You’re not really gonna believe this one.

Back in the winter, during those long dark days spent cooped up in the hospital, Austin announced that when his PICC line was removed he wanted to go to Kalahari. No, not Africa; the “world’s largest indoor water park” located about an hour west of us. We’ve been for each of the past two summers with Mark’s family and so again planned a Gallagher outing for this week.

We arrived Tuesday afternoon and the boys quickly immersed themselves in the relatively small outdoor water slides (Braedan not being brave enough and Austin not tall enough for the more serious slides inside). After two hours of watching them climb up the steps and zoom down the slide, emerging from the tunnel with shouts of “Again! Again!,” Mark and I stood in the ten inch deep water with beers in our hands and commented on how lucky (again) we were to be there. “This is Austin’s victory parade,” we said as he whizzed past us for one more trip down the slide.

Then we dragged them back to the room for some dinner and were sitting out on the balcony looking over the restaurant options. I, of course, was most concerned with keeping Austin hydrated and had poured each boy a full glass of cranberry juice in the only glasses I could find which were, well, glass. And then Austin tripped, on something invisible, and fell forward on the concrete balcony floor, without thinking to release his grip on that drinking glass.

My initial reaction was annoyance that he had broken a glass, until I glanced up into Mark’s usually calm face and saw that something was definitely not right. I scrambled over the chairs to avoid the shards of glass, grabbed a bath towel and, as I quickly wrapped it around Austin’s hand, my heart sank. This was no small scrape, no minor abrasion easily remedied with a BandAid and Neosporin. No, no, his right ring finger was sliced (“filleted” the doctor later said) from base to tip, down to what appeared to be bone, skin dangling precariously from the top. And blood everywhere.

Here we go again.

I held my poor screaming child in my arms and tried to slow the flood of red seeping through towel after towel, while Mark called guest services to request medical attention. Finally, the EMT, whose job usually consists of swimming accidents, arrived and removed the towel (ouch) to briefly reveal this horribly mangled finger, not really looking like a  finger at all. He managed to wrap it tightly enough to stop the bleeding and called an ambulance, our first ride ever, to take us to the local hospital.

Austin was a trooper, laying back on that stretcher and looking in quiet wonder at the inside of a vehicle revered in the imaginations of young boys everywhere. And you should have seen the look on everyone’s faces, first the EMT, then the ambulance team, and finally the nurses and doctors in the ER of Firelands Regional Medical Center, when they asked, “Other than this incident, is he fine and healthy?” “Weeeeellllllll, . . .”

So, anyway, Mark met us at the hospital where Austin received a whooping 42 stitches in his right hand. Forty-two! Mostly on the ring finger, but also his pinkie and three on his palm. It was a long and tough process, with necessary but painful shots of Novocaine administered with a seriously huge needle right where he was most tender. It kept wearing off, prompting sudden and loud screams from a mostly calm Austin, then followed by additional shots followed by additional screams.

Mark and I found ourselves in a strangely familiar situation, hovering over Austin, singing in his ear, trying to distract and amuse while he lay on a hospital bed having terrible things done to him by strangers, all the while hushing him and sweetly reassuring him that this was for his own good. It was sadly typical for the three of us, a dance we know the moves to all too well.

But we made it, yet again. Mark and I were both wowed by the clean and calm atmosphere of the emergency room, quite a bit different from our own city hospital. We were back at the resort shortly after 10 to retrieve Braedan who had happily gone to dinner with his grandparents and, in a display of true brotherly affection, had saved half a grilled cheese for a very hungry Austin.  Thanks to a dose of Tylenol with codeine, both boys were asleep by 11, leaving Mark and I to sit on stools at the kitchenette counter with wine and room-service pizza.

Of course, Austin was instructed not to get his hand wet, which is something of a bummer when you’re at a water park. The EMT had met us upon our return with plastic cups, an enormous stuffed tiger and two credit cards loaded with tokens for the game room. So Wednesday morning we awoke with plans to play indoors all day and maybe take a trip to the nearby wildlife safari. And then I got a phone call from the resort’s retail manager who said she’d read a report on “the incident” and had a new waterproof glove designed by an orthopedic surgeon to use over casts. She hand-delivered it to our room and I was floored to discover that the same company also makes water-proof PICC line covers! Huh, just what I’d been searching for. Anyway, the blue rubber mitten was too big for Austin but we jimmy-rigged it with some tape and back to the pool he went.

We did of course spend an extraordinary amount of time in the game room winning all sorts of junk toys, including the newly coveted whoopee cushion which Austin has lovingly dubbed the “toot balloon.”

All in all, it ended up fine. He had his victory parade, interrupted by a little trip to the emergency room and 42 stitches. Tomorrow we see a local hand specialist to make sure there is no nerve damage. Stitches should come out in two weeks’ time and hopefully he’ll be as good as new. Mark’s pleased because he thinks this will be a good time to turn Austin into a lefty. You know . . . for his future as a professional baseball player. That was typed with a large dose of sarcasm although I suppose nothing about this kid could possibly surprise us, right?

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