Stopped On A Dime [Memory Lane]

Estimated reading time: 14 minute(s)

This week we’ve been taking a trip down Memory Lane! Each day this week I’ve posted one of five of my favorite stories ever published here. Some were taken from books (like today’s) and others have only been published online thus far. These are some funny, some sad, some heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post. I invite you to enjoy them with me, too.

This last post is one of our favorite stories ever! It features our oldest son and one of his first visits to the emergency room.

But I don’t want to give too much away, so…

Stopped On A Dime

May 3rd, 2005

DimeSaturday had gone pretty much as planned. We were just finishing up a long day of serving at our church. With sound checks and two complete run-throughs of the service, coupled with a half-hour commute each way, those Saturdays are long and tiresome. Especially for small children.

On our way home, Ian (our six-year old) complained of pain in his nose. We were curious, as it was not a normal complaint, but chalked it up to a strange case of sinus pressure and continued on our drive home.

I was putting away some things that had been left out in our rush to leave the house that afternoon, and getting ready for a bed-time snack and perhaps a little Star Trek with my wife, when I heard a commotion in the boys room. Jen was putting the boys in bed and Ian was loudly complaining about his nose. When the situation had my attention, I heard him say frantically, “There’s something in there!“

This piqued my curiosity of course, and I peered around the corner to see what in the world he was talking about. He was standing on his bed holding the left side of his nose with a very concerned look on his face. Still asserting that there was something in his nose. Then a look of resolution washed over his face. The light went on, and everything was ok. That’s when Ian revealed to us what had happened.

“Ohhh…. It’s probably the coin.”

Those were NOT the words I wanted to hear. Just by the way he said them, and the look on his face, his previously hidden childish mistake had been quickly and very certainly brought into the light. I left the room as my blood pressure went through the roof. The next morning was coming early enough… a hospital visit was NOT in my agenda for the evening!!

Ian continued to explain a bit to Jen what had happened. Those moments, truthfully, were a blur, as I was trying to just get a handle on my anger. Once I had a bit of control back, I picked Ian up out of bed, and laid him on the floor of the bathroom. I looked for the tweezers Jen had recently gotten from a garage sale, and began to perform exploratory surgery. Ian was crying, and blood started to appear at the base of his nose. I had not felt anything like a coin, and was not willing to pursue any farther this on my own.

“Get your shoes on, Ian, we’re going to the hospital!”

I was not happy.

On the ride to the hospital (which we made in record time… adrenaline is a marvelous thing…) I was trying to process everything, and scolding Ian for his insanity. What is it that makes kids stick things up their noses?!? In utter disbelief, and still quite fiery anger due to the late night visit to the ER, I continued my steaming. Finally, God got a thought in there I believe. I realized that it was really a great thing that Ian felt the coin before he laid down to sleep. Who knows what might have happened if he had gone to sleep with a coin in his nose? So, I quietly thanked God for that, while still making a few incredulous comments in Ian’s direction.

We arrived at the somewhat desolate hospital roughly 10 minutes after leaving home, and proceeded through what looked like the most obvious entrance. We found ourselves in the treatment rooms hallway, with a few nurses looking on. I figured that was not the right place, so we continued to look for a registration area. Finally made our way through some automatic doors and into a lobby/lounge area. There was an older gentlemen sitting with a teenage boy across from a tough-looking lady with glasses who appeared to be in charge. There was no sign saying “Registration” or “Sign In Here”, just a sign saying “Do Not Disturb”. Not being one to always follow signs, I peeked around the corner and quietly asked, “Is this where we register?” The lady at the desk fired the quick retort, “I’m with a patient, have a seat!” I sheepishly admitted I had not been to this hospital before, and was just looking to sign in. She reminded me to have a seat.

So we sat. And we waited. The bespectacled woman was lecturing the young man about his sexual practices as we waited quietly for our turn to face the tongue lashing. It was quite sometime, and perhaps a good chance for Ian to think about what he had done. He was growing visibly concerned. I tried to assure him, and we did pray together that God would make good out of this bad situation.

After 15 minutes or more, a much nicer looking lady came out from the back. She spoke with the two men in the registration room, and the other lady behind the desk, and offered advice and information in a decidedly softer tone. They seemed to resolve something after a couple minutes, and the gentler, taller woman with the stethoscope retreated from the office and seeming to almost debate in her head whether or not to approach us, she stepped our way.

“So how can we help you, young man?” she asked, directing her words to Ian.

“I stuck a dime in my nose.” he said matter-of-factly.

“You did? That’s not the best place to keep your money…” she said with a smile. She continued to figure out the situation a bit, and kept the mood light and reassuring for a now scared little boy. After a brief moment, she had a plan, and we were taken into another room.

We waited, and then were greeted by another nurse. She took down some information, quizzing Ian for any details he could recall. We laughed with her about the things she had seen other kids put in their noses. It was quite a list! After about 10 minutes there, we were directed to the office where the previously rough-looking lady greeted us with a smile.

