...and she's my daughter. No, really. That's one of her 3 names...Hope. I think I named her well. She is a ray of sunshine, always positive and looking for the good in a situation. She has a huge amount of faith in God, and I'm so thankful for that. I can think we're having a horrible day, and she will say, "I've had a good day today, Momma. Haven't you?" What do you say to that!?
So last week, we were at gymnastics. That is our Tuesday evening activity...or at least it was...until last week. She had been working so hard on getting her back-handspring form good enough to do it on her own, and Tuesday was the day they turned her loose. I noticed she seemed really tired before they started working on it, but when I asked she said she was ok. They did the usual - standing with 2 spotters on the floor, running roundoff back-handspring with 2 spotters on the springy mat, standing with 2 spotters on the springy mat elevated with a folded mat underneath. And then they started taking away their support. She did it! She was so proud of herself. They didn't touch her, just held their arms behind her, and she did it. So then they brought over the wedge mat and put it on top of the already elevated mat. The justification for this (as per the owner) is that the extra incline makes it easier/faster for them to get their legs over. I was across the gym, and I was already as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. They told her, "You've got this!" Except she didn't. They say they had their arm behind her, and when I asked she told me that the main spotter told her to "jump over my arm." I didn't see any hands or arms anywhere near her. What I did see was her "sit in the chair and not spill the milk," jump, and then crumple to the floor with the most agonizing look on her face I've ever seen.
Another mom who was there later told my own mom that I was across the gym in one stride, and that my daughter's pupils were so large that her eyes were black...they should've been blue...but she was in pain. I looked at her and asked if she was ok. With tears streaming down her face she said, "It really hurts!" I knew in that moment that we were not staying to finish class. My child does not cry in pain. She rarely even complains of pain. She is just an even-keeled, calm, collected, un-complaining child. I looked at the main spotter and said, "I'm pretty sure it's broken." I don't even know how we managed to get her up off the mat, but it was with no help from the spotters because they just sat there blinking with their mouths gaping like fish saying nothing. The owner had no clue what had happened.
I barely got her in my van and buckled in because I was shaking so violently from anger, fear, and nerves. We were only a few miles from the hospital, but it felt like a hundred. I immediately tried to dial my husband, forgetting he was in the shower, and then called my parents to have one of them meet me at the Emergency Department. I was freaking out, crying, apologizing to her, praying... she's in the backseat praying, "God please heal me. Please don't let it be broken." And then her tears are gone. She's telling me, "Mommy, it's not your fault. Be brave, it's ok. I'm going to be ok. Don't cry, it only makes it worse." I'm thinking, "How'd you get so wise, you're not even 10 yet!?"
I got us to the hospital, red-lining my van a few times, and my mom met us there. I had finally gotten in touch with my husband who also was on his way. Thank GOD for a local hospital, because I never would've made it to the next one on my list. We signed in, and her eyes start glassing over and she's sleepy. At that point I didn't know whether she'd also hit her head or neck or anything, I just knew she needed to stay awake, her arm did not look like it should, and that I was utterly useless. I was such a wreck that someone else in the ED waiting area brought me a box of tissues because I couldn't have walked to get them myself. I looked like I was having a seizure I was shaking so badly. When my husband got there I was finally able to get her registered, and I did the only thing I could...except I couldn't do that right either because I had no pocket-change of my own on me...I got her a cold Sprite to sip on.
We were finally back in a room, and they came to do x-rays. She did NOT want them to move her arm. She insisted she do it herself, so she positioned her arm on the x-ray film for the portable machine. We settled in and waited...and waited...and waited. I don't even know how many people came in, but her only question was, "Are they going to give me a shot!?" At that point, my child who doesn't complain of pain, said her pain level was a 9.5!
The doctor on the board, Dr. P, was not the doctor who came to take care of her. My mom was concerned because the doctor listed had been hers when we took her to the ED last year for chest pain and shortness of breath just before she had heart surgery. She wasn't a fan of his.
The doctor who did come in, Dr. S, had worked for 20 years at the university hospital and had decided enough was enough. Her own child has special needs, and she decided that her family and taking care of her own child was much more important than working so many hours and teaching. Her choice was to leave that hospital and teaching position to come to our rural hospital, and she said she loves it. She was the coolest doctor I've ever encountered in an ED, and believe me I've seen more than a few. I don't mean she was hip or rockin', I mean she was cool. She didn't push, she actually listened to my concerns, she talked TO me rather than at me or down to me. She obviously cared, and when I told her how much I appreciated the way she was treating us she teared up.
