It may not actually have been Einstein that said that. Maybe it was Nikola Tesla.
Anyway, our parenting equation is rather simple - 1) Mrs. Bastard and I are always there for our kids, or if we can't be, we make damned sure to have a responsible backup, 2) every decision we make is for the benefit of our children, 3) we do everything we can to keep our children safe. Very very simple. Take those three things and add them up and you get two very strict (and very effective) parents with two very sweet, very well-behaved, and very well-adjusted children. They're both also totally freaking adorable, but I can't really take credit for that - that's good luck more than anything else. Plus, they obviously get their looks from their mother.
We didn't read any parenting books and we essentially ignored much of the advice that we got from our parents (sorry MomBastard, DadBastard, and Bastards-in-law), and yet we are somehow doing a damned good job. I know this may seem like another Extol Doc's Virtues post, but it really isn't. Well, I guess up until now it is. But from now on it isn't. I swear. We aren't perfect parents - I yell a bit too much, Mrs. Bastard yells a bit too little - but we're good.
If only Aiden (not his real name™) had been so lucky.
I've said it many times before, but nothing good happens at 2 AM. This is true for adults, but even truer for teenagers. (As an aside, how can something be truer? If it is true, can something else be more true?) The only reason a 16-year old should be out at 2 AM is if he is working to support himself and/or his family. Otherwise they should all be in bed asleep, which is exactly where I was when my pager woke me to tell me I would be getting a Level 1 gunshot victim in 5 minutes.
When Aiden rolled through the door, my first impression was "Why the fuck isn't this kid in bed asleep on a school night? What the hell was he doing? Why the hell was he shot? Who did he piss off?" Fortunately my ever-so-slight drowsy haze had worn off, so I had the self-restraint to ask him none of those questions.
"Hey Doc," the medics began. "This is Aiden. He's 16, through-and-through gee ess double-you to the right thigh."
Indeed Aiden had two small holes in his leg - one just above the knee and one on the back of his mid thigh. But unlike in movies, it doesn't take a big hole to cause major problems. My first priority in cases like this is to see what was hit. There are lots of Very Important Things in the thigh (including 1) artery, 2) bone, 3) nerve, and 4) vein), so my job was to rule in (or out) injuries to all of them. Sure there's plenty of muscle in there too, but who the hell cares about that.
I was able to lift his leg without him screaming in pain, so I tentatively scratched bone off the list of Potentially Injured Things. I then placed my finger on the top of his foot to feel his pulse.
Wait, wait . . . his pulse? On his foot? Isn't the pulse on the wrist?
Yes, his pulse on his foot. I didn't know this before medical school either, but on the top of your foot there's a little bone protruding slightly (the first cuneiform, if you were wondering), and just towards the outside of this is the dorsalis pedis artery, which is one of two arteries that supplies blood to the foot. I put my finger there and felt . . . nothing. I then went to his posterior tibialis artery (the other aforementioned blood supply to the foot) which is just behind the bone on the inside of the ankle.
The pulses were strong in his other leg, so I knew we had a Big Problem. How big a problem was still up in the air since I hadn't yet addressed question 3, the nerve (much like the muscles, the vein isn't really a big issue). I touched his foot and asked him if he could feel it.
I asked him to move his toes.
SHIT. This had just gone from a Big Problem to a Really Big Problem.
Aiden was rushed down to the operating room where the vascular surgeon found exactly what we were all expecting to find - a lacerated superficial femoral artery and femoral nerve. My colleague was able to re-establish blood flow by doing a bypass graft, and we tried to piece the nerve back together as best we could.
While you may be thinking "Hey, at least you got blood flow back!", a well-perfused leg with no sensation and no movement is not a leg at all, and an amputation and prosthesis is usually more functional. Think of it as a bank with a top-of-the-line safe, a beautiful atrium, plenty of safety deposit boxes, and a vault full of money to lend . . . but no customers and no staff. It may look like a bank, but it is not a bank, just an empty, useless building. That is probably a terrible analogy, but it seems to have legs, so I'm running with it.
Har dee fucking har.
Horrible analogy and worse joke aside, Aiden's leg seemed like it would end up a useless appendage. Maybe. Time would tell if the nerve would heal.
When I went to see him the next morning and re-examine him, several female party goers were there. At least, that was my first impression. The two reeked of alcohol, marijuana and god-knows-what else, had on ridiculously long fake eyelashes and enough makeup to cover a clown car full of clowns, and were wearing mini-skirts that, if they were any shorter, would qualify as belts.
I figured they were Aiden's friends, though if I ever caught my daughter dressing like that I would immediately tell her to GO GET DRESSED. Neither of them had shown up overnight when, you know, their loved one was shot, because they were too busy "at the club", they told me.
I was somewhat stunned to find out that one of the girls was Aiden's teenage sister.
I was even more stunned to discover that the other one was his mother.
Actually I take that back - I've seen prostitutes better dressed than these two.
Am I being overly judgmental here? Perhaps. But keep in mind I'm not judging his mother based on how she was dressed, but rather on her actions: 1) not knowing what her young son was doing, and 2) getting high and drunk while not knowing what her young son was doing. And to be fair, Aiden was the one who put himself in the situation that got him shot. That was his doing, not his mother's. But overall it was a glaring circumstance of irresponsibility at its very worst by everyone involved, and Aiden almost lost his leg because of it.
Yes, almost. Fortunately Aiden's nerve decided to start healing, and by the time he left the hospital he was starting to move his toes and had some sensation back.
Perhaps my perspective will change when my children get older, but my actions will not. I will continue to be there for them, and whether they like it or not I will know where they are and who they are with at all times. I have friends and neighbours who have older children, so I know this is not only possible, but eminently doable. There will be times when they screw up, I know that. There will continue to be times when I am too strict and yell too much. But there will not be times when I screw up and ignore being a parent.
They are far too important for that.