Connor yelped as he registered his feet, or rather the light gray slipper socks with white rubber dots that covered them. "What the hell?!"
To a young teen who favors ankle-high black Jordan or Nike socks, this was a traumatic event. Never mind the tube fed through his nostril to channel vomit from his stomach, or the blue trumpet in the other nostril to help him breathe, an IV in each arm, nodes regulating heart rate attached to his chest, oxygen monitor clipped to his finger, catheter in his penis. When the nurse asked him if anything hurt he moaned, "My throat and my wiener." Well, no duh.
Earlier my husband Matt had answered the phone but my son Andy asked for me. "Why's he asking for me?" I wondered. It turns out he wanted me to pick up his twin brother who was drunk. Steve asked what it was and I leaned back on the stairs so no one else could see, then held my thumb up to my mouth to show he'd been drinking. I was smiling a little, not that I wished my almost 14-year-old son would be drinking, just wryly thinking "here we go" as a mom of a young teenager.
When I got out of the car Connor lurched toward me and fell full weight in my arms. His eyes were rolling in his head and he was incoherent. A jolt of fear coursed through my body. I set him down on the ground and called Matt, "I think we need to take him to the E.R." Several of his friends were trying to ask him his name and get him to answer questions. Then I realized we wouldn't be taking him, he'd be going in an ambulance.
Despite my recent foot surgery, heart pounding I catapulted across the parking lot of the park, conveniently located next to the police station. Picking up the red emergency phone I shouted, "My son is drunk, drunker than I've ever seen anybody in my life!"
As my husband attended to Connor, who was moaning on the ground, I consoled his friends who were bawling and repeating, "Mrs. C, I don't want Connor to die!" I reassured them that once the medics arrived he'd be fine, that it would just be a matter of getting it out of the system. A girl I barely knew from their elementary school days came to hug and console me.
When I arrived at the ER they were already wheeling him to the xray room since he'd fallen down several times. I saw his hands fall to the side and shouted, "His hands, they're dry and cracked!"
"That's the least of his problems," they called back.
I heard him struggling and the staff shouting, "We're trying to help you!" Back in his room I saw they had cufffed his arms and ankles to keep him from bucking during the xray. He was naked, they'd cut off all his clothing which was covered in vomit, and his skin was ice cold. I pressed his cold feet on my belly as the nurses found warmed blankets and wrapped him up.
Despite the tube in his nostril to prevent it, thin yellow vomit burst through his nose and out his mouth I had to turn his head so he wouldn't choke. Struggling he kicked his legs and I had to hold them down. Over and over I kissed his head and held his hand when he tried to bat the tubes away from his face. Others might think I would be terrified and panicking. Worried though I was, more than anything I was in mom-mode. I wiped his face so the vomit wouldn't burn his skin and applied chapstick, thinking to myself, only I am doing this, only I am anticipating my child's needs.
When he finally awoke hours later, abruptly, without kindly easing the way in, I said, "You're in the hospital because you're drunk."
In a bewildered slurred voice he cried in panic, "What the fuck? I'm in the hospital! How did that happen?" Just what I wanted to know. "My hands hurt!" Satisfied that I, rather than the nurses, knew what he had needed I applied the only thing I had in my purse, antibiotic ointment with painkiller and he breathed a sigh of relief. He then drifted back into a stupor.
Into the fifth hour when the EMT's came to transport him to the Children's Hospital they shook him awake. He kept on saying he was sorry and ashamed, that he had disappointed me. Across the multiple tubes he repeatedly reached out to hug me. I urged him to relax and breathe and we would worry about the rest later.
Throughout the night whenever he awoke, he cried and hugged me some more and begged me not to get his friend in trouble, that his friend was a "good guy."
Throughout the next week my eyes would well up and Connor and I would reach for each other and hold each other tight. In pure neediness I also registered that until then, as he was growing into a young teen, we'd barely been hugging at all.
Meanwhile I'd forgotten about the impact this was having on his brother who'd watched him tumble, fall and pass out, who couldn't sleep all night thinking his twin would die....