Cardiogirl 19 percent body fat 100 percent fun


my first, and only, 911 call


As we hunker down into summer, my most favorite season of the year, I am reminded of an extremely stressful day four years ago that included a call to 911.

It was the middle of the week, so my husband was at work, and the day was bright and sunny. At the time we had two children, a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old. I had just done some laundry and I was carrying the sheets up the stairs to the second floor with my oldest daughter right behind me. She was going to help me make her bed. The baby was in the crib, not taking a nap, but hanging out while I got the fresh sheets.

I made it up five steps before Katie started screaming behind me. I turned around to see that her arm was stuck in the handrail. The width between the handrail and the wall is approximately three inches. Somehow Katie had put her fist against her shoulder creating a V-shape with her upper arm and forearm. She then inserted her elbow into that tiny space between the wall and the handrail. Before she knew it, the bulk of her arm was wedged in between.

I dropped the sheets and tried to release her arm out of that space by pulling her wrist straight up. No luck. I really thought I was going to break her arm if I pulled any harder. Then I tried to pull the wooden handrail away from the wall with one hand while I pushed up on her elbow. That didn't work. All the while, she is crying and screaming. I thought about running over to the neighbor's house, but the two other stay-at-home moms (Nuthouse and Kravitz, nice choices, eh?) had small kids at the time and I figured they wouldn't come over. More importantly, I didn't want to leave Katie alone in the house freaking out.

So my mind is racing and the baby, thankfully, is just mellow and contemplating her navel in the crib upstairs. She entertained herself, quietly, throughout the entire event. That was a godsend.

I quickly came to the conclusion that this warranted a 911 call. It's funny how fast random thoughts bounce through your head. I remember thinking, "Do I really need to call 911? Yes, I need help right now. Wow, I can't believe I'm actually going to call 911. I hope I'm not so hysterical that the operator cannot understand me. Man, that would be crazy if my 911 call somehow ends up on the news. If I did hear the tape I wonder if I would recognize my own voice. Would the news have to type the words I spoke on the bottom of the screen and then it would say (unintelligible) for some of the parts? I better call."

That entire dialogue probably took eight seconds and coursed through my mind while I retrieved the cordless phone from the dining room, opened the front door and returned to the stairs. Meanwhile Katie's huge tears streamed down her face and plopped heavily onto the carpet beneath her. And then I pressed the buttons on the phone.

I'd never made a call like that before so I went on instinct. After I heard, "911, what is your emergency?" I said in a rushed voice, "This is Cardiogirl Smith. My address is 123 Main Street, my three-year-old daughter got her arm caught in the bannister. I can't get it out and I think I'm going to break it if I try to pull on it any harder."

The operator said, "What? The bannister?"

I felt like I was playing a messed up, reverse version of pictionary where I had to crack out my mental thesaurus and come up with synonyms for the word bannister. So I said, "Bannister, handrail, the wooden rail on the wall that guides you up the stairs. Where you hold on to balance yourself as you walk up the steps. The handrail! Her arm is wedged between the handrail and the wall!"

She finally figured out what I was trying to say and told me she was sending the police, the fire department and an ambulance. "Try to keep your daughter calm," she said. Easier said than done. She did ask me if I wanted her to stay on the line with me while I waited, but I told her no and thank you.

After I hung up I was close to hysteria myself. I had kept a lid on it until then, but it was bubbling under the surface. Somehow I mentally tightened the screws on the manhole cover containing my emotions and tried to get Katie to sing the alphabet with me. She gave it a valiant effort and half sang, half cried telling me her arm hurt. Then we heard the sirens in the distance.

I told her to listen to the sound of the sirens. I said, "Those sirens are for you," as I put my index finger on her chest and tickled her. "The police officer and the firefighter and the ambulance driver are all driving fast with their sirens on and the lights flashing, right now, to our house to help you. People in cars are pulling over to the side of the road to let the fire truck through. They know someone needs help and they are doing their part to help us. Pretty soon someone is going to walk through our front door and help us."

(Yes, I was proud that, in the midst of panic, I remembered to unlock and open the front door.) I continued to talk to Katie, "We just have to wait a minute longer. And guess what? The neighbors are going to freak out! Everyone is going to run to their windows to see what the noise is all about. Then they are going to see the police car, the fire truck and the ambulance stop in front of our house! All of the neighbors are going to wonder, 'What is going on at Katie's house?!'"

That made her smile and then the police officer walked through the door. He ended up pulling on the wooden rail with two hands while I pushed her arm up and it popped right out. Then the firefighters walked in and made her wiggle her fingers and bend her arm. She was fine. The neighbors did gather around outside but the policeman told them everything was groovy, no need for concern.

A couple of hours after that I took the two kids to the pediatrician to get the baby's shots. That was harrowing as well having to pin my baby's arms down while she screamed bloody murder as the nurses gave her the immunization shots. But the doctor verified that Katie's arm was fine. She didn't even have a bruise as a tell-tale reminder of the day's events.

This hellish day didn't end there.

On the way home from the doctor's office I side-swiped a telephone pole while turning out of the back alley behind the office onto the road. It's hard to explain how it happened, but the sun was in my eyes, and someone was waiting for me to turn out so they could turn into the alley. Meanwhile another car was behind the person waiting to turn into the alley and they started to drive around that person and I thought that driver was going to hit me. So in an effort to shimmy over and let the stopped driver turn into the alley next to me I misjudged the distance between my van and the pole, which was zero. Then, in an effort not to get hit by the second car I floored it as the metal on the side of the van crunched in protest against the telephone pole.

When I got home at 7:00 pm I expected to see my husband. Negative. He was still at work. So I called him but he was having a meeting in his office with his boss and a couple of other people. Someone else answered his phone. I kept asking for Mr. Cardiogirl, but for some reason this doofus couldn't figure out who I was asking for even though I was using my husband's first and last name. Finally my husband got on the line, while it was on speaker phone and I yelled, exasperated, "Are you ever coming home tonight?!" and hung up.

He then called me back a minute later to hear about the day's trifecta of hellish events. He did make it home that night and in the end it all worked out.

But it was a pretty stressful day for me.


2007-07-18 at 8:22 a.m.

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