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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Private ambulance


Mom said if kids got in accidents, the worst happened the first week of summer vacation, or the last.  That was mom psychology about the excitement of leaving school and the excitement of returning.  There were major kid accidents in my family, except for Jan.  She tells me that was because she watched and learned.  Being the last child saved her broken bones and stitches, according to her theory.  It did save her lickings. 

Walt was seven or eight when he broke his leg.  It got him a pair of crutches and a ride to and from school every day.  Walt fell from a neighbor’s tree; a reasonably acceptable excuse for breaking a leg. 

Mel broke his arm, which didn’t get him rides to school because it was summer.  It also cost him a two mile walk home holding his broken arm and then extra visits to the doctor to keep getting new casts as the swelling went down.  It swelled badly because he had been somewhere he shouldn’t, doing something he shouldn’t, and would only confess to a sore arm for a day or two, for which mom gave him a hot water bottle.

To anyone younger than sixty, this must sound rather primitive.  There was no 911 back then and I never remember seeing an ambulance anywhere as a child.  Parents took injured children to the doctor, to set broken bones, and to the emergency room for stitches.  I suppose to get an ambulance you dialed 0 for operator.

My two trips were for stitches.  I cleverly sliced an artery in the back of my hand doing supper dishes.  Blood spurted to the ceiling.  My dad came around the corner, took the dishtowel out of my brother’s hands, applied a tourniquet, wound it tight with a wooden spoon, called a neighbor to mind my brothers and took me to the emergency room.  The forty stitches in my leg (fell out of a tree) were equally low key.

My brother Mel should have received the award for childhood injuries.  As the doctor picked the shrapnel out of his left buttock he could only say he hadn’t seen an injury like that since World War II.  The details are fairly hazy as I don’t understand bombs.  Apparently all the neighborhood boys, my brothers included, pooled their caps, stuffed them into a length of pipe, did whatever is required to make it shoot straight ahead and gathered one afternoon to give it a go.  All the little heads bent over the cast iron pipe as it was ignited for its trip across two fields. It went nowhere, except around and around, shooting increasing numbers of sparks.

Run!  Everybody ran.  Mel ran the wrong way, not fast enough and the little device exploded, against his left buttock.  With the support of most of the crew he limped home, where he and Walt invented a fantastical tale of running and falling down that fell to pieces when he had to drop his drawers for a mother exam.  Leading to our wonderful old family doctor remarking on his luck and the extent of the injury as the poor kid lay on his belly and had shrapnel picked from his rear end.  Mel was eleven that summer.

The shrapnel incident closed the book on mom and dad as the ambulance, but only because all further escapades didn’t involve blood or bones.
Left to right:  crutches, stitches, ambulance driver, shrapnel
Foreground:  never had a licking

17 comments:

  1. I do not ever remember going to the hospital for any injuries, yet I was very active as a child. My brother once got stung by a hornet in the neck and my parents took him by cab to the hospital. Doctors did come to your house, but usually only treated illnesses.

    My grandchildren, on the other hand are constantly having injuries while playing on team sports. Right now three of of grandchildren are on crutches. One is just a sprain, and in my day, Mom would just wrap in up and tell me to suffer it up.

    Times change.

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    1. I forgot sprains and the ole Ace bandage!

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  2. My only childhood injury was a gash on my knee. My aunt was a nurse and was staying with us for a holiday...she sat me on the kitchen counter and held the wound together so that I wouldn't have to have stitches. I now have a small one inch scar. Thank you, aunty Naomi!
    Jane x

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    1. And I forgot butterfly bandages for all those cuts that could have used a couple of stitches.

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  3. Those were the days when kids knew how to have fun!! Your photo caption is priceless.

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  4. That was a wise wee woman who learned from everyone elses mistakes.

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  5. The only childhood injuries I remember were skinned up knees from falls on the cinder-covered driveway on the farm. Those cinders really hurt! I was not an active kid, for one, because I was the oldest and had to be in the house helping my mom a lot. Second, I was awkward and uncomfortable running, climbing etc. It wasn't until I was 50 that I learned I was born with hip dysplasia and had the joint replaced.

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    1. Wow, fifty years. I remember saying to my sister-in-law, that baby doesn't walk right. Hip dysplasia. At three years my niece spent first a year in a body cast and then another year in special shoes with a bar that spread her legs. We literally carried her everywhere. It worked and she's a beautiful woman.

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  6. Your poor brother. Makes my eyes water to think about it.

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  7. What was worst that the shrapnel in the butt was the changing of the dressing. Mom got the bandage on wrong side in once and that was not good. Poor Melvin. Speaking of "not got a lickin", I sure look unhappy trying to pick up that Easter purse. Think it was full of chocolate bunnies? NOT

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  8. I had plenty of childhood injuries but none would have been prevented by the safety suits parents are expected to dress their kids in these days...helmets, elbow and knee pads. Really, it's amazing kids learn anything these days. Broken nose from landing flat faced on the concrete after leaping off the steps, concussion from running in circles in the street and the family dog deciding that he would join me knocking me flat and knocking me out, broken toes and stitches from dropping a full heavy coke bottle on my foot, broken foot from swinging from the high ledge bookshelf with greasy fingers after having fried chicken for dinner. My parents were in Mexico when that one happened and the baby sitter didn't know what to do but wait til they got home. In her defense, we didn't know it was broken.

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  9. That sounds remarkably familiar. We were driven to the doctor/hospital after our mishaps. My youngest brother had stitches in his head at least four times after various confrontations. Three of the four of us were on crutches at the same time.
    I have had many, many stitches in my feet. The last one I was playing sport at school. I was barefoot as we all were. The teacher noticed some glass in the outfield so she carefully picked it up and put it near the wicket. Where I ran onto the base of the bottle, complete with jagged edges. When the school rang my mother she asked whether it was dripping or spurting (a fast drip) and calmly drove across town to get me. Fourteen stitches that time.

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  10. I was a bookworm as a kid; that kept me from having any emergency room-type injuries.

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  11. Wow! Your mother must have had nerves of steel by the time the little one was grown.

    You were right--no 911. Ambulances were for life-and-death stuff (mostly death).

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  12. I did a lot of sitting around reading, but I chose odd places to do it. Up in trees, on the roof in a dip between the gables, up on the chook house...I fell out of a tree once, in later years crashed my motorbike, yet in almost 60 years I've never broken a bone and the only stitches I've ever had were after surgery for varicose vein stripping at 30, then a hysterctomy at 37.
    My first baby was born with hip dysplasia, I was instructed to fold two nappies (diapers) together to make them thicker and to "frog leg" her hips when putting them on her, and visit the hospital clinic every week to see how the hip was progressing. If this treatment wasn't successful, they'd have to put her in the plaster. I was overjoyed when at 7 weeks, the hip was pronounced normal and I could dress her with just a single nappy. She grew up to be a dancer.

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  13. Your identification under the picture is a hoot :)

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  14. Plenty of injuries here. And 20 miles to the nearest doctor. My parents did lots of ambulance drives to town on 'iffy' roads. My brother cutting off the end of his finger. My sister breaking her hand over her 4-H calf's head. Another brother doing a header into several rolls of barbed wire. The same sister being trampled by her horse and needing hospitalization. Dad taking himself in for injecting himself with blackleg and for breaking his hand. It goes on and on. My major injury should have had stitches as well. Must be the quilter in us that we would end up with stitch-related injuries! Loved this post! Loved your caption. Classic!!!

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