We pretended Robin Hood took an arrow in the wing for the team.
When the kids were six, we went to visit a friend I’d known in college to catch up after several years apart and for our kids to play together. After a long day of activities we were just about to wrap it up when one of their boys came in and said someone was hurt.
We raced outside and Spencer had injured his arm and was in a lot of pain. The three boys we were visiting were older and had been playing “child toss” where they threw my six-year-olds into the air and then caught them. Mostly. Until they didn’t. The similar bar and pub pastime of “dwarf tossing” had been banned in the late 80s, the bill championed by several different groups representing Little People. As far as tossing my kids, it worked well enough for the two older, stronger boys, but when the third one wanted to try it with Spencer, he couldn’t catch him on his return trip. Spencer went up, then came straight back down, crashing onto the hard ground.
My friend offered us Motrin and I went with it. Nurse that I am, gotta catch that pain early and fast. So we called it a day and loaded up to go home, Spencer clasping his little elbow and whimpering a bit but doing okay after some TLC.
As we drove across town to get home, our route took us right by Jason’s work. And as we passed, Spencer’s whimpers took on an entirely new pitch and volume. I pulled into Jason’s parking lot and tried to think, tried to figure out what I should do. It seemed I’d better take Spencer to the ER and get checked out, considering his growing agony. I did a kid swap with Jason and left the other three with him, and Spencer and I went on to the hospital.
The ER was busy and the wait was long. While we sat there, Spencer calmed down and his arm starting feeling much better. (Maybe the Motrin, or maybe he was fine.) I felt like I might have been overreacting. And of course, I couldn’t ignore the cost of an ER visit. I second guessed myself several times, asking Spencer over and over how he felt, did it really hurt, could he move it? I had just decided all was fine and it was time to go home when they called our name. We spent the next couple of hours with them x-raying and examining and concluding that his elbow looked fine to them, but if there was a hairline fracture it may not show. Or perhaps it had twisted and was just a sprain. They put a splint on his arm to support it as much as to keep other kids from ramming into him. And the doc said by Monday, he should be able to move it around fine and lift it to the side, and we could remove the splint.
I let him rest it up over the weekend, but by Monday we started our rehab. I took off the splint and said, “Try doing this,” lifting his arms out to the side like the ER doctor had demonstrated when he’d said by Monday all would be fine. It didn’t go so well for Spencer. He couldn’t lift his arm and it hurt him some. So we left the splint on for school, you know, to keep kids from ramming into him.
Every day we did this, and each day there was no improvement. “Come on, Spam, you can do it.” (Spam was his nickname. I'll tell you about that another time.) “Lift up your arm. You can. Really. I’m sure.” Every day, we did this. I said he could, his arm said he couldn't. By Thursday morning, I noticed a bad tremor in his hand while he was trying to raise up his arm. And it wasn’t getting any higher. So as I was pulling into the drop off lane at school, I told Spencer to stay in the car. I didn’t like that tremor and the fact that nothing had progressed in a week.
I took him to see our pediatrician, because that’s how insurance works, and he sent us to a pediatric ortho guy. He sent us to radiology and they got some more pictures. (Here’s a little factoid to store in your back pocket: if there is an injury to a loved-one, or ever yourself, make sure they x-ray the joint on either side of the injury.) The x-ray tech beckoned me over to the side and said he wanted to show me something. He led me to their back little viewing room just around the corner from where Spencer waited on the exam table, and the tech pointed at the lightboxes on the wall. There was Spencer’s arm. And it was broken off completely below the ball of his humerus. A sob broke loose from my throat and my hands flew over my horrified face. I’d been trying to get my baby to lift his arm that wasn’t even internally connected anymore! Okay, so that’s a little over dramatic. He still had all his muscles and sinew holding him together. But that’s how it felt. I was The World’s Worst Mom.
The radiologist thought they might need to go into surgery and re-break his arm after a whole week of just hanging there, so we had to go back to the ortho guy to get a game plan. But by then it was lunch time, so we had two hours to kill before they’d see us again. And we couldn’t eat lunch, because of the possible surgery. (Well, I could have. But no way was The World’s Worst Mom going to eat when her baby couldn’t. Besides, I was nauseated with guilt and remorse.) I took Spencer to Jason’s office and we hung out there, with Karen (the Evil Step Mother from our Halloween of Snow White the previous year) distracting and entertaining Spencer while I sobbed all over Jason. When we finally got back in with the ortho guy, he explained how that kind of break can’t really be casted, so the best thing is to let it hang in a weighted splint to help pull it down (traction). Even though the original ER people totally screwed up their diagnosis and missed an obvious fracture, the splint they gave me “until Monday” was just the right thing.
From then on, if one of the kids even looked like they might think they had a break, (like when Charlie fell out of the tree house or when Pierce was pushed backwards and landed on his arm) they went for x-rays. (Charlie wasn’t broken. Pierce was.) I never wanted to be first place again as the World’s Worst Mom.
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