Family of three smiling for a photo on Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving 2017 Family Photo

Above is our Thanksgiving 2017 family photo.

Cute, right?

But look at those bandaids on my daughter’s forehead. These are covering up what remains of our visit to the Science Museum just four days prior, which is also the day I consider the worst day of my life as a mom.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably already read an abbreviated version of what happened that fateful day, but I’m writing this now with the hope that if you ever find yourself in a similar situation (but I pray that you never do), you’ll be able to deal with it like a champ.

On the day in question, my daughter had woken up a bit fussier than usual, but I thought, “Eh, she’ll lighten up and start having fun at the museum when she sees all of the fun stuff there.” We packed up the day’s snacks, drinks, lunch, and pull-ups, and drove to the museum.

Once there, she seemed to be getting in a better mood. She was awed by the fish, and she was ecstatic while petting a stingray.

Toddler hugging her stuffed animal stands smiling in front of a large fish
Leia’s favorite exhibit is the one with all of the fish.

Then, she got fussy again, so I knew it was lunchtime.We went in search of just the right bench to settle down to eat our lunch. We found a quiet bench near the mechanical exhibit. I was munching on my ham and cheese sandwich and trying to make sure Leia ate her food as well.

She took her first bite of mac n cheese and walked off with a Dorito in her hand. She put her back up against the wall opposite the bench and looked at me with a sheepish smile, I called her back to me to get the second bite of her food, and that’s when it all started to go wrong.

She ran at me faster than I’d ever seen her run, then, before I could really register what was happening, I saw her quickly fall. I heard a dull thud as she fell, so I knew she’d hit her head on the smooth metal edge of the bench.

I looked down at her, she was on her hands and knees under the bench. After my mind finally caught up with what was happening, I began to stand up to help her.

I took a small breath and rolled my eyes toward the heavens muttering a small prayer, “Please, don’t let there be blood.”

She started to cry, and I quickly stood her up and looked at her forehead. There was a relatively small gash on her forehead, but it was deep, so deep. I knew immediately that she was going to need stitches. Blood quickly began trickling down her face, some of it even got in her eye. My first instinct was to keep the blood from going into her eye. So I cupped my hand under the gash and instructed her not to move, then I used my free hand to find something in my purse, anything to contain the blood.

The first thing I found was a pack of Huggies Natural Care wet wipes. So I grabbed a handful of those and put them on the wound. I maintained pressure on the wound while I cleaned up her eye, and began looking around for someone who could help us. In the distance, I saw a bright green shirt. Yes! The uniform of the museum employees is a bright green polo shirt. I yelled for him to come. At first, he didn’t hear me, then two men that were close to him signaled toward me, and the man in the green shirt came sprinting toward me to see what we needed.

He asked, “What happened?”

I looked down at my daughter and said, “She fell and hit her head. She’s bleeding, do you have a medical office or something around here?”

He said, “Yes, but wait one moment,” and he got on his radio.

This whole time, my daughter had been crying, so I stood behind her, pressing the wipes into her wound, and making sure the blood wasn’t getting into her eyes, all the while trying to comfort her.

I just kept silently repeating in my head, “Keep pressure on the wound. Keep pressure on the wound.”

I kept telling Leia, “Shhhh… It’s going to be ok.”

She kept crying and saying she felt better.

I told her, “That’s great! But we’re going to have to go to the doctor so they can look at your head and make you all better.”

This only made her panic a bit more.She began crying and loudly proclaiming, “I don’t want a shot! I don’t want a shot! I feel better. I feel better. I want to go home.”

It hurt me to hear her in distress, but I was on survival mode, and all I could do was keep silently repeating my mantra, “Keep pressure on the wound. Keep pressure on the wound.”
All I could manage to tell her from that point was, ““Shhhh… It’s going to be ok.”
And so, I did my best to wait and comfort my daughter while we waited for someone to assist us.
A kind woman from the museum staff came and began asking me questions, and I recounted the whole incident. She finally said, “I’m going to call an ambulance, just so they can come and have a look.”
A few security guards came with what looked like a small black camera case, and stood by us observing the scene.
The woman got her phone and began talking to emergency services. They instructed her to remove the wet wipes from the wound and put some dry gauze on it instead. One of the security guards handed her the small black bag and she unzipped it and looked for the gauze, she tore it open and handed it to me.
I quickly switched out the wipes for the dry gauze.

“Keep pressure on the wound.” I handed her the bloodied wipes and she had someone dispose of them. She told me that the paramedics would be arriving soon.

I asked her to please help me pack up the lunch items, and she helped me put everything back into the lunchbox.
I just stood there, holding my daughter’s head against my legs and waited.
Luckily, Leia had stopped crying by this point and was standing there with me, asking me questions every now and then. I informed her that some doctors were coming to look at her head, and she again asked me if they would be giving her an injection. I told her the truth.
“I don’t know, mi amor.”
Finally, three paramedics came and my daughter began wailing, “I don’t want an injection!”
They assured us that they were not going to give her an injection. They instructed me to sit down with her on my lap to let them get a better look at her wound. One of the paramedics inspected her wound and cleaned her up. He put gauze on the area and wrapped up her head.
Another paramedic asked me questions and filled out her report on a tablet.
I answered all of her questions without batting an eye, “What’s her name? What’s her date of birth? How did this happen? What did you do before we got here?”

But when she got the question, “What’s your address?”It hit me, I’m going to have to take her home with stitches on her head, and she’s only three years old, and what kind of mom lets something like this happen to her three-year-old? I started to cry.

I apologized and she told me, “We’re all on the same boat here. I’d probably cry too.”

