Every day when Laylee gets off the bus, she and Magoo run down the hill to our house at top speed, scaring me to death and forcing me to cup my hands and yell, “SLOW DOWN. YOU’LL FALL AND BREAK YOUR ARM.” I mean it in the, “You’ll poke your eye out” sense. I don’t ever really expect them to break their arms.
So yesterday she got off the bus and Magoo took off like a shot. Laylee soon followed after him but hadn’t gone 10 feet when she tripped and went sliding down the asphalt. She began to scream as she often does when road rash attacks. I sort of pregnant jogged over to her to offer some sympathy and she sobbed, “Please carry me down the hill. I broke my ARM!”
“Yeah,” I thought, “I broke mine too.”
“Okay, honey. Let’s walk home and we’ll have a look at your arm, maybe put some arnica on it. I can’t carry you because I’m pregnant and you weigh too much. You can make it.”
She was a bit hysterical and I could see scrapes all over her legs. I knew they stung but I just couldn’t face carrying her the long way home.
“CARRY ME PLEASE! IT’S BROKEN!”
Then she rolled over and I saw her arm, all sort of wavy and visibly broken.
I carried her.
I was fairly calm, telling her it would be okay and commanding Magoo to go next door where our neighbor was working from home and tell Steffen we needed him. Steffen came out and offered to come with us to the ER but I asked him to take Magoo for me instead and went inside. When Steffen was so concerned and sweet to us, I fell apart and started bawling, which did not do much to calm Laylee’s fears.
Friday had been my big cleaning day and I was greasy and sweaty and wearing a tent-like shirt and low-riding old sweat pants. I had no makeup on, having planned a shower as soon as the house was clean.
I laid Laylee on the couch with my friend Candice whom I was paying to clean the bathrooms at the time and went into the other room to fall apart a bit more, while calling Dan on every number I could think of. I was not un-hysterical and he wasn’t answering so I got the patient into the car, reclined her seat, elevated her arm and ran inside to at least change out of my sweats.
For the last week or more I had gotten up every morning, showered, dressed, blow-dried my hair, curled it and put on make-up, whether I was going out or not. The one day I didn’t, I had to take my baby to the ER. It’s not just vanity that made me take the extra 2 minutes to change. There’s a part of me that thinks our care won’t be as good or they’ll be more likely to suspect abuse if I look like a shlep.
In the car, I took a mini shower with baby wipes while driving and calling Dan and all of his co-workers repeatedly. My tears were silent and Laylee was calming down. As I dialed I reassured her that it would be fine, and how cool that she would get a cast, and I’d always wanted a cast, and Daddy would meet us soon and he’d bring us lunch. As I drove by the fire station, I realized that I had not put any ice on the injury so I pulled in and flagged down a couple of fire fighters who were walking into the building. Again I lost it and bawled and begged for ice. They offered to drive me to the ER in the rig and spoke calming words to Laylee. When I declined the “rig” offer, they looked me in the eyes and walked me through the steps I needed to take to get her safely there. It’s like they were trained or something. “You know her birth date and medical history, right? You know where the hospital is? See. You have all the tools you need. You can do this. Just concentrate and stay calm and you’ll be fine.”
So I did. Eventually I got ahold of Dan and a few minutes after Laylee and I were checked in, he arrived with a Happy Meal that she was not allowed to eat because they were worried she’d vomit or pass out or something. They didn’t ever really explain, just said she couldn’t eat or drink until they were done. I slipped into the hall to chow… for the baby while Dan chattered away, ignoring her twisted arm, lying limp under the ice pack.
We talked to about a million check-in people, nurses and doctors and each one would ask her why she was there. She’d tell them her arm was broken and they’d give her that sweet, “Yeah sure” smile and say, “Oh yeah? Let me have a look.” Then she’d pull back the blanket, they’d flinch just a bit, replace the blanket, nod and ask the next question, “How did you do this honey?”
Her answer was the same every time. “I had just started. I wasn’t even going that fast.”
Then they’d look at me and I’d fill in the blanks. “Every day I tell her not to run so fast down the hill or she’ll break her arm and she’s just telling you that she wasn’t doing anything wrong. She was running down the hill.”
Then came the fun part, the part when they needed to insert an IV. When I told her we were going to the hospital, she balked. “Don’t put a needle in me!” she begged. I promised her that I wouldn’t, not mentioning to her in her hysterical state that someone else might have to.
She’s inherited my tiny, rolly veins and the last time someone tried to insert an IV in her arm, she was 18 months old and 4 nurses and 11 needles later, they gave up, leaving the terrified baby sobbing on the ER bed.
I warned the doctor that it might not be pretty but they started to try. The first nurse inserted the needle and dug around for SEVERAL minutes while Laylee screamed and Dan and I held her and tried to comfort her. When she gave up, I went in the hall to “check on something” and sobbed my eyes out while nurses passed me tissues and told me I was doing just fine. The second nurse asked Laylee to try not to scream because it made it harder to get the needle in the right place so Laylee asked Dan to please hold his hand over her mouth. We did Lamaze breathing and as the nurse pulled out and dug in and poked and dug, Laylee breathed and her eyes darted around in sobbing panic like a frightened animal who’s being tortured to death. Her face shook violently and she sobbed almost silently but she kept her hand perfectly still with no one holding it.
Several minutes later they gave her another break and called down a nurse I assume was from pediatrics. She slipped it in first try and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
They needed the needle in her hand so they could pump her arm full of lidocaine to numb it for the setting of the bone. Once her arm was numb, she watched cartoons and could not care less about who was touching her, which was amazing because from check-in to X-ray to the orthopedic specialist, she had been unwilling to let anyone but me manipulate the arm. She trusted me to move both halves at the same exact time without jarring the bone that was broken and poking up at a 30 degree angle. The other arm bone was broken through but staying together.
Now the orthopedic guy was flopping her arm around like a rubber chicken, bending it various directions to get the bone set just right and she didn’t even give him a glance, so engrossed was she in her PBS cartoons. Thank heavens for modern medicine. I got some pretty freaky video of the bone setting that will go in her digital scrapbook. So bizarre to see what he’s doing to her while she just lays there zoned out like a TV zombie. He checked the alignment with a portable CT scanner, gave her a temporary splint and invited us to come back to his office in 6-10 days for a real cast once the swelling had gone down.
We were sent home with a new stuffed animal and a prescription for liquid vicodin.
As I was starting the car, Laylee commented enthusiastically, “Well that was quite an adventure! That was pretty cool. I bet when you were little and you wanted a cast, it was because you imagined having an experience just like the one I had.”
(That is a direct quote. She really speaks like that. Pretty much always has.)
“Well, I did always want a cast,” I deflected.
“Well, you probably didn’t imagine the needle part. But the other parts were really cool.”
“Nope. I didn’t imagine the needle part.”
We went home where Magoo was having the time of his life with the neighbors who had made us a wonderful dinner and special dessert for Laylee.
So now I just need to keep a 6-year-old from bumping her arm or getting it wet for the next week, while finding shirts that will fit over her giant splint that goes up past her elbow.
She warned me that she may not do her best work at school since she’ll have to write and draw with her left hand. I told her that would probably be okay.