An army tank,an 8-year old,several volunteer firemen,and one anxious Mom meet one day...
| Just One of Many "Christastrophes" In Ontario, May is recognized as the month that outdoor enthusiasts return to the fine tradition of camping. When my three children were younger, our family enthusiastically embraced this lifestyle. Camping has always been eventful for us. Don't get me wrong, we did manage to have fun. It's just that our memories were warped by gauze, bandages, Polysporin, and trips to the nearest emergency room. Accidents and camping are like s'mores and campfires; we can't imagine one without the other. I've long suspected that my offspring practised one-upmanship when it came to hurting themselves. Somewhere, there still exists an invisible scoreboard with appropriate columns and points for such items as: bloodiest wound, most bruises from a single fall, most stitches, biggest plaster cast, the greatest number of injured body parts, the keenest emergency room visitor, the most trips in an ambulance, (actually I've won this category, but not as a victim), and the piece de resistance: who has freaked Mom out the best! I don't anticipate that my two daughters who have experienced their own fair share of "incidents" will disagree that their brother has officially won all of the above. With this particular sibling rivalry he is in a class unto himself. I've never quite known what to call Christopher's "events". He's not much help. They're ancient history to him. He's healed. He's recovered. Should I refer to them as accidents or adventures or misadventures? Perhaps they are incidents or predicaments? Certainly, they were unforeseen, unfortunate, and untimely. They were his personal disasters and so I've decided to consider them as "Christastrophes". His greatest Christastrophe is unique enough to earn him the distinction of at least a paragraph in a certain world records' book; not that this has happened. I'm fairly certain and unbiased as only a mother can be, when I state that he's the only eight-year old boy who has ever been stuck inside an army tank. Yes, you read that correctly. While camping at a small-town site my son became stuck inside an army tank. It was an actual solid steel, decommissioned tank displayed as a monument atop a cement base. Apparently, kids used it as a jungle-gym. Who knew? Picture the last day of a Labour Day weekend; campers are packing up and preparing to drive home. My eldest appears to inform me that her brother "is stuck in an army tank". I drop what I am doing to follow her to the nearby playground. At this time I did not sense any urgency or panic from the big sister, so I assumed "stuck" to be something minor. Stopping at the large hunk of metal, my daughter again stated, "Chris is stuck in the tank." Noticing my hesitation Carrie pointed under the tank and I then realized that to enter it I must prostrate myself and slither along on my belly. After a bit of scrabbling and scraping I was able to pull myself up through a floor hatch into the interior. Nothing in any child-rearing manual prepared me for the sight of my eight-year old son; his right arm wedged to his shoulder in a hole about the circumference of his limb. He greeted me with a relieved,
"Hi Mom." My stunned reply was, "Your sister is right. You are stuck in an army tank!" It was as if this solid machine had suddenly attacked him and gobbled up his entire arm; like a shark. At ten years of age, Carrie didn't comprehend that her simple message was the understatement of the year. As I quickly verified by tugging on him, Chris was indeed stuck and going nowhere. Word of our dilemma spread throughout the campground and soon we were joined by a group of off duty volunteer firemen. They took control and mustered up cooking oil and dish soap. Soon, Christopher, myself, and a few shirtless strangers were greasy, slimy, slippery, and perspiring in our cramped humid area. Despite liberal amounts of lubrication and elbow grease the tank would not let go of Chris. Like any mother involved in the rescue of her child knows time ceases to exist. Five minutes may as well be five hours or five days. Every second that elapses is intense. My entire focus became freeing my son. I was determined that he would leave the tank in one piece. Logically if he was trapped he could be "untrapped"; arm in, arm out. Perhaps it was the claustrophobic space or my helplessness or rising fear for my son, but I suggested something radical. It probably was not an idea that a loving mother should contemplate. I considered that his arm could be broken. A fracture would be drastic, yet he'd be free of the tank. This idea was rejected by the determined and appalled would-be rescuers. They were not defeated because they were trained to problem solve. Most of their expertise came from house fires and vehicle accidents. An army tank extraction was a first. Someone fired up an air chisel and an attempt was made to slice or pry the back wall. I had my doubts. This tank had survived active combat duty and was constructed of welded steel. This was not a family sedan with an aluminum roof that could be peeled open. We endured deafening noise; roars, echoing metallic reverberations, bangs and clangs. We had to shout to be heard until the air chisel mercifully stopped. Nothing disturbed the tank or its tight grip on Chris' arm. Inevitably, it was time to make room in the tank for one more person. A local doctor had been waiting on standby. We anticipated that Chris would need medical attention. With all of our extrication efforts we didn't know if we'd hurt him. The newest member of our team administered a sedative before he undertook the tough job of dislocating Chris' shoulder. Finally, my son's swollen arm was pulled from its stubborn prison. Chris and his right arm were reunited with the rest of his body, but there was no time for celebration. The capable and surprisingly quick firemen whisked him away; down and out through the small hole beneath us. This was what they'd been waiting hours to do. The kid stuck in the army tank was a once-in-a-rescuer's-lifetime occurrence. Now they could concentrate on first-aid and victim transport. When I squirmed out and under the tank I was the last body to do so. I emerged to a real-life rescue scene. Yellow crime- scene tape screaming, "Do Not Cross", was stretched around the perimeter. Fire trucks with their lights flashing were parked next to the tape barricade. I could hear the static of emergency radios. Police officers were controlling a curious crowd. My two anxious daughters were peering into the back of an ambulance at their sibling strapped to a backboard. Everyone was so efficient! The paramedics were awaiting me; ambulance lights strobing, motor idling. After a hurried and heartfelt thanks to the rescuers, a verification my girls would be cared for, and reassurances given that their brother was okay I climbed into the ambulance. Our mother-son bonding continued during our ride to the hospital. He'd certainly gone to extremes to have me to himself. This was to be the first of many such rides together. Trying to alleviate "our" anxiety and re-focus our attention elsewhere I did what any newbie would. I pointed out different features especially the big picture window in the back door. We had a scenic view with a blur. The poor kid eventually stated the obvious; he was completely immobilized. He could not turn his head or see much of anything from his position flat on his back. I'd only aggravated his situation. Ambulance rides are not pleasure cruises. During this time, I also felt compelled to apologize to the paramedics. Their vehicle appeared to be brand new and very clean. Chris and I were filthy; slimed in black tank grease, cooking oil, fine sand, and dish soap. The gracious "hosts" assured me that they'd dealt with worse. At the hospital we were met by a nurse who didn't comment verbally on our state. While she cleaned my son she pointed out a nearby sink to me. Missing her subtle cues, she finally hinted at least three times that "soap and water are over there". Was she trying to help me focus and stay calm with a practical task? Did she want me out of the way? Was I hovering? Did she want a clean orderly emergency room? After an examination and a realignment of his shoulder, Christopher was found to have nothing more than scrapes, bruises, and swelling. He'd escaped the army tank with an aching, but still attached arm. He'd witnessed rescue operations firsthand. He'd weathered an ambulance ride. He'd survived another "christastrophe" and his mother's reaction. He'd lived to tell the tale, but he never would.