I gently held my daughter’s finger steady so I could have a good look. The other two kids came over to see also. The three of us were hunched over the finger.
“Ewwwww!” her sister whistled softly. I shot her a quick, nasty look. She stopped abruptly and pouted.
The barb was into the finger and the tip had managed to juuuuuuust break through the skin. Hmmm. I was gonna need some help….help holding her down at the very least!
“Darlin’? It’s gonna be OK.” I looked her into her eyes earnestly. Huge tears dripped from her baby blue eyes and her bottom lip trembled as she looked back at me. She nodded.
“And look at that!” I said as I held it up. “There’s not even a drop of blood!” I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head in wonder, like this was the most amazing thing ever! She nodded again and took a deep shuddering breath as she calmed down.
“Here’s the plan: we are gonna paddle back to camp. You are NOT gonna paddle. You are just gonna chill. When we get back to camp, I’m gonna take that fish hook out. OK? I will probably need a counselor to help me with that and I will also need some tools.”
I held her face in my hands and kissed her sad little cheeks. Then I swept her up and placed her gently in the center of the canoe. She sat there softly crying and holding her hand. My son scurried behind me, a half eaten sticky gummy shark still in his hand, and allowed me to place him in beside her. He sat facing the fish hook finger and joined in the soft crying. That would not do! I turned him around to face away from the finger and gently kissed his head.
“It’s OK buddy. It was an accident. No one is going to die. OK? Shhh.”
I gathered up the loose paddles and directed daughter number two to sit in the bow of the boat and told her she was going to be my helper. She nodded solemnly. I maneuvered the boat and gently stepped one foot into the stern and, getting my other shoe completely soaked, I pushed us off the rocky island. I balanced myself and pulled my dripping foot in. Then I plunged my paddle into the water. The boat thrust forward in the water. All three kids, unprepared for the force, were jostled and grabbed the gunnels of the canoe to steady themselves. My daughter at the bow of the boat turned to look at me, startled. I gave her a sheepish smile and plunged my paddle in again. I had us to the camp dock in under ten minutes!
I pulled up sideways at the dock and daughter number two got out and steadied the canoe so that her brother could get out, and then I followed after him. I directed daughter two to see if Nathan was still in the boathouse. As she went to look, I grabbed the stern of the boat and pulled it gently up onto the dock with daughter one still sitting in the boat, holding her finger. I picked her up and placed her on her feet. I turned over the canoe and placed it back into the pile. As I stood up, daughter two came around the corner pulling Nathan’s hand.
“Nathan! May I enlist your help please?” I asked as I pointed to the fish hook finger.
God bless Nathan. He looked at it the finger and nonplussed turned to me and asked, “What do you need, Anne?”
“I’ve been thinking maybe pliers and a wire cutter would do. Where can we get those?”
“Sounds like we need to talk to the maintenance guys. They would have all those tools in the maintenance hut.”
Ugh! My shoulders drooped and I made a face. I thought of running around camp trying to, first, even find some maintenance guys, and, then, would they have the key for the maintenance hut? God bless Nathan, cuz he must have read my thoughts.
“I will get a hold of the maintenance guys, get those tools, and meet you up in the Health office.”
“Ohmigod, I love you Nathan!”
I picked up daughter one and swung her onto my hip. The other two followed behind me and we climbed the stairs passed Ryan and Olivia who seemed to barely notice us. By the time I started up the stairs of the main house my thighs were burning again and my arms had now joined in the background as they ached from carrying an eight year old! With every step my soggy shoe burped out a little puddle of water. I was leaving a wet, muddy trail.
I got to the Health office, unlocked the door and plunked my daughter onto the examination table. I grabbed some cleaning solution, some hydrogen peroxide, some Bacitracin and some gauze. I pulled the lamp over close and turned the light on. The two other kids pulled up the the chairs in the office and sat in them. They were ready for the show.
As I got the items prepared as I considered my approach. I remembered back to my high school history class. Mr Young, a grizzled army veteran, gave a particularly gruesome lecture one day covering the various medieval weapons that were employed in war. He also discussed in great detail, much to the chagrin of some in the class, the traumatic wounds that each of these weapons would cause. In particular, I recalled him talking about some of the spearheads being constructed in such a way that, should anyone try to pull them out in the direction from which they came, that they would cause even more trauma and guarantee death. He pointed out that it was best to push the spear though, cut off the barbed end and then the handle of the spear could be removed.
