Freak Accident

“…a stabbing…on the school bus…your son….”

Three things no parent ever wants to hear in the same sentence. But that’s what I heard when a police officer called me yesterday afternoon shortly before I expected my kids to come bounding in the door.


I shove my feet into shoes and snag my purse on the way to the car, probably in 2 seconds total. The officer tells me over the phone where the bus has stopped. Good, now I know where to go. He kindly warns me that when I come upon it, it will look like a crime scene, with lots of lights and sirens and emergency vehicles. “So don’t freak out,” he says.

Wait, what? I think to myself. I must have missed something. If my child has been stabbed I am most certainly going to freak out.

I begin to listen better, and he tells me that this incident was first reported as a stabbing, but it’s looking like it actually isn’t. I try to figure out what could have happened as I wait at the longest light in the history of American traffic.

Sure enough, as I finally pull up, there are eight or nine vehicles flashing their lights around the bus — all that’s missing is a news helicopter above. People on the street are rubbernecking to figure out what’s going on. The lady in front of me is blocking my attempts to turn and park and GET TO MY SON. I honk and she flips me off out her sun roof but at least she starts moving.

I park and run to where my son is being loaded into the ambulance. His sister is beside him, stroking his very pale face. I can see she’s working very hard — successfully so — at being the calm one. It suits her.

I climb into the ambulance while the paramedics cut away Reed’s clothes. He starts crying as I connect with him wide eye to wide eye. I touch his arm and ask if he’s in pain. “It hurts so bad!” I look at his belly.

He’s got a pencil sticking out of it. Two inches show. No one knows how much doesn’t show.

“And these are my favorite shorts and shirt!” I can hear his exclamation point even though he’s only able to whisper.

His panic is rising and as his color is fading. There isn’t much blood coming from his wound; he’s going into shock. The paramedics start an IV line and drip morphine into my son. They also immobilize the pencil by taping gauze around it. A police officer continues snapping photographs of him “just in case this does turn out to be a crime scene.”

Tessa rides in the ambulance with Reed and I drive to meet them at what will turn out to be just the first hospital of the day. I’m not thinking ahead much but I’m guessing we’ll need a car.


Six hours, two hospital ERs, and countless nurses later, Roger and I are waiting to see how surgery went. We shake our heads at the story we’ve pieced together.

Every weekday afternoon the bus goes down a big hill. At the top of it, many boys on the bus treat it as their daily roller-coaster ride, giving a little jump at the crest of the hill.

This time, a boy behind Reed gives him a “boost” (that’s what the kids call it). As far as I can tell, that means he got a well-intentioned lift in the air. In addition, Reed happened to have a pencil in his pocket. This is the set of facts that let to us being in our 2nd hospital and 6th hospital room of the night.

Tessa, not even sitting near her brother, Tessa was the one who somehow made the bus driver stop within about 20 seconds, by the time the bus was at the bottom of the hill. I’m guessing this is where the misreport happened. The emergency was primary; an accurate assessment was secondary. And that’s OK with me.


It’s nearing midnight, and a nurse at Children’s Hospital come to tell us our son is done with surgery and he’s fine. The pediatric trauma surgeon later fills us in.

She had to explore the abdomen prior to extracting the pencil to see what damage it may have done Unfortunately, it did pierce through the muscle wall and perforate the large intestine. And unfortunately, there were about 4 inches of pencil inside his belly. Fortunately, his body had already begun to fight off the invader by sealing off the breached areas. He won’t be going home tonight, but he will be going home soon.

freak accident pencil

Now that the pencil is out, we just need to deal with antibiotics and pain management.


I stay the night and much of today in the hospital. This was my view of my family as I left to freshen up.

freak accident hospital

I’m tired and hungry and stinky and off to nap, eat, and shower, not necessarily in that order.

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35 thoughts on “Freak Accident”

  1. Oh Lori,
    Sending heartfelt wishes for a quick recovery and a chance to get a good night’s sleep before too long. Hurray for Tessa, who sounds like the best sister possible, and for Reed–what a trouper.

  2. OMG!!! I can’t even begin to imagine what you went through! I hope he recovers quickly and that you buy him a hard sided pencil case to carry in his bag!

  3. You are so correct, no one wants to hear those words or see their child endangered. I am so glad that things have progressed well so far. I will send lots of prayers and positive, healing energy his way.

  4. Lori,what a freak accident! So glad he’s okay and that there was nothing malicious to worry about. He’ll be telling that story for the rest of his life! I’m sure it was terrifying at the time though – for you all. Sending hugs.

  5. My heart is on my throat from this. I’m glad surgery went well, but all of this is terrifying. I’m so sorry Lori. Thoughts and love to you and your family during this time.

  6. Oh Lori,

    Oh Lori. That’s all I can say. Thank God he is okay, but I know how deeply to your bones scary that is. I know how wonderful you are at breathing and self care and I hope that all of that wonderful energy surrounds you as you and your family regain your equilibrium.

    So so so sorry this happened. My heart truly is with you and your family tonight.



