For several days our first grader with some special needs had been grabbing that area and complaining with his limited speech: “Pee-Nush hurt.”
Did he have a bladder infection? Had he been molested?
I dialed the on-call doctor at Longmont Clinic Friday afternoon. Her nurse screened Ray’s symptoms for anything serious. Then, she advised us to make an appointment Monday with our family pediatrician, Dr. Fan, who faithfully and cheerfully has ridden a medical roller coaster beside Ray since his birth.
However, before we hung up, the nurse reminded us to call Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora if his discomfort mounted.
By Saturday night I wondered what number Ray would say if he could in terms of his pain on the pain scale — 1 being no pain and 10 being unbearable pain.
He kept standing up and sitting down in his bubble bath, a boy antsy with worry and likely a 6 or 7 on the pain scale.
When we called, the nurse told us it could be an inguinal hernia around the testicles, which can become very serious, she said.
Off we went, then — Ray and I — through the night with his hair still damp from the bath.
So, imagine our relief when two emergency department doctors there palpated between his bottom and lower rib cage for the suspected hernia and instead reported constipation with referred pain in the pelvic floor.
That Ray still went No. 2 in the bathroom during this bout had thrown the oncall doctor off the trail in diagnosing constipation without benefit of an exam, they explained. Then, they prescribed a drug store cure — an enema that in the emergency department cost $250 after insurance paid for the lion’s share of our visit.
“We can just feel it in his belly,” one of the doctors explained before disappearing to marshal nurses for the dirty work.
Two soon arrived at the bedside to administer the enema.
The younger man got Ray to smile by lifting his classic ugly Christmas sweatshirt — a bright green sweatshirt with long-tailed mice peeking out Advent Calendar doors — to reveal a baby blue t-shirt featuring Olaf, the discombobulated snowman made famous in the movie “Frozen” for his faithful friendship and goofy smile.
“Can I help at all?” I said as these nice guys rounded the bed.
“Yep,” the older nurse said. “Grab a pair of those purple gloves and when I finish with this saline solution, I want you to hold his butt cheeks closed for 10 minutes.”
Well, that sounded easy enough.
So, I agreed to that and to bringing him in a fireman’s carry to the toilet five feet from the bed when the enema took effect.
But within 2 minutes, three ping pong ball-sized unmentionables the texture of pumice came shooting out with a tidal wave of the solution.
All of sudden, Ray’s body went from zero to 100, went from being dry to being slimier than a salamander in murky water. And I scooped him up in order to make it to the toilet just in time for all the rest.
What followed for the next 8 minutes can only be described as the closest thing a male can experience to understand what women experience in childbirth.
We cleaned up afterward, and I wrapped Ray in a snowy white towel. Then, I covered the rest of him to his ankles with his winter coat and snuggled beside him in the narrow twin bed.
At midnight, as we dozed and watched “Frozen” on the monitor above the bed while waiting to be discharged, I got my first chance to reflect on our emergency department story that night.
Many hands at the hospital helped us deal with our unpleasant problem, and they did it with kindness and some humor — care not covered by insurance.
Odd, but true, that I consider their support in an earthy situation the very first gift of Christmas 2016.
During this holiday season, when so many of us focus on gifts made in factories, our experience in the ER inspires me to remember gifts made in the heart and shared with those of us caught in humbling circumstances.
And that feels good all around.
When our boy of few words flushed the toilet for the third and final time, he waived his hands and hollered: “All done! All done! All better!”