Last night David stayed out late playing poker at a friend’s house. And at 12:30 am I found myself in bed with a bottle of sedative, a gag made of neoprene and a giant roll of duct tape. Sounds like the beginning of a B movie or the makings of a racy Tuesday night, doesn’t it? Maybe I should back the story up a bit and explain so as not to keep you hanging… but the reality of it is actually a lot less, um, glamorous.
Back in college my friends and I had a running joke about the versatility and usefulness of duct tape. If a problem needed fixing we could somehow work duct tape into the solution. Little did I know then that I would return to my old college quick fix on a desperate night and duct tape my 2 and a half year old so I could get some sleep. Before you report me to CPS let me tell you a tale of the events preceding this night…
It all started about 3 and a half weeks ago with a cold. Sam developed a fever and sinus congestion. A minor cold usually won’t bother him too much but this one hit him just a bit harder. For some reason, maybe due to the sinus congestion, he started gouging the skin right above his eyes with his thumbs. The biting of his lip, which just seems to be his old standby self-injurious behavior when he’s hurting, soon followed. We’ve been through this before so we knew to place socks over his hands and tape a pacifier in his mouth. But then he began biting his tongue, which is something that couldn’t be stopped with a simple pacifier. And this is where things get really ugly. No matter how hard we tried we could not prevent Sam from biting his tongue. And he bit hard. At one point we were giving him teethers to bite on hoping this would save his tongue. The problem was that he bit down so hard on the teethers he traumatized his front teeth. By now feeding had become a big issue since this seemed to be when he bit the most. Giving him a bottle was not even possible since his lips were so bloody and swollen and his tongue barely even resembled a tongue anymore. We got by with placing a burp cloth in one side of Sam’s mouth to keep his tongue behind his front teeth and dropping Pediasure into the other side one half teaspoonful at a time via a medicine dropper. While this was all going on David and I were brainstorming ways to prevent Sam from further hurting himself. Using an athletic type abdominal binder made from neoprene and Velcro, David cut and sewed a strap to fit around Sam’s head with a roll of material sewn into the strap, which went into his mouth. The initial design was flawed so David quickly whipped up a new and improved strap. This one seemed to work as long as we could keep Sam from pulling it off with his hands. And this is when another restraint was conceived from the neoprene binder. We attached two small wraps around Sam’s wrists and velcroed these to an abdominal binder around his middle. We went through two versions of hand restraints before coming to our third and final. As you can imagine by now we had been to our local neighborhood Target to procure more of these magical abdominal binders. Throughout this time we’d had several visits with Sam’s pediatrician and with dentists who specialize in kids with disabilities. No one could help us until Sam’s mouth healed. We got a lot of pats on the back and “You’re doing a great job.” This is nothing but annoying when you’re facing another sleepless night with a sick little boy determined to break free of his restraints as soon as you close your eyes.
It eventually got to the point where I was ready to take Sam to the (gasp!) hospital where he could be sedated long enough to let his mouth heal and still get the nourishment which was becoming harder and harder to supply to him at home. Instead we decided to just beg Sam’s pediatrician to write us a prescription for a mild sedative we could use at home so Sam could sleep at night.
Fast forward about a week. Sam’s over his cold but his mouth is still healing. He’s knocked out his two traumatized teeth when he broke free of his restraints (each one on separate nights just moments after we’d closed our eyes). He still has perfect little teeth mark wounds on his hands from biting so hard and several scratches above his eyes. But getting back to the night in question: I had, of course, just fallen asleep when I hear the sound of Velcro being ripped free. For whatever reason, something to do with the moon’s gravitational pull and the bright orange street light that shines into our room, Sam develops super-human strength at night. And all of his strength gets directed at trying to hurt himself. Finding myself alone with this creature and with no alcohol left in the house, my mind wanders to thoughts of straight jackets and elephant tranquilizers. So now we have come full circle and are back to the neoprene gag, the sedative and, yes, the duct tape. It really was all for the best because Sam slept soundly for the next 8 hours, suffering no new injuries. So there you have it: my confession and a tale of juvenile bondage in the suburbs.
A small disclaimer: this entry has been light-hearted for the most part but there was nothing light-hearted about the situation when we were in the thick of it. Had I written this a mere week ago the tone would have been unbearably grim. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch Sam hurting so much and I spent many of those days in tears. And the stress David and I endured during this time obliterated our senses of humor. But while my appreciation of the absurd was the last thing to go it has been the first to come back. And that is why I was able to sit in my bed last night surveying my handiwork and think to myself with amusement, “Wait ‘til people hear about this one.”