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Blood was dripping from somewhere near my left eye. I was seven years old and lying face up on the kitchen table of our farm home. I wanted to sit up. Dad told me to lie still on the oilcloth that covered the table. Mom was at the wood stove waiting impatiently for a pan of water to boil. In her right hand was two feet of black sewing thread, doubled, with a small needle dangling from the end. Shortly, she would dip the needle and thread into the boiling water to sterilize them.
Dad was one of the calmest people I ever met. But not that day. He fidgeted nervously as he dabbed the blood running down the side of my face, mopping it up occasionally from the table. I understood he wanted to stitch the cut while the injury was still numb from shock. I couldn’t tell where the cut was exactly but my parents were visibly shaken. I was confused more than frightened. My left eye must be all right, I thought. I could see through it. So why the panic?
It would be a week before I was allowed to see what the bandage and an eye patch concealed. I realized later the eye patch was to keep me from picking at the bandage. Mom wouldn’t let me see the cut when she changed the dressings. My first look came when Dad used nail scissors to remove the stitches. It turned out, the cut was about ¾ of an inch below the lower eyelash – and eyeball – and more than an inch wide.
“A close call”, I was told later. “You were lucky.” They were right but being a kid, it’s easy to grow tired of hearing well-intentioned concerns.
I’ve always been grateful for Dad’s steady hand that day, and a great respect for those steely nerves that helped him complete the repair job with a skill that even a few physicians have admired over the years. And I’m even grateful for the unevenness of those bags under my eyes . . . and wonder sometimes whether I should have the right one done, too.
Emergency medical attention on a wilderness farm was a do-it-yourself thing, like almost everything else, half a century ago.
So, how did this happen? Well, it was all about children scuffling. It was my fault, really. I objected to my big sister being ‘in charge’ of me, and our little sister, when our parents weren’t around. That annoyance surfaced one day and I went chasing after her. She’d jumped on her bicycle, but not quite fast enough. I grabbed the bicycle seat and we both went down, me sliding over her and her bike. The carrier, once attached to her handlebars, was long gone leaving behind a bracket that had attached the carrier to supports hooked to the front axle. The sharp corner of the bracket caught my face just below the left eye.
Yeah, a close call indeed. And, yes, I was lucky . . . about the eye, but most of all I was very fortunate to have parents who knew just what to do and the grit to do it.
In her defense, my big sister really was terrific. She got hurt, too, that day and deserved some first aid. Hope she got it.
Photo Credits: Images courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“A Close Call” is Copyright 2014 By James Osborne. All Rights Reserved