a broken arm: pictures and a saga

May 31, 2007 at 12:24 pm 13 comments


Caleb fell off his bike on Sunday riding home from church. He was able to pedal the rest of the way home. Todd rigged up a sling for him out of a dishrag, I gave him some aspirin and he took a nap. His arm right above the wrist was a little swollen and a little bent, but we determined it probably wasn’t broken because Caleb wasn’t complaining of any pain as long as he kept his arm in the sling so we just took the wait and see approach.

Monday, we went to Perryville Battlefield, had a nice picnic lunch, hiked through fields of butterflies (my interpretation) and played on the playground. E Caleb assured everyone who we encountered that his arm was not broken. One man asked him if he were “dressing up” for the battlefield and just pretending that his arm was broken. Todd, Alex and Caleb slept in the tent that night in the backyard.

Tuesday, I had Caleb take his arm out of the sling so I could look at it more closely. The arm above the wrist was bent at a funny angle (just like it always had been). I wanted a doctor’s opinion so we went to the pediatrician. I called at 2:10 and the nurse asked if we could be there at 2:30. So I quickly had everyone get ready to go and we went right away. But we didn’t end up seeing the doctor until after 4:00. grrr. Why did the nurse have me run right over if the doc wasn’t available to see us for so long? I could’ve done a lot around the house in that 90 minutes and the kids wouldn’t have needed to be confined to a 10 x 10 waiting room.

I digress. Our pediatrician took a look Caleb’s arm and wrote out the script for the x-ray. She didn’t even touch it. She said,

I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a fracture there.

I called a friend to see if she could watch Alex and Mary while we went for the x-rays. The x-rays were quick and painless, but it was too late to get anything done Tuesday night. So the ped’s office tried to get us into the orthopedist on Wednesday morning, but they were booked so she suggested we go to the ER to have it set and cast. I didn’t really like the sound of that idea. We had waited this long, what was one more day, and if I could avoid the ER, I wanted to. So we made an appointment for Thursday morning at 8:15.

I thought it would be a quick appointment. Just go and see the PA, get a cast and then leave. haha. Is my life ever that simple? The PA looked at the x-rays provided. The lateral view was inadequate.

So we went down the hall and quickly got a new x-ray taken. The PA measured the angle of the bones and got a few different percentages ranging from 12%-21% so he left to confer with the doctor. He told me that anything over a 20% angle would require pins. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Pins? That meant surgery. I thought we had a little bitty fracture here. The fracture was barely visible on the first x-rays taken, but with the new x-ray at a new angle, it did look much worse. Plus, this new view showed that both the ulna and radius were fractured and bent at different angles.

It took great effort on my part to stay focused and not panic, but my heart was racing. I was grateful that Caleb was not grasping the full meaning of our conversation.

The PA left and was gone for what seemed like a very long time. When he came back, he told me that his doctor referred him to another specialist who was thankfully in the same building. So we had to move to a different room which was a nice little change since we had played “I spy with my little eye” for more than an hour and had long since run out of things to spy in our game. But it was sad to leave our connect the dots game that we were playing on the disposable paper on the exam table.

The reason so many doctors needed to look at Caleb’s x-ray was because it was neither obvious that he required pins to put his arm back together or if a cast would suffice. It just wasn’t bad enough that it definitely needed pins, so the PA wanted a second opinion and then that doctor wasn’t sure either so he wanted to consult the specialist.  The angle of his bones caused the confusion. The specialist called the angle 25%. The PA had only minutes before told me that anything over a 20% angle would require pins. This new doctor gave me the option of putting a cast on it to see what happened or doing what he called “molding.” The doctor would put the bones back in the right place to ensure proper healing after the arm was wrapped, but before the cast hardened. He said without the molding, there was a possibility of the bones not going back together like they should and possibly not having full use of his arm. This was a no-brainer for me. Of course I wanted him to fix his arm! He said that he would try the molding and that if it hurt too much, he would stop and they would put him under for a minute. I agreed.

So off we tromped to the treatment room where the cast tech wrapped Caleb’s arm in gauze and got the casting tape ready to roll once the doctor walked in to “mold” Caleb’s arm. Caleb had wanted a red cast; green was his second choice. But they didn’t have those colors in his size, so he chose the light blue.

When the doctor came in, the tech wrapped Caleb’s arm quickly–I couldn’t believe how quick and then the doctor took over and “molded” his arm. Caleb screamed. There was a crack. OUCH. Caleb was panicking. He was scared of the doctor. He was pushing him away and shaking. I think he was scared of more pain, not believing or realizing his arm was fixed. I finally asked the doctor if he was positive that Caleb wasn’t experiencing any pain because he was sure carrying on. The doctor assured me that Caleb was just in shock from what had just happened. I was imagining the bones not at all in the correct place and inside the cast where we couldn’t see them. But a few minutes later, a new x-ray showed the bones nice and straight. I was so relieved. No pins. No anesthesia required. (well, none was used).

