a broken arm: pictures and a saga
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.