Category Archives: emergency

Hi, this is Tom from camp.

My cell phone rings.  I don’t recognize the number, but I answer it anyway.

Me: Hello.

A man: Hi, this is Tom from camp.

Who is Tom from camp?  Neither kids have a counselor, junior counselor, or CIT named Tom.  I also know most of the camp administrators’ names and Tom isn’t one of them.  Who is Tom?

Tom: Hi, this is Tom from camp.  I’m the medic.

Do you know when the phone rings early in the morning or late at night and it’s your parents phone number on the caller ID and you wonder, Fuck, what’s wrong?  Or, when the phone rings in the middle of the day and it’s your kids’ school on the caller ID and you think, Oh shit.  That’s what this phone call from Tom the medic at camp feels like except the heart-racing, palm-sweating, and nail-biting part doesn’t come until after I hear the word “medic.”

Tom: Hi, this is Tom from camp.  I’m the medic.  I have Dylan here with me.

He has Dylan.  Not Riley.  Good.  Dylan.  Not good.  Dylan.  My Dylan.  My Monkey.  My Pickle.

Tom: Hi, this is Tom from camp.  I’m the medic.  I have Dylan here with me.  He’s okay.

He’s okay.  If he’s okay then why is Tom the medic from camp calling me?

Tom: Hi, this is Tom from camp.  I’m the medic. I have Dylan here with me.  He cut his finger.

He cut his finger.  He didn’t break his arm.  Or his leg.  Or his elbow.  Or his foot.  He didn’t hit his head.  He doesn’t have a concussion.  Or does he?  No, he cut his finger.  Did he cut his finger off?  Is it lost?  Did they find it and put it on ice?  Maybe it’s hanging by a thread.  Will they be able to reattach it?  Will there be nerve damage?  Which finger is it?  Is it his writing hand?  Oh my God.  We have so many bleeping summer homework assignments that involve writing that we haven’t done yet.  Maybe we can get a doctor’s note.  Maybe we won’t have to write book reports and paragraphs about meeting aliens. His finger is cut.  His finger is cut?  His finger is cut!

Tom: Hi, this is Tom from camp.  I’m the medic. I have Dylan here with me.  He cut his finger.  He’s okay, but…


Tom: Hi, this is Tom from camp.  I’m the medic. I have Dylan here with me.  He cut his finger.  He’s okay, but we can’t stop the bleeding.

Can’t. Stop. The. Bleeding.

Tom: Hi, this is Tom from camp.  I’m the medic. I have Dylan here with me.  He cut his finger.  He’s okay, but we can’t stop the bleeding.  He might need a few stitches.

Me: I’m on my way.

When the call came, I was in the car and only about five minutes away from camp.  On the short drive, I called my pediatrician’s office to see if I should take him there or elsewhere.  “Elsewhere,” they said.  Then, I called Mike to fill him in.  Then, I called two Mama friends to see if they had an opinion on which ER I should take him to.  Neither answered the phone.  Bugger.  Then, I called back the pediatrician’s office to ask them if they had an opinion on where to take him.  They didn’t.  Then, I began to cry.

A little over two years ago, Riley face-planted on a handicapped ramp at our preschool.  I was right there when it happened.  I handled it, but not particularly well.  In fact, I have nothing but regret about the whole thing (i.e. I was a hot Mama mess.)  I remember hearing countless stories about people who ran toward the bombing victims at the Boston Marathon and took off their own clothing to make tourniquets for the injured.  When Riley fell (and bled and bled and bled), I did no such thing.  Instead, I was like the Mama in Arizona who pulled her daughter out from the bottom of the swimming pool and then ran around the yard screaming like a maniac.

This time, though, was different.  I knew Dylan was okay.  Tom told me as much.  I made a plan and mentally prepared myself for the impending anguish of shots and stitches, and, remarkably, the whole thing felt completely doable.  The crying was because my six-year-old boy hurt himself.  Because I imagined the blood scared him.  Because I wasn’t there to hold him and kiss his face and say, “It’s okay, Mommy’s here.  It’s okay.  You’re okay.”  Because I wasn’t there.  Because I’m his Mama.

That’s why I cried.

In life – and in writing – I search for truth and lessons.

The truth is that what happened once I finally got to camp is far less important that what happened when Tom the medic from camp called and said, “Hi, this is Tom from camp.  I’m the medic. I have Dylan here with me.  He cut his finger.  He’s okay, but we can’t stop the bleeding.  He might need a few stitches.”  I stayed calm.  I kept my cool.   I was practical and pragmatic, and I’m proud of myself for being able to hold Dylan’s hand without needing someone to hold mine.

