Stella felt especially bold on the playground. It was about two months ago, and she was playing on the jungle gym usually reserved for the big kids. I was proud of her, as she is typically very cautious about heights. But here she was, climbing up, up, up and sliding down. "I want to do it again!" she's scream in joy at the bottom. And she would do it again, and again.
She was happy, so I was happy. It's an easy formula to remember.
I had my backpack, with all my supplies in it, the diapers, et al. I turned my back for a second to put it on a bench and this is when disaster struck.
This time, you see, she didn't try to go down the normal slide, but the corkscrew slide. And she didn't really try to slide down it at all, but for some reason, WALK down it. I saw her, it was, as the cliche goes, in slow motion. She put her foot over the edge and moved forward. She gained no footing and then fell forward, falling down the slide. Her head hit the side of the slide, toward the bottom, with a horrifying thud.
I ran over to her, and picked her up. She cried, and cried and cried, hysterical.
I held her, terrified, ashamed, frantic. What to do, what to do? I had to see how she was. I tried to talk to her, no real response, just more tears. I kept trying to break through, but I could not.
Since I didn't know quite what to do I decided to see what there was to see. I gave her some milk, which she eventually drank. I offered her a snack which she did not want. Then, after a while, I put her back on the ground of the playground.
She wondered around and then moved to the little kids playground. She started to climb up the stairs and then slid down the little slide. She seemed okay actually, or so I hoped. I decided to wait and see.
After about five minutes I could see that things were not quite usual. She seemed dazed. I walked to her and asked her what color my blue shirt was. She took a moment. "White." She knows her colors real well, so this worried me. Then she said it was green.
That was it. I decided we had to go to the ER.
I picked her up and gently strapped her into her seat in the back of our car and drove to the ER room at the local Baptist hospital in Louisville, which is about two blocks from our apartment.
The wait was about a half hour, and in that time Stella seemed to come to, but I still couldn't be sure. You hear stories, you know? But, by the time we saw a doctor she seemed like normal. She could count to 10, as usual, and knew her colors. The doctor reassured me that these things happen, and it is a good thing that these playgrounds are made of plastic, because it greatly reduced the possibility of any real trauma happening to the head.
Relieved I drove home, but I feared the bill to come.
You see, last Spring we went to the ER in Brooklyn. We thought she had swallowed a hair beret, and when we told her doctor she said we had to take her to the hospital, now.
At the ER in Park Slope they took some X-Rays, and the like. It was involved, yes, but we weren't there all that long, and while we saw a couple of doctors we didn't take more than an hour and a half of anyone's time.
The x-rays found nothing, and we found the missing hair beret about two weeks later, under her crib. Ah well, but better safe than sorry.
The bill made me sorry, though. It was over $700, and this was after our insurance covered whatever it is that it is supposed to cover. It was $350 or so just for the doctors and $430 for the hospital itself. I do realize we got x-rays, but sheesh.
But what can you do? We paid it.
So imagine my fear when I saw the bill in the mail from Baptist in Louisville. How much are we going to get screwed this time? I opened the letter and my eyes popped, but not in the way I expected.
It was $18 freakin' dollars! This must be a mistake, a misprint, there must be a zero missing, or two! No, this was it, this is what we owed, with the same insurance plan, same everything.
Two weeks ago I mailed in my check for $18. And that's it, it's paid for.
Stella still won't go near the big corkscrew slide, but I don't mind. Later, when she's ready.