I knew that she was not going to be as gruff as we were now supposed to be there. At least, I hoped she wasn’t! I was right. She laughed a bit – just to lighten the mood – at Ian’s predicament, shared some similar stories, and reminded him that it’s better to keep your money in the bank instead of in your nose. Ian agreed.

By the end of our little information interrogation, she plopped a little stuffed Fozzie Bear down in front of Ian. A little treat for a tired and still slightly concerned boy… with a dime in his nose.

We were ushered to the last room on the right – room number 8 – past several nurses and other hospital staff, and the occasional occupied room. There is no shortage of hurting people in the world. Not even in Wayne County. When we got to our room, we were told the doctor would see us shortly. I looked at the clock, it was 11:15 already! This was not good. I was just hoping that they would be able to dig out the dime fast so we could go home and get a little sleep!

The clock continued to approach midnight, and we were not getting any help. I kept wanting to call Jen to give her a progress report, but signs continued to warn me that cell phones were a no-no in the emergency room. So, we waited, and we talked. I kept trying to reassure Ian that they probably wouldn’t have to cut off his head this time. Not this time.

Finally, a tall, dark-skinned man came into our room, and began asking Ian about the dime that had found its way into his nose. After a few questions, the doc dove right in! He had a nurse bring him what he called the “nose tray” and once she had, he grabbed the tools and started diggin’!

First, he took a look with that lighted pointy thing they always stick in your facial orifices. He looked up, moved it around, looked down. Ian looked a bit uncomfortable, and the doc looked perplexed.

“I don’t see it in there yet. Did you feel it fall down in your throat?” he asked Ian.

“Nope. I felt it in my nose,” Ian stated matter-of-factly. He’s good at that.

“Oh.” To the point, but not reassuring words from the kind doctor.

He began digging in Ian’s nose with some interesting looking forceps. They could stretch open the nostril whilst the light continued to illuminate the nasal cavity. He dug for a while, then repositioned the light, the dug for a while more. All making Ian squirm a bit. Still, no luck.

“I think it may have fallen back down into his throat and he may have swallowed it.” The doctor was fairly certain that this was our explanation. At this point, I believed him, but had a nagging and really annoying feeling that perhaps Ian had made this whole thing UP!?!? I didn’t really think so, but that was certainly creeping into my mind…

“I am going to send him over for some x-rays to see if he swallowed it. Stay here, and someone will come to get him for the x-rays.” And with that, he was gone. I checked the clock, and we were right at about midnight. Two hours… no coin.

After a bit more waiting (there seems to be a lot of that in a hospital) an x-ray dude came and took us to the room where they would take a look inside my son. A rather strange phenomenon, but I hoped it would get our heads to our pillows a bit more quickly.

We followed him into the room, and he began to set up the machine to take its photos. I found it curious that he appeared to be setting it up to capture Ian’s chest. That was what the doctor had relayed to him – check to see if he swallowed it – but still, I thought surely they would have to check in his nose, since that’s where he put it. The technician flawlessly captured two images of Ian’s innards. He and another x-ray dudette took a gander at them on that little LightBrite thing they use and surprise! No dime! It was then that the other tech offered the brilliant idea (with a hint of sarcasm) that we scan Ian’s head, to see if it’s still in there!

So, we did.

Ian stood by the face x-ray machine. They prepared him for the photo, and snapped a shot from the back of his head. After processing the film, and placing it on the LightBrite panel… THERE IT WAS!!!!! We have first contact! There was very clearly a white slash in the middle of Ian’s head that was not supposed to be there! The second tech said we should take a profile shot to verify where it was located. They proceeded to set Ian up one more time, and after processing the film, this is what we saw…

A dime in a boy's headRight in the very middle of my 6-yr-old’s bony little head was stashed exactly 10 cents. Not the first place you might look for loose change. Perhaps under the couch cushions, or in his pockets – or even better, in the washer after forgetting to check his pockets. But usually not the CENTER OF HIS HEAD.

At this point, after the hour of 12:00am, we are all a bit amused by the whole thing, and happy to have located the wandering currency. We return to room number eight, and await the official removal procedure from the doctor.

It was at this point, about 12:15am that I was able to finally call Mom and let her know that we found the coin. Unfortunately, Mom had long since fallen asleep. But, the message was left, and with great anticipation of returning home shortly following the call. Little did I know what was about to happen next!

The doctor told me that the coin was lodged at the back of the nose, just above the throat. He could approach the coin through the nostril, or from underneath through the mouth. He preferred the nostril, and looked at me as though asking, “Do you concur?” To which, if it had not been 12:15am following a painfully long day, I might have responded without a verbal cue, “I concur.” Alas, I was only able to mutter, “Uh, yeah. Sounds good.” Leaving me mumbling to myself afterward, “I should’ve said concur! I should have said, “I CONCUR!!!”

