A Tale of Two Coffee Tables

By Leslie

To paraphrase Dr Seuss – “Oh the (tales) I will tell” – about my internship year at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Fifty years ago it was THE hospital for the poor and the Afro-American inhabitants of that city. And how woefully understaffed and underfunded it was.

One evening, when I was covering the pediatric emergency department, an older woman came in carrying a young child, profusely bleeding from her thigh. As the story was revealed, grandma was babysitting for her ~5-year-old granddaughter. When she stepped out of the living room where they were watching TV, her granddaughter decided to jump from the couch to the glass-topped coffee table – and though it she went!

I assessed the huge V-shaped laceration of her thigh which revealed muscle, tendon and bone. I promptly applied pressure and called my attending. He was confident that I could repair the wound – and dictated instructions over the telephone! No senior resident was in sight. And, as a matter of fact, neither was any nurse to assist me.

Grandma was incredibly guilt-ridden and tearful. Nevertheless, I made a quick decision to enlist her as my “surgical assistant” – and she ably performed after scrubbing up. The child was discharged to home.

I followed the child, as I was instructed, in surgery clinic each week. To my amazement, but as predicted by the attending pediatric surgeon, she healed beautifully with just the tip of the skin flap having to heal in by secondary intention. Oh, the resilience of youth! And, Grandma – she was ever so grateful to have participated in the care of her injured granddaughter!

Years later, with a son of my own, not a coffee table could be found within the confines of my home! But when the children grew up, I did purchase one – which unfortunately had – a glass top.

About a month ago, my husband informed me of his fear of falling onto the coffee table. Out it went – to a very, very appreciative young lady. Thus my “Tale of Two Coffee Tables” ends . . .  on a very happy note this time.

October 2019

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