Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Recital: Ballet or Drama?

One of my favorite holiday events is the girls' Christmas recital. I eagerly anticipate watching the ballet, but this year's production was interrupted by drama.

Friday night before the recital, I was putting the finishing touches on supper as the girls played nearby in the family room. Suddenly I heard a crash and Mary Ashley's scream. "Girls, this is why we don't play with the ottoman," I scolded, barely looking up from my dinner preparations. (Oh, yeah -- mommy guilt about that now.) But then Mary Ashley started crying hysterically, shouting, "Blood, Mommy! There's blood!" So I called her to me, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the back of her head.

The girls had been playing with the ottoman, and when Mary Ashley tried to jump off, it flipped over and flung her into the fireplace hearth. The back of her head hit the edge with such force it chopped her hair off at the wound. She was bleeding profusely, the blood quickly soaking her hair and clothes. With Mary Ashley's long hair, it was difficult to assess the wound. I called for Joe, who quickly grabbed a towel and hopped in the car with Carson to speed her to the emergency room.

Christian, Emma and I sat at home, still dumbfounded by the sight we had just witnessed. On his way out the door, Joe urged me to get Emma ready for the recital.

Mary Ashley cried on the way to the hospital, but settled down when triage cleaned up the wound. Joe and Carson kept the mood light, and she giggled as they sat together in the waiting room.

At home, Christian led a prayer as he, Emma and I sat down to supper. "Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, take care of Mary Ashley," he pleaded. We ate quietly, painfully aware that half the places at our table were empty.

I helped Emma get dressed, pulled her hair into two ponytails and added rosey circles to her cheeks. Joe checked in. The doctor said Mary Ashley had a deep gash about 1.5 inches long. He would let me know more as details unfolded. She was calm and very cooperative.

Just as we were heading out the door, Joe texted me: "Cracked her skull." I called him immediately, and he urged me to let Emma dance with her class before going to the hospital.

So we headed to the recital, anticipation overshadowed by worry.

Emma's class took the stage first, and I wasn't sure how she would do without her big sister nearby. In the spring recital, I had smiled before the lights came up for each number to see Mary Ashley's silhouette taking Emma's hand and leading her to her spot on stage. Without her big sister's direction, I wasn't sure what Emma would do. But she walked onstage with the rest of her class and took her place centerstage. She looked out into the audience, not smiling, but not frozen either. She said her name when prompted, and knealt down to start the song.

I was so proud of my little Emma!

I know her heart was heavy with worry over her best friend, but she danced beautifully.

As her class descended the stage, I sent Christian down front to meet Emma so we could rush to the hospital. I checked in with Joe, and he said Mary Ashley would need staples to close the wound. The doctor wanted to keep Mary Ashley overnight to monitor for brain swelling. So we ran home to pack a few things for the night, then headed to the hospital.

Mary Ashley had just gotten into her hospital room when we arrived. Joe said getting the staples in was traumatic for him, Carson and Mary Ashley, but she settled down quickly once that was over. Mary Ashley looked so small sitting on the hospital bed, a knit cap covering her bandaged head. She smiled brightly when we entered, excited to show us the coloring book and crayons one of the nurses had given her. Still in her recital costume, Emma let Mary Ashley choose one of the gifts I had wrapped for the recital, and the girls opened their ballerina Barbies. We all lingered together for a while before Joe took the other children home and left me to spend the night with Mary Ashley.

I was so thankful to have some quiet time with my sweet girl. We snuggled on her bed together, coloring and chatting about the evening. Nurses checked in often throughout the night, doing neurological tests to make sure she was OK. They all doted on her, and one pronounced her the sweetest patient she had ever assessed. A CT scan in the morning revealed no swelling, so we were released about lunchtime on Saturday. Her doctor checked on her several times and said he could not believe the force of the trauma she had suffered, but also how calm and agreeable she was despite her injury. He told us this was a close call and we are very lucky, but I would say we are blessed. As a precaution, the doctor is sending us for a follow-up visit with a neurosurgeon at Birmingham Children's Hospital, but we expect to get a good report.

We appreciate the prayers and phone calls from friends who checked in on us during this ordeal. It was a frightening experience, and we are so very thankful that Mary Ashley is back home with us -- still her sweet, bubbly self. God is good. And we are grateful.

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