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We’d been having a pretty good weekend. I’d snuck some white wine to a kid’s birthday party and was in a happy buzz socializing and eating ice cream. A trip to Costco had been called off when Ooey threw up her birthday spoils. The car reeked of chips and dairy as we raced home, but even then we were still having a pretty good time, it was fine. We were gonna go home and I was going to have the rare but glorious day time nap before meeting up for margaritas with our neighbors.
A tide pod and a toddler walk into a bar.
I was awoken from my Saturday nap the way every mother wants to wake up. To blood curdling screams, these were not simply whiny moans but deep hearty pained cries. Apparently, Ooey had been playing with a tide laundry pod and it had broken, squirting into her eye. Martin was over at the kitchen sink cupping water into her eye and I was instantly up.
I grabbed Ooey and whisked her into the shower where I held her under the water as she continued to scream. At this point she was in less pain but was not happy with the rinsing. We got out of the shower and I snuggled her to sleep and began Googling.
Dr. Google did not disappoint with phrases like “long-term vision loss” , “chemical burns” and “corneal abrasion” jumping out at me. We grabbed our napping child and hopped in the car to Children’s National. I might add that I snapped “this is all your fault you know” at my husband before we left. And the ride to the hospital was in a tense silence.
Time to go to the ER
As I circled around the hospital trying to find the children’s ER all I could think was, shit shit shit with every passing moment Ooey is going blind. And, I take a nap for two seconds and this- ugh. And on top of all that the car reeked of the hot vomit that we had planned on cleaning later.
We were seen immediately and the nurse praised us for rinsing her eyes out at home. Apparently some parents drive to the ER with the detergent still burning their kids eyes, I can’t even. At this point I thought we were going to be discharged but our nurse called poison control to report the case and then told us we needed to stay and rinse Ooey’s eyes out some more.
Back in the lobby and waiting to be called back. I apologized to Martin for snapping at him, he said something sassy and I asked if he would accept the apology or not. The Pediatric ER at Children’s National is actually not a bad place to hang out and argue with your spouse if you can get past the screaming sick kids, fluorescent lights and the watchful gaze of the armed hospital security guards. We played a video game that hung on the wall before getting called back again.
We were led to a back room divided by curtains and containing what was trying to pass as a homey arm-chair. Ooey and I sat in the armchair playing with a hospital iPad while our nurse talked to her and us about the flush that was going to happen.
Our doctor came in and we were given a kindly lecture about the danger of chemicals and especially, laundry pods. What was happening when the incident occurred, she asked. I was sleeping, and then who was watching Ooey? I pointed at Martin, throwing him under the bus (I guess my apology had been too soon), she began to ask again how it had happened and before she could finish I interrupted with “we’ve already discussed this”. She kind of chuckled and then skipped to telling us about Ooey’s treatment.
Ooey was going to need to have her eyes flushed with a litre of water before a dye could be applied so she could then use an ultraviolet light to check for scratches on the cornea. She was plying Ooey with stickers and goldfish and all I could think was- A LITRE! That’s alot. This is going to suck in a major way and I pitied Ooey as she giggled and cooed at her doctor.
I saw a gurney wheel past us with a bag of the saline solution on a hanging stand. A litre is alot, did I mention that? We were informed that the area was ready, the nurse told us that Ooey would scream during the flush which was hard even for adults to do but would then be fine.
My body was totally tense and Ooey could feel my stress and began to cry. I put her onto the stretcher and they swaddled her so that she was completely immobile. One medic held the stream of solution while another held her head in place and forced her eye open. I was on the other side holding down her arm which she had freed from the swaddle.
She screamed mommy no, cold, and yelled non-sense words. This went on for what felt like an eternity, from the nearby chair Martin asked “are you done yet?” I pointed at the bag and snapped “a liter Martin”- we had only done 200cc at this point. Ooey continued to scream and her face was beat red as the stream of solution was forced into her eye.
The nurse looked up and said mom, why don’t you switch with dad for a while. I had been holding my breath while staring directly at Ooey, tears were welling up in my eyes and I was pretty sure I was going to vomit. I left and sat in the next room and tucked my head between my legs and focused on breathing. The nurse had told me that this wasn’t going to hurt Ooey but holy shit was it painful to participate in.
Martin helped for a few seconds and I heard him say, can we be done with this? The medics stopped, he grabbed Ooey and went to talk to the doctor. We had gotten halfway through the solution. Ooey’s face was beat red and she was screaming in raggedy bursts. They called poison control again who said 500cc of the solution should be enough to wash out the detergent. (Why then, was a litre prescribed in the first place?!)
I thanked the medics, I’m sure doing their job is not made better between two bickering parents. We all went back to our faux living room to wait for the next step. Other patients didn’t try to be discrete as they strained to look at us, what had they done to that child? Goldfish, momma goldfish. Phew, the nurse was right Ooey bounced back, I on the other hand was feeling completely frazzled.
We went back to the gurney to hold Ooey down one last time, the dye was added to her eye and again held open. Our doctor shone the ultraviolet light in her eye, the dye would reveal damage to the cornea. She snapped off the light, her eye looks good. Phew!
Waiting to be discharged Ooey played with the hospital iPad and Martin and I sat staring at the floor. That was really stressful I said, yeah he agreed and then he picked up Ooey and cradled her as she giglled. Then he did something I’ve only seen once before, he cried. Shit, I thought, now I feel extra bad for pointing out that this happened on his watch. It could have just have easily happened on mine. I hate seeing her in pain he said.
There are endless ways a kid can harm themselves. A nurse at the hospital said that a child had died when swallowing a laundry pod, holy shit. We had gotten off easy with a squirt in the eye. It took a few hours for me to get to sleep that night, I tossed and turned thinking about the what-ifs and replaying the gurney scene over and over.
There shall be no more pods at our place
I had initially bought those pods because our laundry room is on another floor of our apartment building. I don’t like lugging a jug of detergent up and down the stairs and I also don’t want to leave my soap in the laundry room. I imagined going down to do laundry and having no soap left, other tenants having used a bit here and there. People in our building who are more generous than I have little notes that say, feel free to use this if you run out. I am not that person.
I used to let Ooey hold the pods as we walked down to the laundry room, she called them squishes. We would then watch as the pod dissolved into our laundry through the glass door, the different colors coming out of each chamber. That won’t be happening anymore.
I am throwing those damn pods out and we are going to buy the most hippy dippy laundry detergent on the market. I want a soap that I could drink a gallon of and still be ok. And I will have to risk our detergent being used by my neighbors, because it’s way better than the risk of spending my precious Saturday night in the ER wondering if my child has permanent eye damage.
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