Well, that’s an alarming title isn’t it! Not exactly what you expect to see when you’re nosing around something like a Girl Scout blog! To be fair, it isn’t what I expected to see either.
Disclaimer: The girl in question is totally fine. Spoiler: She wound up with two stitches. The reason I’m sharing this story is because I’m trying to use it as a learning experience; learning from my mistakes, and what to expect if you ever have to take a girl to an ER (as a leader, not a parent). This was the first (and hopefully last) time a girl was seriously injured since I started out in Girl Scouts 5 years ago. Now that you are less worried, we can get back to the story!
So there I was, the morning of our camping trip. It had been an absolutely gorgeous night, and we had perfect weather. But I’d been up all night; my co-leader insists she wasn’t snoring so all I can think is that a bear broke into our glen shelter and slept with us, snoring, all night long. (Hey we all snore sometimes! It’s allergy central out there!) Regardless, neither of us had slept very well. Does anyone ever sleep well when camping? Strange bed, strange sounds, and I always sleep with an ear towards hearing the girls at night. I typically put myself in between their cabin and access to the campsite. So if they go to the bathroom at night, I will hear it. And I sure do hear EVERYTHING. (I’m looking at you, 4 am giggler!)
Right, so… picture me messy headed and bleary eyed, stumbling out of our glen shelter into the light of the morning, pondering the difficulty of boiling water to get the process of caffeination going, when one of my girls asked if she could make some fire starters? In that sleepy moment I knew two things: one, the girls were already having trouble getting a fire started (I swear to you that fire circle is cursed!) and we’d used all our fire starters the day before, and two, this girl had worked on fire starters all day yesterday and done great with it. So, sleepy, not really thinking about it, I said sure.
If you have ever camped with Girl Scouts, you are probably aware of our typical method for making quick and easy fire starters. You take a candle, you take a vegetable peeler, and some wax paper. You use the peeler to shave wax onto the wax paper, and roll it up and twist the edges to make what looks sort of like an extra large salt water taffy. Some people call them fire “kisses.” I keep a bag of old candles and a few designated vegetable peelers for this purpose.
Random thought: It’s interesting that for all our stress on knife safety I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone talk about how easily you can cut yourself with a vegetable peeler. But I certainly am going to do so in the future!
Anyways, I tell her sure, and continue the process of getting a fire started, water boiling, and coffee in my brain as fast as possible.
Next thing I know, the girl comes running over to me saying she cut her finger. She is holding it and sort of jumping around, and there is blood on her hand. She looks a little panicky. OK, let’s be calm, I reply.
Then I see the blood. Blood going EVERYWHERE. Blood, like… remember that scene at the beginning of Zootopia???
Kinda like that. Except bloodier. Blood is going everywhere. It takes my brain a second to process what I’m seeing and to figure out what to do, and in that moment the girl starts to race off to the washstands before I grab her and sit her down and grab a roll of paper towels. I wrap her finger and put pressure on it and wait, and she just soaks right through it. And again. And I mean I’m wadding up the paper towels around her finger. This time I take a second to peek at her finger and whoa, baby! I’m immediately thinking she needs stitches. Or maybe not, but I should probably have a professional look at it. It is a pretty big cut, and so much blood!
I’m getting more than a little worried, which is quickly transferring to all the other girls. Worry spreads like a plague. I’m pretty sure one of my girls woke up a sleepy one by saying “Get up NOW, we are taking Girl to the ER!” I rewrap the finger with more clean paper towels, have the girl put pressure, and quietly say that I think she may need stitches in the finger. <– this right here is one of my many mistakes. Never say something like that in front of the person needing the stitches! The idea of stitches just scared this poor girl to death and she started bawling, so now I had a child spewing blood AND tears instead of just blood.
In my defense, I still hadn’t had any coffee!
At this point, I’ve decided I should take her to the ER to get the finger looked at. The fact that the bleeding is taking so long to slow down combined with the size of the cut had me worried. So I start calling her mom, but just get voicemails. I text mom, no reply. I call and call and call, and finally get the emergency folder out of my car with the girls health form and emergency contacts. I start calling her contacts, no answer, no answer, no answer. I text all the numbers with the same message: Girl has hurt her finger and may need stitches, we are en route to X, Y, Z emergency room, please call ASAP.
I decided to head to the ER closest to the girls’ home. By this time the bleeding had slowed way down *thank goodness!* So we were not in a panic or anything. Once I got her in my car and started discussing what types of treats she might ask for post-stitches, I had her smiling and doing just fine.
Once we got to the hospital, I took her medical authorization/health form in with me. You know the one we have parents fill out! Well, this is why! (Be prepared to state: “I’m not her parent, I’m her Girl Scout leader,” many times!) Thank goodness I’m in the habit of keeping what I call my troop’s “event folder” in my car, so I always have their forms with me. But what I learned through this experience is that they really do not like to do ANYTHING with a child without a parent present. For us this meant a doctor came and looked at her finger and said it would need a few stitches, and that was all they would do until a parent arrived. So I had to continue trying her emergency contacts until I did finally reach someone who could contact a parent who could come to the hospital. Finally, the parent arrived and I could leave and head back to the rest of my girls. (Who were with my co-leader and my husband; he is a registered Girl Scout after all!)
So, my takeaway from this adventure is a new rule: no one touches anything sharp until after I’ve had plenty of coffee and am awake and focused! Also, we are going to add vegetable peelers to our knife safety talks, and talk to the girls about not trying to peel anything that is too small. Finally, I’m going to ensure my parents all double and triple check their emergency forms and ask them to let everyone on that form know who I am so they aren’t freaked out if I call. Finally and furthermore, I’m going to update my first aid/CPR training and refresh myself on all these things. And another thing! I am going to work on training my girls on a new first aid skill every month or so. We did that for a while last year and then got sidetracked, but first aid skills are forever!
I’m so grateful that I could learn this through a *small* incident and not something worse. I’m going to do my best to ensure this was both my first and last visit to an ER with a girl in my troop! I hope the readers of this blog understand that I’m processing this and trying to use it as a learning experience with a little humor. Obviously I do not find the situation funny and my priority in the moment was getting that girl taken care of. I can only poke a little fun at my own mistakes now because this was over a month ago now, and the girl really is fine.
I suppose I’ll save all the great things that happened on this trip for another post, as this one is already so long. We really did have a great time overall! Except that my girls got very annoyed with me that the bread for their french toast went with me to the ER (I had stashed it in my car, away from critters).
But wow, who knew fingers could bleed like that from what was ultimately not that big a cut? It only needed two little stitches! I will certainly never forget it!