Child, Scalp, Laceration, Vacation – When the Patient is Your Son

If there were four words I was hoping to combine on our family vacation this past week, it is safe to assume they would not be the four listed above.

My 19 month-old son, Chance (aptly named), decided to take a header off a kitchen chair and struck the back of his head while we were cleaning up from dinner. There was the obligatory cry, always welcome with a head injury, and then the blood began. With his two sisters and my mom all crying “oh no, oh no,” I thought it was time to take a look.

It was a small laceration of about two centimeters to the back of the head. One I had seen thousands of times in the ER and typically closed with a couple staples. But here was the deal. I was on vacation. It wasn’t a serious head injury and I knew it would close by itself given some time.

So instead of a mid-vacation trip to the ER, my wife Amy, a nurse herself, bundled him up as we decided to take a walk, get some air and allow the emotions to dissipate a bit, both Chance’s and the rest of the family.

Then thoughts started running through my head. Am I a bad person for not taking my son to the ER or urgent care center to have someone else take a look? Do I really want to spend 1-2 hours having someone take care of something I know will probably take care of itself? Is it worth the cost to society for me to have his head stapled?

OK, the last one is a bit of a joke. But I did think of the thousands of decisions parents and individuals make whether to get something “checked out” to make sure it is nothing serious.

We had a distinct advantage in this equation. My wife and I are both medically trained. I’ve been doing this for long enough to know when something is serious and when it isn’t, most of the time.

There is running joke in our family about the response I typically give (and now parroted back to me on a regular basis) when asked a medical question: “It is probably a virus unless of course it’s not so if you are really worried about it perhaps you should see a doctor.” This response usually endears me to Amy who believes the distinct advantage of having an ER doc in the house is that I might actually give a medical opinion when called to do so.

Back to Chance. There was little chance (pun intended) that I was going to take him at 8:30 pm on a Saturday night for a trip to the ER. So we washed the wound, gave him a bath, cleared away the matted blood and put him to bed. Other than a few patches of dried blood on the pillowcase in the morning we seemed to have made the right decision. The real question is will he forgive me when he is old and bald and has an ugly looking scar on the back of his head? For that I will have to apologize, if of course I am still around.