It took what seemed like eons to finally get the radiology report, and when we did I almost passed out. My ears started buzzing, and my legs felt like liquid. Her elbow was broken. Not just broken... the radial head was snapped off and slightly displaced. Thank GOD again that it was below the growth plate! The doctor said we needed to get an appointment as soon as possible with an orthopedic specialist to get their opinion. She said she could recommend a couple, but I said we already had an ortho who had been watching her pedunculated osteochondroma growing off her right medial distal femur at the growth plate... try saying that 5 times fast! She said that was fine, but that her friend's son had this exact same injury and the surgeon who fixed him did such a good job that he was back at competitive diving in 3 months. I waited and thought about it and waited some more. In the meantime my husband called the gym to tell the owner that her elbow was broken. I could hear her from across the room, and she wasn't on speaker phone. The spotters hadn't even told her that we left or that my daughter had been injured.
When Dr. S came in to do the half-cast I said, "I know officially you can't offer a recommendation for one ortho over another, but if you COULD, who would you suggest." She smiled and said, "I'll get you those names." She contacted her friend with the son who texted her back two names, and she showed them to me so I could write them down. Then she printed off the doctor profile for the one who only did pediatric cases for Shriner's - the other had moved on to trauma and worked mainly with adults. I said I would call first thing the next morning. Instead of a full cast, they did a half fiberglass long arm cast and wrapped it in layer upon layer of ACE bandaging. Unfortunately the way it worked out her fingers ended up smooshed together and the elbow wasn't in a 90-degree after it hardened. But all things considered it did the job it was supposed to do. After 4 hours we were finally sent home for the night, exhausted but relieved to have at least that much taken care of.
The next day, pain level around a 2-3, I called and requested an appointment with the ortho Dr. S had suggested. Of course I had to leave a message, and I fully expected not to get a call back until much later in the day. BUT, they called back in less than an hour! I explained, and the scheduler said, "Dr. T doesn't have any openings until Monday, but Dr. R can see her today at 12:45. Based on her injury, if you hadn't requested Dr. T I would have scheduled you with Dr. R anyway because he is our arm specialist." I said, "We'll take it." I got directions, called all appropriate parties, and breathed a sigh of relief. Things were moving fast, but that was good.
On the way to the hospital, my van started to overheat. I turned the heat on full-blast, and it was blowing icy air. My mom took care of calling my husband who immediately found us the nearest Aamco to get the van taken care of after the doctor. We arrived early for our appointment, and we were immediately impressed with how awesome the lobby was. It was so inviting, and you could tell it was all about putting the kids (and parents) at ease. I mean, there is a woman who works there, and her only job is to sit and color with and talk to kids! How awesome is that!? There was very little wait time involved, and then we got to see Dr. R.
He came in and said, "The radial head break I think we can fix with closed manipulation, and we may have to put some percutaneous pins in to hold it in place. But the other one..." I must have looked as shocked as I felt. "Did they tell you about the second break?" Uh, nope, they failed to mention that. "Well, it's hard to see on the x-ray, but she also broke off the medial condyle, and that one we have to fix with a screw. I'd like to set up surgery for next week." My mom's face went white, her jaw was clenched, and she looked like she was about to faint. Dr. R asked, "Is that ok?" I said, "She's upset because she leaves Saturday for Florida and won't be home for almost two weeks, but if it has to be done it has to be done." He went on to say that it is good she got this injury now. If she had been older it wouldn't have been bone, it would've been a ligament that tore and ligaments are much harder to fix than bones. He also said that the medial condyle connects to the stabilizing ligaments, so there is no way to fix it without surgery. So I had him walk me through the basics of the surgery, what to expect, etc., and he said someone would be in to talk to us some more. And that was Dr. R.
A care manager came in and we selected Tuesday as surgery day. That was exactly one week post-injury, and they said the swelling should be gone by then. She said they would call us the day before to give us the time and pre-op instructions, but if I had any questions or concerns in the meantime she gave me her business card so I could call her directly.
After the appointment, my husband met us at Aamco where we found out that a hose had blown off and sprayed coolant all over the engine compartment. So my van had the distinct odor of curry powder, and we waited for an hour while they fixed it and changed my oil. We were all hungry, and the injured party (and her brother) requested Chuy's. Chuy's it was! Once we were home, it was all about trying to keep her arm as still as possible until surgery...which was nearly impossible for a child who dances more than she walks.
Sunday morning we had her anointed and prayed over at church. Sunday evening I was putting my computer to sleep, and I caught a whiff of an unfamiliar cologne. I asked my son if he'd put some on, because sometimes my husband gives our son a little spritz too. He said no, but maybe I was smelling Daddy's bodywash. I said I didn't think so since the bathroom is in the rear of the house and I was in the front. I sniffed, and then I smelled it so strongly it was as if someone was standing right beside me. When I breathed deeper to try to figure out where it was coming from the smell vanished. No lingering trace. Just gone. And I felt peace and calm. The anxiety and fear was gone. I think it was my Papaw, who passed away 9 years ago, giving me a hug. He always could settle my nerves with nothing more than a hug and an "I love you."
