We try to get Kenny to bed around 9 PM. His usual routine is that he brushes his teeth, flosses (hopefully) and reads in bed for a little bit. Last Sunday he was in the middle of his routine, when I heard, "Mom, I think there's something stuck in my nose!".
Okay, big emergency. I got out the flashlight, sat him down, looked up his nose. "What did you stick up your nose?", I asked.
"I don't know."
After I saw something in his nose that reflected the light, I asked, "Was it something shiny?" Yes, he said, it was shiny.
To make a long story slightly shorter - he had found strong super magnets. He said he tried to put them in his nose, just on the bottom part, keeping hold of them with his fingers, but the magnetic attraction was so strong that they slid up right onto his septum. And once that's happened, there's no way you're going to be able to pry them off again with your fingers.
After I had experimented with trying to get some pliers in there and get them out, I figured that I'd need to take him to the emergency room. We took a taxi to the pediatric emergency room (there's a taxi stand right next to our apartment block) and didn't have to wait long before we were seen by a doctor, who took a look at the magnets, and tried a little bit to remove them with various surgical implements. Then she gave up, and told us that we needed to go to the adult emergency room, where supposedly there was an ear nose and throat doctor on call.
So, we took yet another taxi to the adult emergency room. That was a whole different scene from the pediatric emergency room. No friendly little mobiles hanging from the ceiling, no cute animals painted on the walls, and nobody was sweet and friendly like in the pediatric emergency room. Nope, there was blood smeared on the floor, and we saw a handcuffed man being walked out the emergency room door with three policeman surrounding him (Kenny asked - "Was that a real bad guy?").
We did get seen pretty quickly, not by an ear nose and throat doctor, though. Kenny was checked out by a very young resident - barely in his mid 20's, I'd say. He tried with various implements to get the magnets out of Kenny's nose. Kenny was having a very hard time keeping still, even though I was encouraging him, telling him he needed to be brave and tough and be very still so that the doctor would be able to take the magnets out. Eventually the doctor got 3 nurses, and me to try to hold Kenny down while he prodded in his nose to try to remove the magnets. It was not a happy scene. The doctor caused some injury to his nostrils while trying to separate the magnets, and blood started dripping from his nose while Kenny was squirming and crying, which freaked him out even more.
So, he gave up and said he'd need to call an anesthesiologist. This meant general anesthesia for Kenny - not something I wanted to happen! We were relegated to a stretcher nearby, and told to hang tight until the anesthesiologist got there. Kenny really wanted his teddy, and was hoping that we could go home and get it. That was not going to happen, so I asked the nurse if they had any stuffed animals there. They had nothing. She tried, though - later on she came by with a coloring book and a few pencils for him.
Kenny was doing some coloring, so I decided to do some web searching on my smartphone. I had done a little bit of Googling before taking Kenny to the emergency room - I believe I searched for "magnet stuck in nose" or something like that, and didn't find anything useful. So while we were waiting for the anesthesiologist, I did some more searching - I searched for for "magnet nose septum" The word septum was the key - that's the cartilage between the nostrils. The very first article I found was this one: An attractive approach to magnets adherent across the nasal septum. It's an article in a medical journal called The Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine about this very same problem - also in an 8 year old boy! The author used a handle of a medical instrument, attached it to the magnet just using the magnetic properties of the metal, and then was able to pop off first the one magnet, and then the other, "painlessly and without trauma to the nasal septum".
"Painlessly and without trauma to the nasal septum!" That sounded really good. I searched for the doctor to show him the article on my phone. He looked at it, and then said, "Let's try again". So we sat Kenny in the chair again. It took some convincing that this time it wasn't going to hurt, because he was traumatized from the previous attempts. The doctor didn't quite get the gist of the article, so I had to explain it to him. We searched for some tools that might work. He ended up using some tools that look like they were designed to open up the nostril to look inside. He put one in each nostril, and voila! Just like that, the magnets popped off and were gone, adhering to the metal surgical tools instead of Kenny's septum! I was so relieved that I practically yelled, "Thank the Lord!". The doctor shook my hand. I think he was pretty impressed that I had found the article. I was frankly very happy with myself as well, that I had found this information and managed to avoid general anesthesia for my son.
After a little checkup inside his nose, we were free to go. The nurses that had held him down while the doctor first tried getting the magnets out wondered where we were going, and when I told them that the magnets were gone, were shocked and asked how the heck we did it. I didn't explain that well - it was late (past midnight) already and my French, quite shaky, was not really up to it, but I think I managed to convey what happened.
Then - another taxi to our house, and the whole dreadful experience was over! No permanent damage, just a story to tell.
And now I know the word magnet in French - aimant.