Nursemaid’s Elbow: The Time We Learned About Addie’s Fragile Joints

arm01Back before I had kids I used to watch a set of parents grab one of their kids by the hands and swing the child back and forth as they walked to wherever they were going. The child was always smiling and asking for more and the parents always had smiles on their faces too. I don’t know if my parents every swung me by my hands like other parents swung their kids, but it was one of those little things that made me look forward to my time as a parent.

Now that I’ve had two kids, whenever I see parents grab one of their kids by the hands and swing the child back and forth as they walk to wherever they are going, I cringe. I silently wonder if parents know how fragile their kids’ arms can be. Casey and I learned that lesson the hard way.

When Addie was about two years old, we were at the end of church and we had just picked Addie up from the nursery. We all starting walking towards the doors that led to the parking lot when Casey grabbed one of Addie’s hands and I grabbed Addie’s other hand. We started swinging Addie back and forth and Addie was enjoying every second of the action. Suddenly, however, Addie crumpled to the floor as she started to cry. She couldn’t move her left arm.

Every time Addie tried to move her left arm it brought breathless tears and visible trembles. We could tell that something was very wrong with Addie, so we headed directly to the nearest clinic so that Addie could be examined by a doctor.

An hour later with Addie pretty much back to normal, the doctor explained to us that the ligaments in Addie’s arm were like loose elastics allowing her joints to be fairly loose loose and that her elbow had been dislocated while we were swinging Addie back and forth. It was a common injury among kids, known as nursemaid’s elbow, and it was pretty easy for the doctor to fix, but the doctor warned us that once it happens the first time it will be much easier for it to happen a second time.

For the next year Casey and I were always very careful with Addie’s arm. We never swung her, which always disappointed her, but we didn’t have any more incidents. As Addie grew she became more and more rambunctious and she started to hang from monkey bars, counter tops, and pretty much anything she could find to climb on.

One night while Casey was off with friends, Addie asked me if I would swing her up the stairs on her way to bed. I told her that as long as she kept her elbows bent I would swing her up the stairs, which was something we had started to do more and more of over the previous month without any incidents. Halfway up the stairs Addie’s elbow popped out of place again and those same breathless, trembling cries started coming from Addie.

I quickly pulled up the website for the closest hospital and I rushed Addie out into the car and off to the clinic. A few hours later Addie’s arm was back to normal and I pulled into the parking lot of our apartment where a very anxious and angry Casey was waiting.

In my haste to get Addie off to the hospital to get her fixed as quickly as possible, I forgot to call Casey to let her know what had happened. I didn’t even leave a note about where we were. Instead, Casey came home to find Addie, wooby, and me gone. The only clue as to where we might have gone was the hospital’s website that was open on my computer sitting on our couch.


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