It’s the beginning scene, just picture it: tall bar stool, mini trampoline, air mattress, and a six-year old boy. Enter action sequence: boy crawls to top of tall bar stool, stands on bar stool ready to jump, and leans just a little bit too far to one side and loses his balance. Ending scene: first ominous silence, six-year-old boy on floor, a shattering cry rips through the air, and his crooked arm on the carpet.
That was the movie we saw. We were supposed to be finishing “The Empire Strikes Back” in preparation for watching the new “Star Wars” movie that was due to come out. But we were unlucky enough to watch the above mentioned scenario on the day before Christmas Eve. We were launched into a series of events which made our lives an unexpected and painful journey. Since his arm was in a visible S shape, my husband and I knew without a doubt it was broken. Our son’s little adventurous, obstacle-course-making spirit had landed him in a disaster.
Our pediatrician told us to go to an orthopedist so they could cast or splint his arm. I helped him support his broken arm as we walked down the garage stairs to the van. We lifted him into his booster seat and placed his arm on a pillow. He spewed a constant stream of “Ows,” some loud and urgent, some more muted. My husband drove white-knuckled on snowy roads to the ortho clinic.
It was a relief being at the clinic where we could get help. The x-rays showed a displaced, clean break of the radius bone where the two pieces overlapped each other. This meant surgery and pin placement. The staff splinted his arm and his screams brought tears to both my husband’s and my own eyes. It was gut wrenching to watch him go through it. The relief came when his arm felt slightly better once splinted. Our next stop was the pharmacy for pain medication and then home to await surgery time, which was scheduled for a few hours later.
Once we arrived home however, the hospital called and there was a problem with the schedule and our surgery was moved to the morning, Christmas Eve morning. The evening went by smooth as he was able to eat and have pain medication before bed. He went to sleep with a full belly and pain control. Midnight arrived and it was obvious the pain medication had worn off. He could no longer remain asleep and would yell out every twenty minutes. Sometimes I ran in there to find he was yelling in his sleep, announcing his pain to the night, and sometimes he was awake and crying. By 2 a.m., he could no longer attempt to sleep so we watched TV until it was time to go to the hospital at 4:30 a.m.
At the hospital pre-op patient room, I sat next to the bed and answered all his questions. He laid on the bed in a gown meant for an adult so it reached his toes. He was petrified of going to sleep for the surgery and the staff kept coming in telling him everything would be fine and he’d go to sleep easily and painlessly. His young brain couldn’t bypass the logic that sleeping during surgery was preferable. I imagine he feared the loss of control it would bring and the unknowns. He would only settle once I told him the medication would go into his arm and then he wouldn’t have to feel them fixing his arm. When the chaplain came into pray with us before the surgery, I cried in front of my son. I couldn’t contain my fears either, but I knew I had to numb myself because my crying was scaring him. I was adding to his fears.
He was wheeled into the surgery suite and the IV was placed amidst his futile protests and he fell quickly into the state he feared, he was asleep. I made it to the waiting room still shaking from trying not to cry. I sat and prayed all would go well. My husband and other two sons arrived and we all waited with strained patience.
Relief fell over me as I got the call a short half hour later on my cell phone that our son was OK and he was in recovery, and soon we would be able to see him. He had made it safely through surgery.
We walked into the recovery area and there he was sipping apple juice with an ice pack on his arm.
He said, “Now we just have one thing left, they have to fix my arm.”
Such a sweet boy, he didn’t even realize it was already done as the wrap was the exact type he had on before surgery. The important thing was now he knew he could survive the sleep. And as parents, we knew we could be there for him too. We took him home and pampered his every wish.