So I wiped away the tears – that just kept flowing anyway – and finished answering her questions.

Then, another paramedic informed me of my options, “Well, the bleeding has stopped. She didn’t throw up or lose consciousness, and she’s not complaining that her head hurts, so you have some options. We could take her in the ambulance to Jackson, you could take her to a children’s urgent care that’s about a ten-minute drive away –”

“In my car?”
“Yes,” he replied.
A small, hot wave of panic washed over me as I thought of driving her to the hospital myself with all of that gauze on her little head, “Sorry I interrupted. Are there other options?”
“Yes. You could drive her to Miami Children’s Hospital, and they could do a more thorough evaluation, and CAT scans and such if they think she needs them. They wouldn’t have the equipment for these tests at the urgent care, and they may end up sending you to the Miami Children’s anyway if they think she needs a scan.”
I thought to myself, “I’d rather not have to drive, but I’m not going to traumatize Leia anymore than she already is by putting her in a scary ambulance with people she doesn’t know and then take her to a big hospital where they don’t specialize in the care of children… I have to drive her.”
I swallowed hard and said, “I want to drive her, but where do you recommend?”
“It’s farther away, but I’d take her to Miami Children’s.”

“Hospital?”“Yes, mam. As long as she gets treated in the next six to eight hours – which she will – she’ll be fine.”

I can’t remember at which point another museum personnel came and asked if she could bring Leia anything to snack on from the shop, and they suggested gummy worms, and Leia is obsessed with anything gummy, so at some point throughout this whole ordeal, they’d brought her some gummy candy. I loaded her and all of our belongings into the stroller, and she enthusiastically munched on her gummies on the way to the car.

I called my husband from the parking garage to let him know what had happened, “Leia is ok, but she fell and cracked her forehead open and she needs stitches, so I’m driving her to Miami Children’s.”

“Ok,” he said, “Do I meet you at the museum? Or the hospital?”

We agreed that we’d meet at the hospital.

I got stuck in some traffic on the way out of downtown Miami.

Leia kept going back and forth between saying, “Mama, mama, mama,” and, “I don’t want an injection.”

I kept my husband on speakerphone because he wanted to keep me on the phone until we reached the hospital, and, honestly, it helped me keep my composure to have a level-headed adult on the phone keeping me company as I navigated through crazy Miami traffic.

While we were stuck in a traffic jam, I took a quick pic of her…

Toddler girl with bandages wrapped around her head frowns while sitting in her carseat
This pic makes me so sad, but also leaves me awestruck because I marvel that such a little person can be so brave.

Then, Leia got quiet when we were stuck in a jam half-way through our trip down US1.

I looked in the rearview mirror to see if she was alright.

She’d fallen asleep with the gummies tightly clutched against her abdomen.

The paramedics had informed me that she would want to sleep, and since she wasn’t showing signs of a concussion, that it would be alright to let her sleep on the way to the hospital. I could hear her usual little snore, and I knew she was ok.

My husband informed me that he’d arrived at the hospital. He parked his car and told me he’d be waiting for us outside the entrance to the emergency room.

Ten minutes after Leia fell asleep, I woke her up to make sure she was ok.

“Are you ok, baby?”

“Si, mama.”

“How do you feel?”

“I feel better. I don’t have to go to the doctor. I don’t want the doctor to take off my little head.”

“What?! The doctor is not going to take your head off, mi amor. They are just going to look and make sure you’re ok.”

I had to reassure her a few more times that the doctor was not going to remove “her little head,” and about ten minutes later, she fell asleep again.

It took me one of the longest forty minutes of my life, but we finally made it to the hospital!

I woke Leia up, and my husband took her out of the car seat to check her in at the emergency room desk.

Thus, the tale of how Leia got hurt, and how I got her to the hospital ends.

UPDATE: It’s been four weeks since that fateful day, and Leia’s head and scraped knees are all healed up. She still wants to keep them covered with bandaids, and I humor her. I can’t say that I know how her little head works, despite having studied psychology, but I think that these bandaids are her way of coping with the trauma of that day – they help her feel a little more safe, and who wouldn’t want their child to feel safe, even if it means spending money on bandaids that her little body no longer needs. Her mind needs them and that’s ok with me. I keep helping her change her bandaids daily and reminding her that all of her physical wounds from that day are healed, and she doesn’t need to use them anymore, but that if she wants them, she can keep wearing them. I’m her mom and I’ll support her and help her feel safe no matter what it takes. But I have to admit, I’ll be pretty happy the day she no longer needs those physical bandaids because that’ll be a sign that she’s learned to cope with incident emotionally, and she’ll be able to move on from it. Until then, I’ll keep the first aid kit stocked with all of the princess bandaids my money can buy.

UPDATE2: It’s been almost a whole month since I wrote this post, and I’m overjoyed to report that Leia no longer needs bandaids! Her daddy convinced her to leave them behind. It turns out that Oreos taste better when you’re not wearing bandaids. Now, Leia walks around telling her friends and relatives, “I don’t need bandaids anymore. I’m all better.” Hallelujah! She’s still a bit traumatized after the event. After any little bump or scrape, she informs me, “I don’t want to go to the doc to get a shot. I feel better.” And I reassure her that she’ll be fine and we won’t have to take her to the doctor. She’s been better physically for a while now, and slowly, but surely, she’s getting better emotionally as well.
Toddler sits happily in her carseat waving with both hands
Thanks for taking the time to read this story! I hope it helps you in some way.
If you’ve been in a similar situation, you now know that you are not alone in your experience, and if you’ve never been in a similar situation – and I never hope you are – but if you find yourself there, then I hope this helps you be better prepared.
Much love,