(See Catch Me If You Can to fully appreciate the above paragraph.)

So we found ourselves back where we started, in room number eight in Newark-Wayne Hospital, with Dr. Nwokonko sticking very long metal instruments down Ian’s left nostril. This was not a pleasant experience for Ian. He was definitely learning the cost of putting a ten cent piece up your nose. It was clearly a painful experience, so the doctor used some numbing gel on the end of a 10″ swab and after what seemed like a token swab of Ian’s nostril to numb the pain, he proceeded down, and down further, and then even further down inside Ian’s nose. He was attempting to dislodge the coin, and hoping it would fall into Ian’s mouth, and we could get it from there. No luck. That coin would not budge. He couldn’t see it, he couldn’t grab it, and he couldn’t push it out.

A bit stumped, he said, “I think we should go back to x-ray.”

I thought, “Oh boy! Are we going to keep taking pictures after every attempt? Just to see where it is now?” Thankfully, Dr. Nwokonko let me in on his plan, by explaining it to the x-ray technician.

“I’d like to do a [insert big fancy medical word here] on him so we can see where the coin is and be able to reach it that way.”

Cool! An x-ray video!!! Awesome, Ian!!! They’re going to shoot a video of your skull!!!

(Sorry… I was tired. And easily amused.)

So, as they prepped that machine we got to talk a bit with Dr. Nwokonko. (By the way, exactly how much do all of these fancy procedures cost, anyway? I know in Star Trek they are free… but this ain’t no Star Trek…) We found out his name, Dr. Nwokonko. Found out that he is from Nigeria. And that he occasionally works the night shift, but does not prefer it. He is a gentle, kind man. I am glad he was on that night.

After a few moments, we were ready to proceed. We went into the room, and got suited up with lead aprons. I thought it was amusing that the doctors and technicians wear full body armor while they shoot laser beam x-rays through Ian’s naked head. Doesn’t that seem a bit strange to you? Oh well…

They turned it on, and there was Ian’s head, and the dime. The procedure began. Having his target in visual range, Dr. N probed deeper than before, and Ian could feel it. My poor little boy was definitely tired by now, shortly after 12:30am, and had less tolerance for this much more aggressive treatment. My previous anger had definitely subsided, and though I may appear at times to be tough-skinned, that was a moment I would rather not relive. There was some pain in his cry, but perhaps more fear, and just desperation. It was definitely hard to remain behind the screen. I just wanted to come hug him, hold him. I offered words of encouragement best I could.

Despite what seemed like endless probing, and screaming, and Dr. Nwokonko repeatedly saying in his thick accent, “Sorry…” we were unsuccessful. The coin was just out of reach. He stopped his attempts to reach it, and just started talking with the tech about what they might try next.

This is my favorite part of the night…

Ian's self portrait of the dime in his head

Ian’s self portrait of the dime in his skull. 🙂

It was at this point that my amazing 6-yr-old son began offering his expert medical opinions. The doctor was saying that perhaps he would try the smaller forceps (thinking that perhaps the larger ones were too wide to reach far enough in.) To that Ian quipped, “I was thinking that bigger ones would work better…” It was sooo funny! The tech looked at him and she said, “You are quite a character!” He is too cool.

Well, despite Ian’s advice, Dr. N left to get the smaller forceps. Ian continued to offer some opinions and a little color analysis of the previous attempts to remove his nasal-stashed coinage. It was late, but the mood was still a bit light. We all hoped that this would be our last attempt.

Dr. Nwokonko returned, with the smaller forceps, and we turned the machine back on for one more try. Not appearing to be as patient this time, the doc dove straight in and Ian screamed again. In between cries, he did manage to get out, “Can you reach it fast, pleeease???” Even in extreme discomfort, Ian is polite to his elders. The idea seemed to be working, and Dr. N was very close to grabbing the coin. He reached and Ian squirmed, and he reached some more.

Then with one quick motion, the coin in the image moved, and was pulled completely out of Ian’s tired little head!

We were all quite relieved, and happy – especially the little boy who started us on this adventure in the first place. As he would later explain, he was “just trying to get a booger.”

We went back to room eight, awaiting discharge. Ian talking most of the time about his experience that night, and how he would never, ever stick anything in his nose again! I bet not! The female x-ray tech got us a copy of the x-ray they had taken with the clearly visible Eisenhower lodged in the center of Ian’s head. Ian also got a little care package from the hospital folk. And, lots of smiles as we walked out.

We drove home quickly, and at nearly 1:00am, Ian hit his pillow, ten cents lighter.

What a night! What a day! One we will not soon forget.

And all for only a dime.

Life in the Rearview Mirror: Reflections on Life Lived by Greg CampbellThis post is a chapter in the book Life In The Rearview Mirror: Reflections on Life Lived by Greg Campbell, available through If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.
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