The first thought that went through my head when Manasvi, my fourteen-year-old, ripped her toenail right off her foot in front of my eyes two days ago was, “Thank God she was in the pool when it happened. The water will lessen the impact of the pain, and the chlorine will disinfect it in case she’s bleeding.” Strange first thought, I thought later. I was actually saying thanks when my daughter had hurt herself.
We had gone for a two-day holiday to Bintan, an Indonesian island so close to Singapore that it uses Singapore Dollars as its local currency. We’d managed to go snorkeling (something I was really keen the kids try) and had been lounging about in one of the resort pools when the accident happened. They had a well-equipped medical centre in the premises, so with bloody footprints trailing us, my daughters and I slowly made our way there.
The next few minutes were excruciating for all of us. The doctor had to give Manasvi three injections for anesthesia, and then cut the rest of the hanging nail off her big toe. Ironically, those three injections to numb the pain were horrifically painful themselves. Manasvi was crying, howling and begging the doctor for relief, but she was also forced to give the go-ahead for each injection so that the doctor could proceed with the cutting bit. My younger daughter and I looked at one another, eyes wet, lips pursed, wincing in mirror pain.
It was the most harrowing moment I’ve had to undergo in recent times. My heart scrunched up in a ball of hurt, my stomach gnawed in fear and agony. My tears wouldn’t stop. My hand clenched my throat as if stopping me from screaming out. Watching the doctor slice Manasvi’s nail felt as if I was having my own toe cut off.
Later, after it was over, Manasvi began to sob — both for the pain and for the end of her holiday before it was even half done. No chance of jet-skiing, or even trying out the resort’s other pool. No more dips in the sea. Nothing that got her foot wet, and what other use is a holiday at a beach resort? She was shattered, poor thing. I felt terrible while consoling her, “Everything that happens is for the best.”
So yes, her holiday was indeed ruined. She can’t go swimming even now that we’re back in Singapore for the rest of our holiday week. With such an unhappy ending, where is the God in that, I hear you ask.
That horrible feeling, that unbearable pain that I felt when my daughter was crying for mercy? It taught me something very important. Every moment of my life when my children are safe, and I do not have to feel that emotion — that is God.