I’m a pretty tough, unsentimental, non-squeamish, decent-in-a-crisis type. But when my 9-year-old broke his arm at school in February I was totally traumatized.
I know it’s about him and not about me. But my reaction took me by surprise.
I got a no-nonsense call from the school. It was that call you dread: Ben is hurt. It’s very serious. Come right now.
I was impressed. They didn’t mess around. I knew his arm was broken. At the office they had taken his jacket off (ouch) and made a splint for his arm with one of those Scholastic catalogs (clever). Ben was stoic. He fell (and by “fell” I think maybe we mean “jumped’) out of a swing and cleanly broke both bones in his left arm . Look at the picture. LOOK AT IT. You won’t believe it, but he never cried. If only I could say the same about me … but not yet. I didn’t cry yet.
We got Maggie (Ben’s big sister) out of class to stay home with Ellen (Ben’s little sister). These situations are SO much easier when you have kids who are babysitting age. Waiting around at the ER with toddlers in tow makes everything exactly one thousand times worse. I dropped the girls off and had Christian (my husband) met me and Ben at the ER. His splinted arm was resting on a pillow which I carefully carried in. They put him in a wheel chair. I’m thinking, it’s just a broken arm. We have insurance. This can be fixed. But the sight of your child in a wheel chair gives you pause to think. He’s not seriously injured, but what if he were? I began to have. . . feelings.
They started Ben on morphine. It was kind of cool that everyone commented about how tough he was. Orderlies and nurses did double takes when they saw the angle of his arm as he was wheeled to X-rays. Broken arm confirmed. And now to set the bone.
That’s the trickiest part. You have to do it right or it will heal wrong. I’m pretty sure it hurts a lot. I’m pretty sure because even though they knocked Ben out–with 3 times the normal dose of whatever they dose kids with–he was silently screaming and writhing in pain while doctors worked over him and pulled his bone straight. Things got. . . dicey.
“It’s OK. He won’t remember any of this when he wakes up.”
Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! It was like, that drug they use on House–the date rape drug or something! They give it to you so you forget the pain. BUT YOU STILL FEEL THE PAIN. I was that mom who couldn’t watch. I’ve always felt that if I can’t watch, it shouldn’t be happening. If I can’t handle it then they surely can’t. Because I’m tough. But I wasn’t. I had to leave. I stood out in the hall and cried while Christian sat in the exam room underneath a lead vest and oversaw the procedure. Christian–who can’t make it through Extreme Makeover Home Edition without tears streaming down his face–oversaw the procedure.
I knew it was a common injury. But you get a glimpse into human frailty. Arms can just break. And as guilty as I feel as a mom when my kids get hurt on my watch, it’s much worse when they get hurt out of your care–Out in the world that you have no control over. It freaked me out, thoroughly.
His arm was set and wrapped and put into a sling. They sent us home with pain meds and an appointment for a cast in a few weeks. They don’t give you a cast at first. I didn’t know that. It’s kind of delicate until they get the cast. You always think about bathing and putting a bag over the cast but you don’t think about having an arm that is literally broken in a sling in the middle of winter in Utah. You can’t get a coat on over a sling. Or a shirt. Ben is right-handed so there was a lot he could do. But he couldn’t hold a book to do his reading at night. That’s another thing that surprised me. I knew he’d be fine with homework since he could still write, but if you’re 9 and you’re reading The Goblet of Fire you can’t hold it open for very long.
Here’s what you’ll need if your kid breaks his arm:
Short-sleeved button down shirts
Books on cd
But the worst thing of all was that Ben was depressed. I think pain medication and immobility cause this. No one warned us about it so you be sure to watch for it if it happens to you. My kids are happy and problem-free. I’m lucky. It was sad to see him so down–Like a depressed adult. I hated it. We spoiled him. In fact it was just last week that we realized he hasn’t been doing the dishes on Tuesday nights (“his” dish night) since he broke his arm! He chuckled over that. He’s better.
For the weeks surrounding his accident I totally hunkered down to take care of him. I know! It wasn’t even that serious. But it made me think about other more serious things that don’t heal or get better and while I feel fortunate that a broken arm is routine and easy to fix, it made me kind of sensitive and sore because anything could happen to any of my kids and lot of parents have to hunker down through much worse.