IMR: 1999: August: 15 —  Saturday, 11:05 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

It's too late for the eclipse, and too early for Friday the 13th. So what the hell happened today?

It was 10 a.m., I had just gotten my colon cleaned by a fax machine technician, but otherwise things were going well enough. Then, stepping gingerly around the corner, was mom. And she had the exact look on her face that all humans instinctively know they don't want to see on their mothers' faces.

She was in an accident this morning. Rush hour, Moanalua Freeway, driving grandma's car.

And it was totaled.

True to mom form, of course, she shared the news as if she was merely rattling off the pre-season NFL schedule. With a shrug she explained that someone had cut off the driver in front of her, causing him to slam on his brakes. With a sigh she said she rear-ended him, and was very promptly rear-ended herself. With a non-committal "and well," she went on to say she didn't even resist when the paramedics asked to take her to the hospital in the ambulance.

She was so at ease, in fact, it took me a while to get properly upset about the whole thing.

But when she showed me the scratches on her leg and the little bruise on her forehead, I almost fainted.

I mean, as my friends (and enemies) would be happy to tell you, I've been in more than my fair share of fender benders. But — and I'm knocking on serious wood here — I don't think I've ever actually gotten hurt. And this was my mom! I just imagine her nursing a paper cut and I get positively woozy.

So there I was worried about her, and there she was worrying about what grandma would say. It was one of those not-a-Hallmark moments.

The doctor gave her two days off, and I begged her to take them. With a quiet "bye," she headed off to track Todd down and figure out a way home.

And unfortunately, mom wasn't the only Ozawa lady to visit the emergency room today.

Jen called at 4:30 p.m. and said right out, "Honey, meet me at Kapi`olani." In the background, Katie was shrieking.

All at once, that flood of terrible, awful thoughts that all parents instinctively know roared through my skull. I could barely hear Jen explain what was wrong over my pounding heart. I'd say it was "just constipation," and truth be told by those words I felt a rush of relief, but it had been a frequent problem and had clearly gotten serious. Now there was blood, and no small amount of pain.

So while Jen hurried down Wilder Avenue, then Punahou Street, with a hysterical tot over her shoulder, I said a quick goodbye to my coworkers — "What, half day, Ryan?" came the chorus — and drove 'expediently' to the hospital. (And yes, clearer minds would have probably suggested I just swing by the apartment to pick them up.)

When I walked through the door, I could tell by the screams that Jen and Katie were already there. The staff led me in back where Jen and a nurse were struggling to get one of those monstrous newfangled thermometers into Katie's little ear canal. I desperately loathed the fact that the ER triage room was familiar to me.

(Our last visit was eight months ago, but even if it was two decades later it would have been too soon.)

Though practically beside herself with fear, Jen dutifully reported that Katie had gotten some some BabyLax™ before leaving for the hospital, and that she actually had a small bowel movement just moments before I walked in. It was my guess (and that of the nurse) that Katie was now probably more upset about being at the hospital than the storm in her tummy.

Still, her going a week without a stinky diaper was curious, and the doctor was concerned that she'd been plagued by unusually... strenuous episodes for as long as she'd been on solid foods. Of course she was probably just prone to dehydration — a longstanding suspicion — but the ER mantra is "just in case," so they decided to run her through the whole battery of tests to be sure.

After an extensive examination that left both mother and daughter in tears, it was over to the X-ray laboratory. The harried technicians went in ahead to set things up while we waited outside. For one glorious minute, I was able to draw Katie out of her crying by dancing up and down the hall, pointing out the various watercolor paintings. But eventually they called us in.





Tonight was our first — and, so help me god, our last — experience with a unholy device known as the Pigg-O-Stat. Yes, the Pigg-O-Stat. Honestly the name makes me chuckle, but there was absolutely nothing funny about the thing.

The Pigg-O-Stat (patent pending, made in Tennessee) was simply labeled "pediatric immobilization unit," probably because "medieval baby torture device" wouldn't fit. Its seemingly innocuous purpose was to hold wee ones upright and still for the X-ray machine, but the way this was accomplished was simply inhumane.

Picture a table, about three feet square, with a circular opening cut into the middle. Mount in the center of this opening a narrow, cold, hard, acrylic bicycle seat. Rising up off the table, two curved plastic wings mounted on steel hinges. Drape the whole affair in straps of various lengths and materials, from rubber to leather. Add a random array of knobs and pointy things, and you have a reasonable facsimile of the Pigg-O-Stat.

I was enlisted to lower a very pissed off Katie onto the little seat, and Jen had to kneel on the ground to pull her flailing legs through the hole. Then I was instructed to pull Katie's arms up over her head and hold her elbows fast against her ears. Before we knew what was happening, the nurse grabbed the two thick wings and closed them around Katie. Suddenly straps were being fastened up and down the entire contraption, and as Jen and I were ordered back, we realized that Katie was essentially mounted upright in a big plastic pipe.

She was completely helpless. Screaming louder than I'd ever heard her scream. As Jen and I were ushred behind the big lead wall, we could see her through the thick window, naked and trapped on that awful table in the middle of the lab.

And hanging down off the ceiling like some mechanical monster from an alien movie was the X-ray machine. A heavy, intimidating contraption in its own right, covered with wires and angry warning stickers. And it was pointed right at Katie's stomach.

It's a sight I won't ever forget. Jen just broke down, sobbing into my shoulder.

I immediately regretted bringing her in, and for an instant, I hated all of modern medicine. They say it's safe, of course, but there must be a reason why everyone hides behind a bulkhead while the victim has to hang out there up against the barrel of a gun.

Finally the button was pushed, the plates were collected, and Katie was liberated from her baby-sized purgatory. She was so upset, clinging to Jen so hard, it was almost impossible to get her dressed again.

Honestly everything after that is a blur. But I remember that Katie did get her revenge on the Pigg-O-Stat, albeit accidentally, much to the disgust of the X-ray technicians. It was good news to the ER doctor, though, who soon afterward sent us home with nothing more than a recommendation to buy some mineral oil.

Mineral oil. The duct tape of the medicine cabinet.

The girls are completely passed out, both sprawled messily on the bed, mouths open. Having documented the day's ordeal, I think I'll join them.

Oh yeah. Tomorrow's Jen's birthday.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 15 August 1999 · Last Modified: 15 August 1999