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HOLLENBECK: Accident-prone kid turns anxious mother into vigilant warrior

January 16, 2012

The other day I listened to some people talking about how the sight of blood nauseates them.
"I just about pass out when I see somebody with a really bad cut that's spurting blood," one person said.
I held my tongue for a time, then I had to jump into the conversation.
"You should have had the ready-for-blood-and-guts-and-anything-else indoctrination that I underwent as a young mother," I said.
That training came via my third child, who knew no fear.
You've heard the familiar question posed many times as an admonishment to kids: "If everyone else jumped off a building, would you do it, too?" or "if everyone else jumped into the fire, would you do it, too?"
The appropriate answer for the wise child, of course, is to say, "No, of course not." And then good sense is supposed to reign.
This wasn't so for Allen. He not only would have jumped off the building or leaped into the middle of the flames, he'd have been the leader of the pack. And he'd have done it with a smile on his face.
Truth be told, that was what saved his life on more than one occasion. When I was near the screaming stage, he'd look up at me with his big bluer-than-blue eyes and impish grin and I'd start to melt.
He was a "regular" at the ER. In today's suspicious times, we'd have been red-flagged by medical people and investigative agencies.
I'll never forget the time — a Saturday afternoon when the usual folks weren't on duty — when he was lying on an ER table, looked up at the ceiling and chirped, "Y'all have painted in here, haven't you?'
Talk about wanting to stuff a sock in his mouth, in spite of his pain and suffering.
"Are you here often?" a suspicious attendant asked.
"Oh, yeah, I'm here all the time," he replied.
And his words weren't all that untrue.
Some people see life through rose-colored glasses. Not me. Because of a kid named Allen, I learned early on to view life as a direct route to the emergency room.
He was as familiar with hospital procedures as most kids are with buying a movie ticket. During one eight-day period he had to be taken to the ER twice for separate injuries, including one that was quite serious.
He didn't know the meaning of the word fear and consequently did things that caused him to suffer wounds to various and sundry parts of his anatomy (frequently his head).
And he could have been the textbook illustration for stomach ailments. His case of mono — which caused him to lose the first semester of his senior year — was one they talked about for years in the medical community, and the chicken pox he spread to a known 24 children at Jolly Time Preschool (and to points unknown beyond) was the stuff of local legends.
He suffered broken hands, fractured arms, a displaced jaw, torn fingers, split knees, the near loss of an ear when he was attacked by a dog that thought he was after his bone and so many gaping holes to his head that at one point I wondered just how much scar tissue one could assimilate and still have a functioning brain.
More than two decades ago Courier employees entered the float competition in the annual Christmas parade. Employees' kids were enticed to portray such characters as Santa's elves; Allen, pretty young at the time, was to be one. I asked a former sports editor, Richard Brummett, who was riding on our entry, to "keep an eye" on him.
"Nope," Richard adamantly refused. "Your kids break."
Probably the most famous injury he received was the broken right arm that required four casts and a traumatic re-break before it finally healed. In the midst of that experience his teacher assigned him a "secretary" to do all his writing at school. From that point forward he never was content to do his own work without a full staff.
The only good thing that came out of all this trauma is that I learned to think and act fast in a crisis. When the calamity would be over, I could allow myself the luxury of falling apart, but not till then.
I never considered military service for myself, but I think I could have handled it in my earlier years. There were times it seemed as though I was running a M*A*S*H unit right on my home front.
It's probably good that the accident syndrome came on slowly. We started with minor cuts, then progressed to more serious ones. Before I knew what was happening, we were into full-scale wounds. Gradually, I learned to cope.
Anytime I watch "Nine to Five" and hear Jane Fonda's oft-stated "don't panic," I think about those early experience in raising Allen. I would silently tell myself not to panic as I dealt with each crisis.
But now when I think about those moments, I can do so without labored breathing and sweaty palms. Getting older isn't all bad.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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