The lesson is that just because I’ve been “that” Mama – the one running around screaming like a maniac – it doesn’t define me.  Parenting is a daily practice, and every day is a new opportunity to change or do better or do different.  Every day is another chance to make a tourniquet out of a t-shirt…or something like that.

The first thing I noticed when I finally locked eyes with my sweet boy and his finger wrapped heavily with gauze and bandages was that despite the severity of the wound, he was quite capable of sucking on a cherry red ice pop while surrounded by several doting female camp counselors.  (Well played, Dylan.  Well played.)

The rest of story unfolded like most of the adventures I have with my boys.  There was good news (Glue instead of stitches!), bad news (The glue didn’t stick! Neither did the Steri-strip!), and lots of comic relief.

Riley set off the alarm at the first ER (yes, there were two ER visits) when he accidentally pulled the emergency string next to the toilet while he was pooping. Of course he had to poop while Dylan screamed in triage.  My kids poop everywhere.  Riley asked for privacy, so I was sitting with (screaming) Dylan across the hall from the bathroom when half a dozen medical professionals stormed in to save a patient in trouble only to find Riley sitting on the john doing his business while humming with his hand on the string.  Of course!

Naturally, there were a few priceless conversations, too.  At the second ER visit (after the glue peeled off prematurely), Dylan leaned over to me and said, “Mommy, I want to see dead people.”  (Speechless?  I was, too.)  It just so happens that Dylan’s cut is on his middle finger.  As a result, he has inadvertently flipped the bird to every Tom, Dick, and Harry he’s encountered over the last week in order to properly show off his injury.  My husband explained that showing someone just the middle finger is a mean gesture, so, needless to say, he’s obsessed.  A few days ago, when Riley told us that someone pushed him at camp, Dylan gave him an invaluable piece of advice.  He said, “Riley, if someone pushes you, you don’t have to push him back.  You can just show him your middle finger.”

Now if the phone rings in the middle of the day and the number is from camp or school, I’ll have to wonder, among countless other catastrophes, if it’s because Dylan has given someone a one-finger salute.

Thanks for the call, Tom!


Filed under aha moment, emergency, going to the doctor


A few months ago, I received in an invitation to attend a CPR training class at Fort Lauderdale-based One Beat CPR. Wow! How exciting! I’ve always wanted to be on the pulse (pun intended!) of what’s new, hip, and exciting for kids, parents, and especially Mamas. Okay, so it wasn’t an invitation to check out a new kid-friendly gastropub, a family-friendly resort, or a Mama-friendly wine bar, but it didn’t take me long to realize it was a hugely important event to attend. Here’s why.

I have two children, both of whom I’m finally willing to admit I’m responsible for keeping safe and alive, which is no small feat considering these crazy monkeys spend most of their time stumbling toward disaster. I haven’t been to the emergency room (yet) with my kids, but we came pretty close when Riley face planted in the cement after tumbling down a wheelchair ramp a few years ago.

I’ve taken two infant CPR classes – one before each kid was born – and here’s the thing. Within five four three two minutes of leaving each class, I realized I absorbed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. It was too much information, it was too complicated, there was too much at stake (my baby?), and there was a lot of denial (that will never happen to me). I hope I’m not alone in admitting that I just figured if ever something happened, I’d call 911, which I’ve since learned is foolish. In the best of circumstances, it can take 4-6 life-saving (or life-losing) minutes for emergency responders to arrive.

These days, if my kids are about to jump in the pool or eat food with a statistically higher chance of resulting in choking than, say, ice cream, I go down a comprehensive checklist of protective measures that includes:

  1. “Don’t drown.”
  2. “Don’t choke.”

That’s it. (It’s hardly Mama of the Year material, but at least I’m honest.)

So, when One Beat CPR invited me to their headquarters, I jumped at the chance to brush up on my (totally and completely non-existent) life-saving skills. I’m not going to go into too much detail about CPR technique here, because even though I learned a lot about the steps and procedures involved (in a refreshing and entertaining manner), what struck me as the most important takeaways from the course actually had little to do with steps and procedures. Here goes…

Clinical experience matters. I am head over heels in love with One Beat CPR, and it’s not just because the folks who run it are strong, funny, and handsome firefighter/paramedic/police officers with heroic stories to tell. (But maybe a little bit.) It’s because they started One Beat CPR after personal experiences propelled them to dedicate their lives to making a difference. One Beat CPR’s founder, Lon Rosen, kept his two-week-old – yes, two-week-old – daughter alive by breathing for her when she was rushed to the hospital with a misdiagnosed congenital heart condition. She’s alive today because her father knew how to administer CPR.