I thought we were done. I was more than ready to get out of there. I was pretty stressed and just wanted to relax. But the cast tech wanted to draw a picture on Caleb’s cast so she asked him what he liked and let him choose this snapping turtle out of several different turtles she found on the internet. then she drew it and we were out of there. We have a follow-up appointment in a couple weeks for an x-ray just to make sure the bones are still together correctly.

Caleb has a broken arm with a cast that is not supposed to get wet. This kinda changes my summer plans of buying a pool pass and walking to the pool every morning with the kids. Thanks to the stay-dry xero-sox arm protector, I think we’ll be able to go swimming as planned.


Entry filed under: broken arm, everyday life, kids.

a campaign call rant why crawl when you can scootch?

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dad  |  May 31, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Caleb, that cast looks great, that is a fierce looking snapping turtle! You are a brave boy. love, dad

  • 2. papa  |  May 31, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Good looking boy, good looking cast. ‘Ataboy, Caleb.

  • 3. mary wyrtzen  |  June 3, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    You are really brave. A couple years ago, I broke my wrist/arm in on both those bones too and waited only one day before driving to see the doctor. He gave me no choice, but I did get a red cast (which I had no idea they even made colored casts!) If we were close, we could walk together in a 4th of July parade and look like the American Flag– be a team. I love your turtle. Your great grandpa Van Campen would have loved it too. I will pray that you heal quickly.

  • 4. Amy  |  June 3, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Sounds like Caleb was a real trooper through it all. Imagine the stories he’ll be able to tell — I broke my arm and then had to ride my bike all the way home ;

  • 5. Mrs. R  |  June 4, 2007 at 9:57 am

    I have never seen such a “snappy” cast! I’m impressed with your ability to handle a lot of pain, but I hope you will never have to go through anything like this again. Hugs, Mrs. Roukas

  • 6. amy  |  June 4, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    wow Caleb! What an adventure! Try not to scare your mom so much, though. Turtles rock.

  • 7. Karla  |  June 4, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    I’m glad for the cast protector too! It was great to see you all today at the pool! We’re praying for your arm to heal, Caleb!

  • 8. uncle nate  |  June 5, 2007 at 9:20 pm


    You sure must be a tough little Paluka. Getting that turtle on your cast made everything better, huh? Someday you and Papa can compare V.C. scars. I hope you heal fast.

    love, Uncle Nate

  • 9. Angie  |  June 6, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Caleb – that cast is too cool! You are a pretty brave and strong kid to go through all that! My son Ben broke his arm when he was 5 and his cast didn’t look nearly as cool – love that turtle!
    PS Mom keep sand out of the cast – it isnt pretty.

  • 10. Uncle Sam  |  June 7, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Sounds like you got a taste of the grits of life. straws work good for the ‘itch’. Have fun!

  • 11. Dawn  |  June 30, 2007 at 10:56 am

    My son just broke both the ulnar and radius at the wrist. We’re hoping the getwet/stay dry will really work for our trip to the beach.

  • 12. Tom  |  October 4, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    I am in the sorta the same boat. Our four year old son Cole was playing on a small box and fell awkwardly on his right arm. This happened a couple of days ago. I assessed the arm when it happened and thought nothing of it. He cried initially but it soon faded and he was presenting to be alright. Last night I looked at it and asked him to squeeze both my fingers and was unable to have any grip strength with his right hand. This is when I really noticed the curve in his arm. I took him into the Children’s Hospital and when looking at the x-rays both the radius and ulna were curved (banana like) he was put under a psychoactive drug and was in a suspended state where he felt no pain (can’t remember the name of the drug) The doctor proceed to manipulate the arm and it got to a point where I closed my eyes and prayed at that point. I finally heard the audible snap of his bone and barely kept it together. I have a little medical training and you are able to focus on others as patients easier as opposed to your own family. Looking at the x-rays afterwards It looked better but I am worried about his growth plate overall. The radius still is slightly bent (Must ask if it is over 20%) We have an appointment next week with the orthopedic specialist. Quite an interesting morning!

  • 13. Kara  |  August 7, 2008 at 7:15 am

    My daughter and I were glad to see your picture.
    My daughter, Abby, hurt her arm last night at the playground.
    We’re not sure yet if its broken but we are going to the doctor this morning.
    Abby is 4 so I was trying to explain to her what a cast is. I decided to get
    online and find a picture so she wouldn’t be so scared. She saw your picture and smiled. You made Abby’s fears about getting a cast diminish.
    She’s talking about getting something drawn on her cast.
    Hope you’re doing better now.


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