Now, I was not dealing with any morbid trauma here, but I believed the same principle applied. The unfortunate part was that I was going to have to push the rest of the barb through the skin to the surface, cut off the barb and then pull the hook out back out…on an eight year old….who was my child. I started to get nervous.
I could hear Nathan before I saw him. He stomped up the back stairwell and I went out to intercept him as he was holding several rusty looking tools. I said a silent prayer of thanks for the modern miracle of the tetanus shot! I told him my plan.
“Could you please help me hold her down?” I pleaded.
“No problem. Let’s do this.”
With that, the feeling of nervousness seemed to wash away. Nathan gave me the tools and followed me into the office. He immediately went over to my daughter as she lay on the table and spoke words of comfort to her. I could hear them chatting as I examined the tools and selected the two that I thought would be most helpful. I took them over to the sink and attempted to wash them down with the cleaning fluid.
“OK Nathan. I am thinking if you have her look at you and help hold her arm steady, we can get this done.”
Nathan hopped to it and pulled the exam table out from the wall so he could have my daughter turn her face towards him. He reached across her and securely pinned her arm onto the table.
“OK. You are going to look at me and tell me all about your favorite parts of camp. While we talk, your Mum is going to take that hook out. OK?”
“Will it hurt Mummy?”
“Ya, it’ll hurt. But not as bad as when it went in, I don’t think.”
“Can you do it fast?”
“I’ll try pooks! OK, now look at Nathan.”
“So, aside from me being one of your canoeing instructors, what else do you like about canoeing class?” Nathan asked.
“The canoeing songs!” she answered. And with that Nathan started to sing the Backstreet Boys one (sung to the tune of “I want it that way.”), and the three kids began to chime in.
I used the pliers to drive the barb completely through the skin and then I waited for the reaction. I small well of blood formed. With this, all four of the singers abruptly stopped singing. My daughter flinched and started to cry.
“That’s the worst of it! Keep singing! It will help.” Nathan reassured her. Her face relaxed. Nathan started up again, singing slightly louder and slightly faster.
Now I switched to the wire cutters. I wrapped them around the hook just below the barb and, screwing up my face, I put pressure on the cutter with both hands and I snapped through the hook. The singing again stopped. The two audience members watched as the barbed end fell to the floor along with a couple of drops of blood. They looked slightly horrified. Nathan started up the song again, even louder and even faster and the two siblings joined in as they stared at the gore on the floor.
At this point I switched back to the pliers. I grabbed the base of the fish hook securely with the pliers in one hand and held her finger tightly with the other. I easily slid the hook out. Now the blood came pouring out. Nathan relaxed his grip on her arm. I poured some hydrogen peroxide on it, slapped the gauze over top and applied pressure. I raised her hand in victory!
“All done! Whew!” I shouted over top of the loud and frenetic singing. The singing stopped and then there was a beat of silence. Daughter one looked up at her hand, and for whatever reason, relief maybe?, started to giggle. Then Nathan started to laugh. Then we all joined in!
“Next time you want a piercing, go to the jewelery store!” Nathan told my daughter as he softly punched her arm. We all started to laugh again.
I placed the tools in the sink to wash. I then started to clean up the bloody mess on the floor as my daughter continued to hold pressure on her finger. I turned to Nathan.
“Nathan! Thank you so much! You are a saint! You were so much help. You made me feel so calm that I was able to get the job done!”
“No problem, Anne. I was glad to help. And, well, I am named after St. Nathaniel. He is the patron saint of nervousness, so I like to think I bring a calming presence with me in these situations.” He spread his arms out in a gesture that made me think of Jesus calming the seas.
“You sure did, and I am thankful for it!” I thought for a moment. “I guess they have a patron saint for everything, don’t they?”
“No kidding! St. Nathaniel is also the patron saint of Florentine cheese merchants. But I’m not sure that will ever come in handy for me!”