One Beat CPR’s mission has nothing to do with a bottom line; rather, it’s deeply personal. The instructors have clinical experience with CPR. In other words, they’ve done real CPR on real people – perfect strangers and loved ones. They confront life and, unfortunately, death every single day. I’m stealing a line from Usher here (I heard him say it on “The Voice”) when I say their hard work is their “heartwork.”

There is no wrong way to do CPR. Brian, our instructor, told us a story of a little girl who fell in her backyard swimming pool. The mother discovered her at the bottom of the pool, dove in to get her, pulled her out of the water, and then ran around the yard screaming like a lunatic. The older brother, around nine years old, who had been inside playing video games, heard the commotion and walked outside. When he saw his sister on the ground, he straddled her and pounded her chest with his fists. Eventually, she coughed water and began breathing.

Nothing about what the boy did to his sister would ever be taught in a CPR class, but he did something (vs. nothing) and he saved her life. In a nutshell, if you’ve watched a couple of seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” you probably know enough about CPR and/or the Heimlich maneuver to help someone in trouble. Doing something – anything – is better than doing nothing. (And, by the way, in the state of Florida and probably in most other states, there are good Samaritan laws that prevent citizens from being sued for attempting to save a life.)

There is no wrong way to do the Heimlich maneuver either. Brian told us that in ten years of teaching, he’d never met anyone – with or without certification – who failed to save a life with the Heimlich maneuver. Did some of those people do it without proper technique? Yup. Did some of them injure the person in the process? Yup. Did they save a life every single time? You betcha.

There is a standard CPR technique…but, does it matter if you lose count and do 20 compressions instead of 30 or do three breaths instead of two? NO. If you do something, you’re doing it right. Sounds like some excellent Runaway Mama Math to me!

You don’t have to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to administer successful CPR. Listen, if it’s your kid, a friend, or a family member, you should probably risk the cooties, but it’s legitimate to be concerned about illness and disease as a result of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In fact, it’s the one of the top reasons people decide not to get involved. The good news is that you can administer successful CPR solely with compressions (remember doing something is better than doing nothing), and if you take a training course with One Beat CPR, they’ll give you a special plastic mask in a cute little pouch on a key ring that can be placed over a victim’s mouth so you can administer breaths.



Defibrillators are NOT scary. Although defibrillators look daunting, they’re actually way more user-friendly than the universal remote control in my family room.


Insert dramatic music → HERE

You literally press a button and the machine tells you exactly what to do and how to do it. There are even illustrations. It’s like having a one-on-one conversation with Dr. McDreamy while reading directions to put something together from Ikea. Sort of.

After the two-hour course, I left One Beat CPR with some swag…


…a CPR mask, and the confidence to hopefully not run around my yard like a lunatic should I be faced with an emergency. Am I trolling the streets looking for lives to save? Hell no. But I feel EMPOWERED. I feel like I can do something besides say, “Don’t choke,” and that’s pretty awesome.

I’m certifiable in a lot of ways (my husband will attest to that), but I’m also officially certified in CPR.


What can you do?

Take a CPR class. Find a CPR course taught by people with clinical experience. South Florida folks can contact One Beat CPR. I’ve also been told that One Beat CPR has affiliations with groups just like them all across the country. So even if you’re in Massachusetts or Montana, contact One Beat CPR and they can help put you in touch with someone local to you.

Learn the safety measures in place at your kids’ daycare or school. School’s out, but when your kids go back in the fall, find out about their emergency procedures. Ask if the teachers are certified in CPR. (They’re supposed to be.) Also, find out where your school keeps the defibrillator. (They’re supposed to have one.)

Organize a CPR training session for your school, friends, etc. I often volunteer in my son’s classroom, and there were a few occasions during the year when I was alone with twenty kids eating lunch. What would I have done had something happened under my watch? In the fall, I plan to advocate for a mandatory CPR training course for volunteers.

Who else? Where else? Does your babysitter know CPR? Does the sports organization or park where your kids play soccer (or fill in the blank) have a defibrillator on site? Are the coaches and referees certified in CPR? This summer, my kids are at a day camp with a full-time on-site paramedic. Phew. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to demand answers…and change.

Thank you, One Beat CPR!

p.s. Kid-friendly gastropubs, family-friendly resorts, and Mama-friendly wine bars can reach me at therunawaymama (at) gmail (dot) com.


Filed under emergency, motherhood