It was late into the evening shift when I walked into a room to find a very embarrassed mother holding her toddler girl in the corner chair.
I introduced myself to Mom and then asked what brought her and her child to the ER this night.
"This," she answered, holding up a light-pink bead necklace. Mom explained that it was from a toddler game that involved spinning an arrow and collecting jewelry at various stops on the board. I am familiar with the game, actually, having won it a rare time or two against my kids (yes, my proudest moment as a father). Lucky for this little girl, I didn't have time to play tonight.
"Somehow," Mom continued, "Rachel broke the pink necklace and was able to pry apart several of the beads. Right before going to bed, we noticed this." With that, she placed her hand gently on Rachel's forehead and extended her neck, giving me a clear view of a smooth, shiny pink "booger" in Rachel's left nostril.
I had to smile. If you are a parent and have never had to deal with a foreign body in your child's ear or nose, consider yourself lucky. I'm knocking on wood, but we never had to deal with this problem, either. Something tells me, though, that I just jinxed myself. Rachel's mother, however, would not be included in this lucky group.
Rachel's mother continued to tell me everything they did to try to get this pink booger out. Q-tips. Tweezers. Tickling Rachel to make her laugh. Having her blow out of her nose. Hanging her from her feet for an hour from the house beams. Relax, just joking there. If anything, though, Mom felt their efforts may have made the bead go further up.
I taught Mom what to do at home if this ever happens again. Sit Rachel upright. Have her breath through her mouth. Have her take a deep breath in through her mouth and blow forcefully out of her nose, while plugging the unobstructed nostril. Sometimes, parents have even tried to blow forcefully in their kid's mouth to achieve the same response.
When all else fails, or if there is ever any struggle to swallow or breath, an immediate ER visit is necessary. With Rachel, who was quite comfortable sitting in her mother's lap, our options were simply to retrieve the bead with a suction-tip catheter, a hooked probe, or "alligator forceps," these very cool long-nosed forceps that reach easily into fairly tight spaces. Among the options for Rachel, we used the forceps first.
We got lucky with our alligator forceps on the first attempt. Rachel, cooperating and lying comfortably on her back in the cot, was a stellar patient. She let me reach into her nose and grasp the pink bead quite easily.
As I pulled out the bead, we all clapped for Rachel while she clapped along. Mom was relieved, obviously. Rachel, after getting an Italian ice and a handful of stickers, was discharged to home with an ENT follow-up appointment.
"That was too easy," the nurse commented as we watched Rachel and Mom leave.
An hour later, guess who was back. Yep, you're good--Rachel and her mother. They were requesting me.
I walked into the room, already laughing and shaking my head. "What happened?" I asked Mom.
If Mom was embarrassed before, now she was outright frustrated. "You'll never believe it," she started. "While we were here earlier, my husband cleaned up the game and swept the floor in Rachel's bedroom. When we returned home, guess (she nodded at Rachel as she spoke) who found a lone bead under her bed?"
I knew the answer. Mom continued. "I tried to do everything I could, but I just can't get this bead out. I am so embarrassed to be here again."
As she finished talking, Mom, being a good sport, started a laughing fit of her own. It was funny. "On top of it all," she continued, "Rachel couldn't be happier to be here again--she thinks she's getting more stickers and another ice." I looked down at Rachel, cuddling into her mother's lap, who returned my look with a sheepish grin. No doubt about it--she was cute as heck, pink booger or no pink booger.
Well, another bead, same nostril. We repeated what we did earlier to get Rachel's bead out and, knock on wood, it worked again. In my pretend stern voice, I told Rachel "no more beads." Mom was going to have to watch her like a hawk for the next few weeks. In fact, I think Mom wanted a pair of the alligator forceps to take home with her.
Needless to say, Rachel left without any new stickers or an Italian ice, at Mom's request. We understood completely. I was hopeful they wouldn't reward Rachel with a visit from the "pink booger fairy," either. Two bucks for two beads and I suspect they would become ER regulars.
I was happy when my kids outgrew that particular game--no shiny, colored boogers for my family, thank you very much. I'll take the yellow or green boogers any day. At least that way I know it will eventually either drip out or be swallowed. As for Rachel and her mother? I haven't seen them again since, but it I'm estimating correctly, I think Rachel is approaching the age where she'll start playing Monopoly soon. And Chinese checkers. And eating popcorn. And peanuts.
I'll be ready...
As always, thanks for reading...much appreciated. Next post will be Friday, January 15.