An adolescent boy fell off of his bicycle passing the bus stop this morning. He scraped his knee, tore his pants, hurt his wrist. He was shaken, but not hysterical. Mostly, he was worried about getting in trouble for the torn pants.
There were four of us Moms nearby when it happened, and while none of us ran to him, we went to him quickly to be sure he was alright. The Mom who lived closest got her first aid kit, while the type-A Mom rolled up his pant leg and called the boy’s mother. While she was on the phone with the mother (who, by the way, seemed completely unconcerned), I said, “Ask her if he has any allergies.” Type-A Mom shushed me and waved me off. Meanwhile, the first aid kit arrived and what looked like an alcohol wipe was quickly making its way to the boy’s bloody knee. I spoke up, “We don’t know if he has any allergies. What’s in that?”
“It’s just an alcohol wipe.”
“Are you sure?” I read the label. Sure enough, it was an anti-bacterial wipe with benzalkonium in it (its a preservative added to lengthen shelf-stability). “This stuff would send my daughter to the ER with a tube sticking out of her throat. Don’t put that on him.”
Type-A Mom said, “Well, at least put a band aid on it.”
“No,” I said. “Let it bleed until he gets to the nurse’s office at school. The bleeding will help get rid of any debris in there, and he might have a latex allergy. The nurse will know his medical history.” Also, my brain is screaming at me at this point, “SERIOUSLY?! He fell of his bike! Who hasn’t done that?!”
I got an eye roll and a nasty stare from Type-A Mom, but I couldn’t care less. First aid Mom said, “Wow, I didn’t know there was anything else in there. I better check all this stuff. Thanks for pointing that out.”
Do I really think the kid would’ve gone into anaphylaxis over a band aid? No. Was I willing to make a very minor situation much, much worse to keep blood off the kid’s socks? Absolutely not.
The kid had an airway. He was upright, talking, and aware. He was oozing blood, not squirting it. His lips were pink, he was still griping his lunch box and worried about getting his bike fixed.
Now, let’s wipe the kid with something he’s allergic to. He’s now flopping on the ground, peeing himself, clawing his throat for air, and banging his head against the concrete while we hope and pray an ambulance crew can get there in time to open his throat with a pen knife and straw.
“But it was just a fall off a bike,” you say. “Why be so dramatic?” you say.
The bike wreck was not dramatic. We could’ve made it dramatic by applying something to this child, without his mother’s consent, that he’s allergic to. We could’ve shut down this kid’s airway over a scraped knee.
Thankfully, Type-A Mom was there, because she quickly loaded the kid, bike and all, into her van and drove him to school (with his mother’s permission.) She wanted to do something. She wanted to help. God bless folks like her, because they do a lot of good in this world. Acting quickly and decisively is important…as long as its done rationally.
Yes, show compassion. Please be kind and concerned and loving. If there’s something threatening life or limb, please act swiftly and call 911. If my kid falls off her bike in your front yard, call me and offer her an ice pack…
…but don’t kill her because you don’t want blood on her socks.