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The Terrible Tale of the Two-Headed Toddler

How are you in a crisis?

One morning when the boys were two years old, I went to check on them in their cribs. Both boys were standing up, arms stretched out to me, so darn adorable with their matching feet pajamas and big gap-toothed smiles, keen and eager to start the day.

But wait, something wasn’t right. I did a double take. For a minute I thought I was trapped in a warped and nightmarish version of Sesame Street’s "One of These Things is Not Like the Other."

It appeared one of my twins had grown an extra head.

Overnight, he had developed a baseball-sized lump over his eye that was so large it squooshed his eye into a barely perceptible slit. It was terrifying to look at. The son in question was blissfully unaware. He just wanted to be sprung from his cage so he could resume his newest favorite activity, running. He stood there with his hands reaching out and his legs winding up for his big release—a happy, grinning Cyclops—literally blinded to the horror I was witnessing.

My first thought—after the screaming died down in my brain—was that he was bitten by a spider and I needed to get him to the ER stat.

I tend to be calm in the face of emergencies. I think it is a reaction born of surviving a childhood trapped in the middle of four high-spirited agents of chaos, otherwise known as . As the saying goes, “Never let them see you sweat. .” And so, when faced with a drama, my brain flips a switch and I become the most serene person you’ve ever met—despite the fact that the wheels in my head are exploding one by one. 

My … notsomuch.  He’s extremely good in a crisis; but he’s also very loud. You can HEAR his wheels exploding. And since I did not want to scare my blissfully giddy son into thinking something might be wrong with having two heads, I calmly woke my husband to prepare him.

“Husband,” I said. “There’s seems to be a small issue with Son #1 and I am going to take him to the emergency room.” I continued on, very no-nonsense-like as I quickly and efficiently gathered up my shoes and purse. “I think he might have been bitten by something and his eye is swollen. When you see him, smile … don’t scream.”

My husband snapped awake and, curious but not too worried, strolled into Son’s room. He seemed very orderly and quiet and I was proud of him and of my well-instructed …

OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOOD GOD!!!!

Here we go.

HIS EYE! HIS EYE!! WHERE THE HELL IS HIS EYE??!!

Both babies began screaming, every dog in the neighborhood started howling, and the shingles from the north side of our roof came crashing down.

CALL 911! CALL POISON CONTROL! OH MY GOD LOOK AT HIM!!! WHAT IS THAT??!! WHERE. IS. HIS. EEEEEYE??!!

This is why I am the designated driver to the ER.

My son returned home from the hospital a normal toddler once again—one head, two eyes, and legs that started sprinting the moment they hit the ground.

Fast forward four years to when the boys were six. It was just before bedtime and the boys were hopping around their bedroom like wind-up bunnies. My husband was watching television in the family room and I was at the kitchen table. I heard one son walk down the stairs and stand in the entranceway of the family room. He looked at Scott and held up his index finger in a studious fashion, a habit he had recently developed whenever he wanted to express a particularly important or profound point of view.

“Blood,” he said very resolutely with his finger firmly and unerringly pointed at the ceiling above, “is coming out of Wookey.”

Wookey, unfortunately, was his brother.

Now, I never knew this before, but apparently my husband hides a red cape under his tattered Red Sox tee, because at those words, he flew up the stairs like Superman and was in the kids’ bedroom before I even made it out of my chair.

“Adrienne,” he called gently, as calm as a summer lake. “Could you come up here please?”

And I knew it was bad. Super bad, because Scott is a reactor, a very loud reactor. I’m the calm one. If he is calm, then something has gone terribly wrong.

I tore up the stairs without even touching the treads (it seems we both had some hidden superpowers) and came upon my son, in shock, with a monstrous-sized gash that had opened up half his forehead. Said gash was gushing blood, and at that sight I froze.

My son had tripped over a toy and fallen temple first onto the ancient cast iron radiator.

My husband was using a blanket to staunch the flow and my son was content in his arms. All four of us were freakishly quiet, with not a scream to be heard or even a curse word errantly muttered. (And believe you me, this is not our standard MO. There is a reason we are known far and wide as the loud family.) On this day, however, without a word to each other, we grabbed the kids and some towels and sped to the ER.

Many stitches later, Wookey was just fine, with no lasting damage other than a cool white scar dividing his left eyebrow. Scott and I survived too, with only a few new nervous tics to add to our already jittery and jerky collection.

It’s funny how we react in emergencies… Scott and I vary somewhat from drama to , but for the most part, I’m the quiet, orderly one and he’s the father heard round the world, slamming purposefully from task to task. If we can, we get to the ER on our own steam, but we’re not hesitant to call 911 when we need to.

How about you? Are you the calm one, or are you the I-have-a-voicebox-and- I’m-not-afraid-to-use-it kind of responder? Do you freeze, unable to process thought, or do you snap into action like the cast of "Gray’s Anatomy"? Are you a call-911-no-matter-what type of person, or are you a pack-em-up-and-ship-em-out-as- fast-as-you-can-to-the-ER parent?

noni January 16, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I read this as I'm listening to the sirens of the fire on Beacon. I can see the smoke. It reminds me that we all need to have emergency plans in place ... CPR courses are vital as well. My thoughts are with the folks displaced and injured ...
Priscilla George January 16, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Your husband cracks me up!
Wendy Schapiro January 16, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Your tales are just a delight to read, Adrienne- they actually make me long for the days when my kids were younger. Our one and only trip to the ER occurred when the cat tried to jump gracefully from the bunk bed to the back of my son's chair, and my son made the mistake of putting his face in the middle of said leap. As you now know, faces bleed. A lot. And I discovered that the sight of my children's blood- be it from a wound or a bloody nose, makes me far too woozy to drive. The kids' dad is an Urgent Care doc, but of course this didn't occur when he was HOME, so we were very lucky that we had a friend living with us at the time who was able to tackle the driving when I was unable to do so. I was just lucky that there was no vomiting because then NOBODY would have been able to do a thing. Hahaha!
brooklineparent January 16, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Great read, Adrienne...All parents can relate to this....I'm typically calm in a crisis, except if the crisis happens to be that no one can agree on what to eat and I'm starving. Then, it can get ugly. :-)
Adrienne Kerman January 17, 2012 at 06:37 PM
So funny, Wendy ... how fortunate you are to have a doctor in the house, he'd never get any rest at our house! :-) Have a great week!

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