  7. Tessa got an opportunity to shine and SHE DID!!!

    Hope the little one pulls through with only the dramatic story to tell for the rest of his life. (How his sister saved his life when he was just a kid.)

  8. I am so relieved to hear that he is going to be okay! I take comfort I hearing that it was not a stabbing, although still very scary for you and your entire family. Sending best wishes and love.

  9. 4 inches!!! Oh Lori!! I am filled with emotions reading this post but the one I’m feeling right now is relief. As I’m sure you are now that you are hopefully semi-cleaned, rested, and fed. So, relieved no major irreparable damage was done. So relieved you got there. So relieved you have amazing, stunningly amazing children – oh Tessa, I can only hope to have your wherewithal and calm should something like this happen in our house. (If I had to predict, I would say I won’t.)

    Oh Lori, hugs. Big, big hugs.

  10. Holy crap! What a traumatic event for all of you – sounds like Tessa is good at crisis management. I’m guessing that’s due to some parental input. Poor Reed – that must have been quite an experience for him. I hope his recovery is quick and uncomplicated.

    Sorry to hear that you were subject to a freak accident. I’m sure it will be a fascinating anecdote someday, but for today, maybe a glass of wine is in order?

  11. Reed is so going to rock this story! Because that us who he is. He is such a cool kid with an amazing outlook. This event WILL define him. Because he will own it and make it his. Kudos to his level-headed sister!

  12. How awful! Every mother’s nightmare to get that call, and then all those hours at ER and hospitals. I hope you all will be fine, especially Reed. Prayers and good thoughts for him and all your family.

  13. Holy shit! First and foremost, I’m glad they were able to get it out and that he’s on the mend. But my G-d, for all of you to go through that. I was holding my breath through the whole post.

  14. Lori, that must have been terrifying. I also found myself holding my breath as I read the post. I pray your son will heal completely and will be left with nothing but a cool scar he can show off to his friends.

  15. Oh, LorI! I’m just catching up … how scary! My heart almost leapt out of my throat when you described this. Sending hugs, and so glad that he’s going to be OK, and hoping that YOU are feeling more OK tonight, too.

  16. I won’t try to imagine that fear you went through. I hope he recovers quickly and smoothly. I’ll also be thinking get of the other children on the bus and that bus driver.

  17. I didn’t realise I was holding my breath until I reached the part where you were told surgery went alright. Lori. I can’t find my words. I get a glimpse of what must have went through your mind, and I am so scared. Thank god he is alright, and that Tessa, god bless her soul, is the cool-minded girl she is. Sending you many virtual hugs.
    The possibility of what could have happened, the brush against the unthinkable, the enormity of that alternate outcome give me chills of the worst kind. I am so happy that it is now behind you.

  18. Oh wow. I’m so sorry this happened and so glad Reed is going to be ok. I was just talking to a physician colleague yesterday who said they had a kid in the ER who was erasing homework furiously and then put his head down quickly in frustration, poking his eye out in the process. these pencils! I don’t think of them as being so lethal and yet…

    so glad Reed is going to be ok. You on the other hand probably lost years off of your life.

    sending good thoughts to your whole family.


  19. Oh Lori! Bless your heart!! Nothing is more scary than something being wrong with our kids. I know you’re very proud of your daughter for being so strong. Glad Reed is healing and will be good as new before you know it!


  20. Oh Lori — how terrifying! I am so glad it was a freak accident and not a crime scene, but that doesn’t change the facts and the medical trauma of having a pencil shoved in your son’s abdomen. Your son must have been so scared! How awful, but I am so glad that everything so far has turned out well. The body is an amazing machine, capable of so much healing. I’ll be thinking of your family as Reed heals up and is left with a scar and a story he’ll tell all his life. Yikes.

  21. Oh my gosh, Lori! No – no parent wants to hear that. Hugs! We’ve had so many medical issues, I totally get it. I hate the scary ones!

  22. I should have read this FIRST! I saw your post referring to this entry but couldn’t get to it from my phone. Now, at my laptop, on Feedly, I got your posts in reverse chronological order, so please forgive my less than enthusiastic comment to the other post.

    OMG…his being stabbed would have made this such a different story even if the outcome had been the same. As a mom to a boy that I could see doing this, or something similar, the degree to which that changes the perception isn’t lost on me.

    The lead, are they worried about the lead? I imagine the anti-biotics are for that? Having a lead pencil embedded in his instestine for that length of time…the lead is what my mind goes to.

    I hope he is even better today.

    I so appreciate the measured way in which you wrote about the unfolding of events. No matter what was going on inside, you kept your wits about you, mama, and I hope I can do the same should something similar occur.

  23. Oh Lori, OMG. And Reed, poor Reed. I am so glad he is okay now but my god what a scary phone call to receive and freak accident to deal with.

    My heart is pounding with the worry. I hope is he is healing well and you are okay too. XO

  24. I’m so glad he’s out of the woods now, but can’t imagine what you’ve all been through. His story reminds me of one of those cable TV shows about weird ER visits I’ve come across a few times. I bet they’d love his story. Reed’s first 15 min of fame? 😉

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