Amazing things happen when a person (or any animal, for that matter) is faced with a perceived dangerous situation. The brain sends out all sorts of signals to release hormones that result in the body preparing for fight or flight. Heart and lung activity increases, vision becomes focused, glucose is produced to provide a burst of energy. Amazing, really. Natural instincts make a male more likely to stand and fight while a female is more likely to take flight. The exception is a mother protecting her young. And, I believe, in human females, this instinct extends to one’s spouse. When you’re a wife and a mom, flight usually isn’t an option. At least not one I want to consider. But I’m curious…how do you deal with frightening or traumatic situations?
Recently, I was faced with one. My husband Phil, who does a lot of woodworking, was out in his shop. I went to bug him and to chat for a few minutes before leaving him to carry on while I went to play in the yard with the dog. Just as I was heading back inside, I heard footsteps behind me and turned to see my husband running for the front of the house, hand clutched to his midsection, and asking, “Can you take me to the hospital?”
It took only a moment to see the blood and only a moment longer for that feeling to strike. You know the one…that feeling where you know you have to stay strong when all you want to do is run away and hope that when you return, you’ll find that what you were running from never actually happened. In a nutshell, you’re considering flight, but know that you have to fight.
I shouted a few questions regarding the status of his hand, possible missing fingers, whether said fingers were still on the shop floor and if I needed to go try to find them before running after Phil, who just kept saying, “We need to go, we need to go."
Now, Phil is not one to panic. It takes a lot to see even the slightest tilt in his usual even keel. Obviously, it was serious. I grabbed my purse and keys and we got in the car. I don’t remember the drive too clearly. I know I was going close to seventy (no, I was not on the highway) and, though don’t recommend it and hope to never have to repeat it, my weaving and honking was, I think, pretty impressive.
Long story short, we spent about an hour in the emergency room before heading to surgery with a hand specialist. We were told repeatedly how lucky we were that the accident happened when the hand specialist was on call. I guess I understood the sentiment, but it was hard to fully concur. Lucky?? Really??
About seven hours after the ordeal began, we headed home. Phil, with three fingers somewhat shorter than they had been when the day began, but with a less horrible outcome than “hand meets joiner” could have been. Me, exhausted and unable to stop replaying the scene in my mind.
Over the past couple of weeks, Phil has thanked me several times for how I handled the situation. I keep dwelling on what I should have done differently. I don’t want any more chances to find out if I will improve with practice. I do not need any more next times.
This marks the third and final member of my family to have an emergency situation. Daughter Claire had a skiing accident when she was eleven. Horrifying is seeing your child strapped to a backboard and being pulled down a mountain, barely conscious and struggling to call for Mommy while the paramedics try to ascertain if she is able to move her fingers and toes. Thankfully, that time I was surrounded by Phil, my parents, and my sister. I had a lot of support. Son Dylan, at seventeen, had his appendix rupture. Equally as horrifying is watching nurses shift to crisis mode when your son’s temperature suddenly skyrockets past 107. Phil was out of town so I dealt with that one alone. And now Phil. I’m done, I just want to put that out there. There’s a reason I’m not a doctor or a nurse, why I don’t watch medical dramas, why I feel nauseated upon entering a hospital…I don’t like this stuff! I’ve now dealt with a crisis with each one of them, I’ve put in my time, and by the grace of God we’ve all come through relatively unscathed. So I’m done. No more, please and thank you.
And now I ask again…how do you handle traumatic situations? Fight or flight?