The only thing more traumatic than the first day of school is the first day of camp. Kindergarten offered experienced teachers and an established curriculum; camp offers teen-agers and water sports. A little too “Friday the 13th”, but I’m sure my son willl be fine if he lasts through lunchtime without incident.
My microwave pizza has 21 seconds left when the phone rings.
“Mr. Bain, your son has a bead stuck up his nose.”
“I’m sorry – a bead?”
“For participation and character traits. Some kids put them on a string; yours put it up his nose. It’s a standard craft bead – 9mm.”
“Like the gun?”
“Just the bullet.”
“I feel much better.”
“Don’t panic; this happens frequently.”
“I’ll be right there.”
I drive like a bullet myself, park in the loading zone, and bolt for the counselor’s office. She hands me a flashlight and says if I shine it straight up his nostril, I can see the offending bead.
“Which one?” I ask.
“Aquamarine – for group swim.”
“No! Which nostril?”
I shine, look and see nothing. Having tapped my medical expertise, we head for the pediatrician.
The doctor suggests several drops of antihistamine directly up the nose; my son protests that he hates having things stuck up there. We revel in the irony for a moment before returning to the task at hand.
My job is to reassure my son while holding him flat on the table with his head dangling off, for easier dropper-to-nostril access. As the doctor advances, my normally docile little boy transforms into an angry, cornered cougar. I recoil with scratches down both arms, but the doctor is able to get 2-3 drops on target before taking a swipe to the head.
He calls two nurses, a receptionist and a billing clerk to restrain my little werecat while attempting to retrieve the bead with six-inch tweezers. They never have a chance.
After three aborted nostril forays and an assortment of attacks accompanied by leonine screams, the doctor is happy to recommend a specialist. Once the billing clerk has cleaned her facial lacerations, we settle our co-payment and trek onward.
An hour later, we meet the referred plastic surgeon. “Because the bead’s plastic?” asks my again-human offspring.
We explain that the referring pediatrician managed only to shove the bead further up the nostril.
“Which one?” he asks.
“The right one.”
“No – which bead? My kids go to that camp.”
“Wow! He did group swim already?”
He locates the bead and reaches for a long, stainless steel, suction tube. When my son emits a guttural growl, I ask the doctor if he believes in lycanthropes. He changes his mind and schedules surgery for later.
After dinner, we head to the hospital to meet the surgeon, his nurse, an anesthesiologist, a vitals monitor, and a student who’s never seen this procedure. My wife remarks that it took fewer attendants to get our son out of her than it will take to get a bead out of him.
They dope him up with Versed and wheel him away while he’s still giggling. Moments later, the surgeon returns with an aquamarine bead in a specimen jar. The procedure took 15 seconds, but the cougar wakes slowly over 30 minutes. After he trees the recovery room nurse, we head for the jeep and civilization.
Back at home, the savage beast is soothed with a plate of mac and cheese, and begins to fill us in on the rest of his day. Including the rest of his beads.
“I got the blue one for honesty and the yellow for respect.”
“How about the dark green one? What was that for?”
“Oh. Well, I’m certainly glad you showed some of that….”