Why I take pictures in the ER

I was washing dishes and the kids were, in theory, up in the bathroom brushing teeth and getting ready for bed.  The bathroom door slammed and then my daughter screamed.  I know my kids’ screams. They come in all sorts of flavors. They range from ‘Hey, that’s my candy’ to ‘You’re mean’, to physical pain. This one was the latter.

When I got upstairs, my daughter’s finger nail had been ripped off her thumb.

Fast forward to the ER. After numbing stuff and X-rays, the doc asked if they could take pictures for the record. I ended up taking one too.

I got to thinking why? Why did I do that?

I know part of it is so I can see how much better the situation is after the docs are done. I am quick to forget. My motto could be ‘I’m so happy because I can’t remember jack’. So pictures allow me a strange sort of gratitude.  What ER staff does is amazing.

But, a bigger part of why came out in the days to follow. My words would fail to describe the wet, sticky, mess that was my daughter’s thumb. For non-medical people (myself included), open fracture and cut below the nail bed don’t mean anything.  They have no visual or implications.  Roughly translated they mean susceptible to infection and she may not have a thumb nail when it was all over.

When words failed to make an impression, and my audience was on the verge of patting me on the head, with that look that said “Really? You brought your daughter to the ER for a smushed finger?” I would bring out the picture, and watch their faces morph, and hear “OMG, is she okay?”

I realized that as a writer of sci-fi and fantasy, I don’t have a picture I can whip out.  My goal is to put the right words together so that they communicate the image I have in my head.  So my readers would say, wow that’s just what I was picturing.

It was a toss up what question to ask.  I narrowed it down to three… What are reasons you take pictures?  Or what crazy things did your kids do that landed them in ER? Or heck what do you do to make a crisp image with your words?

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