Today I was in a waiting room talking with a lady, whom I know from church but hadn’t ever really spoken with before, and during the course of the conversation kids came up. Which is surprising, because who talks about kids, I mean really?
After talking about how awesome they are, to how less than awesome they can be and back to them being awesome again, I mentioned my girl had broken her leg when she was little. That was three years ago, in July. July 19th or 20th, or not. Or 12th. Oh hell, maybe it was June! I don’t remember for sure. I’m bad with dates, don’t judge me. She’s lucky I know her birthday. Lucky for her it’s a week after mine, and I like my birthday, so it helps me remember hers.
So, in July, just 2 months before her second birthday, she breaks her leg. It was a gnarly break, too. I had been out doing laundry at my mom’s because the apartment laundry room was gross, and when I came in she was on the couch watching a movie and jumped up and started to run to me. Yelling, “Momma!!! Momma!! Yer home!!! Yer home!!!” And proceeded to run right off the end of the couch. The stupid couch had this one long cushion that wouldn’t stay put and always slid down and it was hanging over the edge a good ways when she ran off it. Well, it gave and she went down and when she hit the floor it twisted her poor little right leg out and it broke. Spiral fracture in her femur. Which, apparently, because some seriously thick-headed-jerk-faces kept mentioning it, is the most painful bone in the body to break.
DO NOT tell anyone that if they have a child that is currently suffering from a femur break. Just don’t do it.
At that moment I didn’t know what was wrong, just that the happiest, least likely to cry, baby was screaming bloody murder and it was worse if I put her on her feet. Inside of 30 seconds I decided a trip to the ER was required and off we went. She calmed down a little on the way, but the second I moved her, the screaming recommenced. They took some X-rays and through dumb luck caught the tail end of the break on one of them. We thought her knee was hurt, not her thigh, so we weren’t looking in the right place. They took some more X-rays and found one of the most horrid visions I’ve ever seen. Ever. She had a spiral fracture. You could see the cracks wrap right around that little bone of hers. If you’ve never seen one, it’s similar to a can of Pillsbury biscuits, when it pops open and you twist it. Same, exact, idea.
Now, this, particular kind of fracture is very common in children abuse cases. It happens when the bone is twisted. Which is terribly and utterly sickening, if you ask me. BUT, it’s also very common in toddlers’ legs. While the hospital we went to took exceptional care of my daughter, it’s a small hospital. In a small town. They’d never seen this kind of break in a kid this age before and were automatically suspicious of abuse. Understandable? Yeah. Even remotely helpful to me or my mental state? Not even close. So, they’re tossing around hints of me abusing my child. My mom flat out asked of Chris did it. Which is fair, but again, not helpful. Right now. Thanks.
This was in between muscle spasms in her leg. The poor doctors were afraid to give her any pain killers because they’d never had a kid in pain like this before.
Suspicion of abuse wasn’t the only side effect of the break being new to them all, there wasn’t an orthopedic doctor in the area that felt even remotely comfortable setting her leg or putting a cast on her. And we have some REALLY good orthopedic doctors here. But she was just too small and they were just too nervous about it. So they set us up to be taken to The Children’s Hospital in Denver (where they were fantastic, but I’ll get to that in a few…).
There were two options to get us to Denver. Either ambulance or aircraft. They were reluctant to take us by road because of the bumps jarring her already hurt leg. So they called in a helicopter to take us.
This was the only thing we could distract her with. I think she was calling for a taxi, or pizza. Or both.
While they were getting a helicopter ready to fly us to Denver, there was a very bad car accident and a woman was severely injured. As it happened, the helicopter was ready just when she arrived at the hospital and they decided to use it to take her to a better trauma center in another city. And while it’s not like they asked my permission or anything, they did mention it to me. Maybe to help me feel like I had a choice. Regardless, I was fine with it, my daughter was stable, if in pain, but the woman needed it more than we did at the time.
While we were waiting for another flight I was going crazy. My mom works at the hospital, so I’d called her to come in. (She fixes their computers, so I was hoping with her around they’d make sure they were on top of their game with her grand daughter. You know, keep the computer lady happy.) And while I’d been keeping it together so the kiddo wouldn’t get freaked out because I was freaking out, my mom is over there crying and freaking out.
Not helping. Geez, lady, keep it together…
So, to both take a break and give myself a chance to react; and to get a moment to pull myself together, I left my mom with my girl and went outside to smoke a cigarette. By now, we’ve been in the ER for 3 hours, or so, and I was starting to get mad about someone else taking our flight. My kid was hurting, there was nothing I could do to fix it. I was emotionally exhausted, mad I couldn’t fix my little girl’s hurt, angry they would even suggest I’d done it, mad my mom would suggest Chris had, just in general struggling with the whole shebang. I was the kind of mad you get when someone you love is hurting and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. I might have kicked my truck. A couple times.
I was shaking and just about undone when a man approached me in the parking lot and asked why I was there. I told him about my girl and that we were just waiting for a flight, that we’d had one but it had gone to someone else. And right there he began to cry.
