TB, The Little Scamp and “The Greatest Medical System in the World” *TM

Quote of the Day:

A stitch in times saves nine.” –American proverb

A week ago Saturday the Little Scamp took a big spill. She split the skin open on her brow bone above her left eye. Her grandmothers were keeping her at the time, so they rushed her to the Emergency Room of a very well thought of hospital in an affluent, highly educated community to have the wound properly cleaned and closed. They didn’t have to wait very long, which was nice. And after providing TB’s insurance information and home address at least four different times (the bill must not be delayed), they saw a friendly young doctor. The friendly young doctor slapped some Dermabond (basically super glue) on the wound, admired the already blackening shiner and declared the child fit and fixed. Except that it turns out she was not fixed. He did a crappy job, otherwise known as “medical error” or sometimes the commission of “medical malpractice”. Two-thirds of the wound was not closed. But we DID get the bill for a hypothetical afternoon of proper treatment. They did, after all, have highly trained people with address-obtaining skills.

So yesterday we took the LS in to have the scabbing and scarring wound scraped out and re-treated. Basically she had to be re-wounded and stitched back up. It is the most routine of routine procedures, except with a frightened three-year old the doctors need to put her to sleep. The chances of anything terrible happening to a healthy child under anesthesia are remote. These odds did nothing to comfort me as I drove her to the doctor. I really can’t say anything more about that. Irrational, perhaps, but very real fears. They make me shudder even today as I reflect on how well everything went.

As we waited to be called back after the procedure was finished, I had an array of disconnected thoughts travellin’ through my brain:

  • How much I loathed all these medical personnel–docs and nurses–going about their day as if it was just another day at the office and not realizing they had the most important patient of their lives under their care for the next hour.
  • How much I loved and appreciated all these medical personnel–docs and nurses–for making the L.S. laugh and letting her listen to her own heartbeat and making her excited to wear her surgical mask and hat and for being well-trained and experienced and professional. As much as I disagree with their politics and as much as I fear and loathe the job they do, I have to say I like almost every medical professional I’ve ever known.
  • How the phrase “in stitches” is a damn dubious way to describe laughter, because stitches are in no way whatsoever humorous.
  • How funny the L.S. was when she got “drunk” on the medicine they gave her before taking her back. Looked a bit like her old man I’m afraid.
  • How pissed I was that lawyers get the most blame for runaway medical costs when that little pissant at the fine hospital just tripled the cost of the L.S.’s superficial injury. And that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be suing him for his malpractice. And that I’d rather just whip his ass for being lackadaisical with the most important ER patient he will ever see.
  • How perfect the L.S.’s blank stare was when the anesthesiologist was explaining to her the four quadrants of the heart and how the blood travels through them. Looked a bit like her old man I’m afraid.

The L.S. did fine, as I mentioned, and was back to her rambunctious, head-splittin’ ways by mid-afternoon, though with a bit more parental overprotection than usual. The stitches come out Monday.


For your enjoyment and edification:

The origination of “in stitches” from this page:


Laughing uproariously.


To be in stitches is to be in such a paroxysm of laughter as to be in physical pain. The allusion implicit in the phrase is to that of a sharp pain – like being pricked with a needle.

The phrase was first used by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, 1602.

If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourself into stitches, follow me. Yond gull Malvolio is turned heathen, a very renegado; for there is no Christian, that means to be saved by believing rightly, can ever believe such impossible passages of grossness. He’s in yellow stockings.

Despite the usage in Shakespeare, the phrase didn’t become established in the language and there are no other records of it until the 20th century. This entry in The Lowell Sun, in July 1914, is the earliest non-Shakesperian record that I can find:

“There’s a new face among the members in Ben Loring, a natural-born comedian, who seems to have no difficulty whatever in keeping his audience in stitches of laughter and glee.”

About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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7 Responses to TB, The Little Scamp and “The Greatest Medical System in the World” *TM

  1. Jessie Lou says:

    When IR came out of his medicinal haze from his wisdom teeth being extracted he was quite tearful. Gas at the dentist made him downright silly as I recall. He had his own injury right above the eyebrow back in 1993/94 when he got poked with a stick after being tackled playing football across the street – he was lucky his eye didn’t get poked out! He worried all the way to the hospital about the shot but decided the shot would be better than feeling the actual stitches. Parenthood is not for the faint of heart! Lucky for you – you operate well under pressure and have the gift of being able to calm someone down. My daddy was the same way, still is.

  2. Samsmama says:

    The most recent post on my very neglected blog features a picture of Sam and his first experience with sticthes. That was, of course, after the doctor tried to staple the wound shut. They didn’t “take”, and had to be pulled out. So, basically, Sam got his head stapled for the fun of it.

  3. Jessie Lou says:

    Painful for Sam! Ouch!

  4. Samsmama says:

    It was awful! He was wrapped in a sheet so he couldn’t flail about and we were holding him down while he screamed, “I can’t take this anymore!” All that for nothing. I’ll tell ya what, though, kid doesn’t jack around on his bunk bed anymore!

  5. Mac says:

    You are a good writer Ben, but I’m sure you know that already. Your story reminded me of my 7yo when she was still a baby. We were in the hospital (where we spent a lot of time as she caught RSV early on) and the floor nurses were having trouble getting the IV started. Poking and poking and poking the squalling child until I was ready to cry or kick someones ass. So, eventually they call the anesthesiologist on duty to come put it in. Well, this jackass walks into the room quite perturbed that his fairytale life has been interupted. He takes 5 seconds to start the IV and marches out of the room. I don’t think I have ever wanted to hand a complete stranger their ass as much as I wanted to that day with Mr. Attitude. I still might look him up. 🙂

  6. irvine redd says:

    I was telling my ladyfriend the other day about my stitches experience. The strange thing about it was that, sorry to contradict JL, I got while leaning over to pick up a football and never felt that vicious dead tree limb go into my head.

    I do remember balling my eye’s out, hysterically crying over fear of the needle. And, an area I can second JL on, my grandfather calmed me right down. He basically said get a hold of yourself, there’s nothing you can do about what the doctor will need to do. Perhaps that was when he passed that flame of logic onto me, in that moment of sheer terror. Ever since that has been my attitdue when I’m stressed out about something or when bad things happen, just calm down and get through it, because in the end what happens happens, and you just along for the ride.

    Congrats to the LS for getting through it, and to you for not murdering anyone at the hospital.

  7. Jessie Lou says:

    I knew it had to do with playing football – I should get some credit for that! Besides I had been sick all day long with some stomach virus when you came in with that wonderful news! I do remember right where we were on Market St. when Papa told you that – I can still see him turning his head to the side to tell you that while we sat in the backseat. Truer words were never spoken. How you get through the thing, whatever it may be, is what builds character.

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