The surgeon walked in the door looking like he’d just come from pumping iron in the hot sun. His rolled up sleeves showed off bronzed biceps that glistened with either sweat or tanning oil, and his thinning hair was gelled up on the top of late forties head. If he had walked into a bar I would have giggled with my friends, but this was no bar; I was in an emergency room holding my bloody 2-year-old son whose upper lip was split in two and partially hanging off.
George Hamilton (not his real name) put out a manicured hand, flashed a dazzling smile and said, “I’m the plastic surgeon they called in to look at your son.” He efficiently checked out my little boy who wailed, kicked and screamed during the 30 second exam. “He definitely needs stitches. And I’m definitely the one to do it.”
“I’m a little nervous about this. But you’ve done this kind of thing a million times, right?” I looked from Dr. George to my husband. “Right?”
Suddenly a cloud passed over George Hamilton’s face. His teeth even seemed to gray as he said darkly, “I don’t know anyone who’s done it a million times. A million times?? I can go out there and try to find another doctor who’s done it a million times.” He started breathing heavy and talking louder. “Do you want me to do that? Right now? Do you?”
“Uhhmmm,” I looked from my husband to the nurse who had just walked in. Both were trying not to look at me. As they searched for their happy place I said, “No.” He took a deep breath and walked out of the room.
“What the hell was that?” I asked the witnesses. “Oh,” said the nurse shaking her head and still not looking at me. “I’m sure he’s ….this is going to be fine. No problem. He’s a great plastic surgeon I’ve heard people say. Great. No problem.”
I looked at my husband. “He seemed like a nice guy,” Carl said. “What’s the problem?”
“That he seems crazy. You don’t think that was a little odd?” I asked patting my son on the back. After the large dose of pain killers, he was starting to doze off.
Dr. George came back in the room, as bright and sunny as the gold highlights streaked through his hair. “Okay, everyone, let’s talk about what we’re going to do here. First we put him under conscious sedation and then we do the stitches. Great! Any questions?”
“How do you do the conscious sedation? Is he going to feel it? How many stitches is he going to have? Will it hurt him?” I took a breath and went on. “Is he going to have a scar? Are the stitches the kind that dissolve or have to be taken out? Will he be able to…”
>Dr. George clapped his hands together and said, “Okay, great! I’ll go get everything ready and be right back.”
“But..” my voice trailed off as he left. A new nurse walked in to get a box of gloves from our room when she spotted my boy.
“Oh my God! What happened? Poor baby,” she came over for a closer look.
What did happen? I left my child and his brother at home to make the 2 hour drive to San Diego to take surfing lessons with my sister. I left him with a babysitter and drove far, far away to do something totally self indulgent; not only were we going surfing but we were going to out to dinner and maybe a movie. How could I do that!? (My sister and I are from the desert southwest for God’s sake; we shouldn’t even be in the water!)
“He fell off of his little red wagon face first onto the concrete.”
The nurse examined him and explained the procedure. My son would receive a shot in his arm that would put him out. He would be unconscious, but his eyes would be open. “I would never do that to my child,” she said.
“Why?” I asked, startled by her frankness.
“Because they’re unconscious, but their eyes are open. They lay there unable to move and you just have to wonder; will they ever wake up? It’s terrifying. I would just give him some Benadryl and hope he sleeps through the procedure.”
I stared at her as she walked out of the room.
Tomorrow Part 2