He started thanking me through his tears. It was his wife that had been hurt. Their, grown, children were standing off a ways talking and watching us. He just stood there and cried for a minute. He took a second to get himself together and he thanked me again, and apologized for crying. He told me that without the flight his wife probably wouldn’t have made it. He said how sorry he was that my poor child was hurting so much, but that it was his blessing, an answer to his prayers.
And then I cried (I may or may not be tearing up writing this…). I felt ashamed at my impatience. And so thankful that we could play a part in saving that woman’s life. And humbled. And so filled with God’s grace and love. And it helped give me the strength to hold my daughter’s hand through her pain.
I thanked him for telling me that. And forgave him his tears (what kind of monster would I be to hold them against him? Hmm?) And thanked him some more and prayed for his wife and thanked him again for giving me perspective (that I seriously needed just then). I told him I was so thankful that they took our flight. And that, yes, it was terrible my child was hurting, but a gift to us to be able to help that way. And we prayed for each other. And thanked each other a couple more times. And he went on his way.
As a side note, that is the only conversation I’ve ever had like that. It happened so fast. And I don’t think I’ve ever sat and thought about it like this until now. And now my memories are just that, memories. Which means they’re a little (a lot) foggy. So, maybe it didn’t go down exactly like that, but that’s how I remember it. And that’s definitely the sentiment of it all.
Also, the woman made it through, in no small part because of the flight. For such a horrific moment in my daughter’s small life, it had an enormous and beautiful impact on that family and I’ll be forever thankful for that. I wish I deserved more credit for it, but I don’t. I’ll have to settle for the gift of knowing we had our part.
Some time later, they finally had a flight lined up for us. We flew on a little plane (that was really awesome because I like planes but I don’t remember much of because there were more important things going on. And they didn’t let me sit with her because I was still suspect for the injury). Tess did wonderfully. She was still having the spasms every few minutes, but she’s such a little trooper. A spasm would hit and she’d cry for a second, then stop, then bet her eyes and say, “Hiiiiiiiiiiii.” to the EMT sitting with her. And while he wasn’t bad looking, c’mon kid, time and place!
The flight was pretty quick and soon we landed and got on an ambulance to take us to the hospital. The staff at The Children’s Hospital were A maze ing. They asked a couple questions, took a look at us and assured me this was a common break in toddlers and that helped sooth us both. It was pretty late at night and we had to wait for the doctor that came in on the morning shift. So she was able to get a little bit of sleep, and I wasn’t. The only complaint I have about that hospital is their plastic chairs in the rooms are impossible to sleep in. So, after trying desperately to doze a little bit here and there, the doctor finally made it in. They put her in a SPICA cast. Basically, it’s a body cast/baby torture device.
Full body baby torture, but it comes in purple!
As you can see, it’s quite a contraption. And totally, horribly, vilely disgusting after 8 weeks. I won’t get into that. Trust me though, totally gross. And ginormous. We had to borrow a car seat that is made specifically for the cast to be able to leave with her. It was all just nuts. And for those of you that are wondering, and I KNOW some of you are wondering, under that diaper is a big hole they left. For diapers I had to get newborn ones and shove them in the hole and then the big one around the outside to hold it all in. It’s not a perfect system. Again, I won’t go into detail. But it’s about the only option when your’e strapped into a monster thing like that. They comforted me by telling me that at least she’s young enough for diapers. I guess it’s more more horrific on children that are older and more accustomed to using the toilet. I don’t even want to imagine….
Once the cast was on everything sped up to light speed and they gave us some good pain killers for her and sent us on our way. Chris had left earlier to try and be there when we were ready to go, and my step-mom had left work to do the same. I was finally able to take a deep breath after all night of holding it in. I was afraid of breathing too deep all night because I knew the torrent of my emotions would be released with little to no instigation. And I was trying very hard to keep it all in check. Chris took the kiddo to my dad’s house to rest and stop being on the move for awhile. And I went with my step-mom to go pick up some things that were now necessary for caring for my kid. Bless that woman for putting up with me some days, but when Chris drove off with Tess, all that pressure was released and I was totally nutzo for a little while. It was like I had jelly between my ears. More than normal. No, not more jelly, just more of the feeling. Damnit. I’m just not thinking of a better way to describe that right now. Anyhow, by the time we got back to the house and Tess, I was ready to deal with the situation again, and, at least slightly, more sane.
As you can see, she dealt with the whole thing with a lot more decorum than I did. And now she’s fully recovered and just fine despite the whole mess.
And now, I think I’ve got this story out of my system. It had been stuck in my head all day. I think it was just time to get it out. Maybe I needed the reminder that even our darkest hours can be a blessing in disguise. It’s an easy thing to forget. I guess today was just a day to reflect on how lucky I am, to have such an awesome little girl, and to have been at the right place and the right time, again (that happens a lot to me, I’m just lucky that way I guess).