolutely no consoling him. Although every fibre in my body wanted to rip those straps off and hold him, I sat by, helplessly abiding the rules and the nauseatingly bumpy ride. But not the EMT woman’s chatter. That was too much.
She asked me question after question. I turned and looked her in the eye. ‘I’m sorry. I cannot talk to you right now.’ Justin only hit me when I tried to console him so I gave up, closed my eyes and prayed. I think I will lose it if we don’t get their soon. I need this to be over. Help me. Help me. Help me. And then, after an achingly long forty-five minutes, it was.
We were met by a team of nurses as Justin was transferred to a bed upon arrival to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. More pitiful looks from EMT and then they were gone. Justin was screaming that his feet hurt. I interrupted a nurse who was asking me too many questions.
‘Please give my son pain killers. They would only give him Tylenol at Virtua. He needs something stronger. He needs it now.’
She spoke in a disapproving teacher-like tone that sounded as if I had just given the wrong answer. ‘He can have something after the doctor sees him.’
‘He needs something now! Do you understand me?’
The light was so bright in that room. Everything looked white to me. I felt dizzy. Justin continued to scream and hit anything he could reach.
She looked at me all wide-eyed and said; ‘Mom, I understand but the doctor will be in very soon.’
Why is she calling me mom and why won’t she listen to me? Why is she saying she understands? SHE doesn’t understand ANYTHING! ‘No! NOW!’ She left the room.
The doctor was there a second later. He put the stethoscope to Justin’s chest. Justin threw it off of him and hit the doctor’s arm. ‘He needs pain meds!’ Now I was yelling. Minutes later, Justin found relief in his first dose of oxycodone. And, mercifully, he slept.
The day passed in varying gruelling layers of pain, fear, exhaustion and desperate hope. More blood draws, more screaming, more drugs to dull pain and lull to sleep.