Monday she was determined we were going to start our new school year on schedule, so she had her first day as a 5th grader, and her brother had his first day as a 3rd grader. A nurse called and gave me all the info I needed for pre-op prep and what time we needed to be there. Tuesday we went in for surgery, and by then we were all just ready to get it over with. They had an overnight add-on which had to go first because of the nature of that child's injury, so it was almost 2 hours past her scheduled time when they got started on her. She was handling it all incredibly well, especially for a child who had to get up at 4:15am and drive an hour, then wait until well past breakfast time, more than 12 hours past her last meal, and then have surgery. They took her back, and we went to wait. A mom in the waiting area said that Dr. R is the one the university basketball players come to when they break an arm, and that she's originally from Louisiana and has heard that even a few LSU players have come to him as well!
When they scheduled her surgery they gave her a 2 hour block, but they said Dr. R is very efficient and shouldn't need that long. They called when they were starting - they said she went to sleep very well. Half an hour past that I said they should be halfway done - Dr. R had said he estimated an hour for procedure time. It wasn't even another 5 minutes before the phone rang again, and they said, "She's done! The procedure went well, and if you'll wait in the consultation room beside the registration desk Dr. R will be in to see you as soon as her arm is dressed." You could have knocked me over with a feather!
We met with Dr. R, and he said everything went smoothly. He was able to reduce the radial head without opening, and he was able to fix it in a good position WITHOUT using any pins. He did open a small incision above the medial condyle and inserted one screw there to hold it in place. Her ulnar nerve was visible to him when he opened, and he said it was angry and inflamed so she might have tingling or numbness down that side of her arm and into her pinky and ring fingers as the area swelled. So far she has had NONE! The first 48-72 hours are crucial for keeping swelling down, keeping the arm elevated, and resting. They don't force wake the patients, so we had to just wait until the nurse came to get us after she woke up and was talking...which took an hour! She loves her sleep.
When they brought her back to her room, she didn't even look like she'd had surgery! She was awake, smiling, talking, HUNGRY, sipping a Sprite, and covered up in her new Scottie Dog blanket snuggling her new surgery monkey (she named him Dexter in honor of the monkey from Night At The Museum) both provided by the hospital before surgery. She ate some Goldfish crackers (the ones I didn't spill on the floor), and it was about another hour and a half before we were discharged.
Dr. R told us to take it easy on food, but she had no after-effects from the anesthesia aside from being a little sleepy. She wanted Culver's, and Culver's is what she got - a kids chicken tender meal with bbq sauce, fries, a Sprite, and a scoop of the Flavor of the Day, Brownie Thunder! She ate every bite. Her brother and we parents were famished as well, so we all indulged. She was in such good spirits through it all.
Aside from a pain level of 4 with some burning at the incision site yesterday morning, she's felt fantastic. She's still a bit tired, but considering the trauma she's been through - both the injury and surgery - I'd say that's to be expected. She has very little swelling in her fingers, especially compared to what they were last week. When they put on the half-cast this time (it's pink, of course!) they wrapped the cushy stuff between each of her fingers which allowed her fingers and thumb to be completely free so she can actually move them really well, it cuts down on the amount of sweating, and her hand doesn't smell like a "foot" to her. Her pain is staying very low, typically a ZERO or ONE!! She's been a very cooperative patient, although it completely goes against her nature to sit and do "nothing." She managed well to keep her arm elevated on pillows and as still as possible to avoid further inflaming anything for the first 48 hours, but now she's up playing. She can't wait for Monday to have her post-op checkup to make sure everything is healing well, and if the doctor is pleased with her progress she'll get her real cast and be able to resume a more normal level of activity. Dr. R said she should still be able to participate in at least 2 of her dance recital pieces (ballet and tap, but in jazz shoes), so we are thankful that she doesn't have to miss out on that completely.
Some people question why God lets things like this happen. Believe me I hate that it happened, and I did question whether it could have been avoided if I had just stayed home and finished watching The Jungle Book instead of taking her to gymnastics that night. But it's like she kept reminding me, "God has a plan and a purpose for everything." It could have been much worse, and it was only an arm, and not her dominant arm at that. Sometimes bad things happen. Here's what I do know...
God worked it all out ahead of time: This injury, while traumatic all the way around, could have been much worse. It could have been an open fracture or a leg or even her neck. It happened on a day when there were few people waiting in the ED, and there was a caring doctor who did her best to make us comfortable and help us get the best care for our daughter. When I called to set up her ortho appointment, the arm specialist was the doctor who could see her THAT DAY instead of waiting almost a week. When we saw the ortho he found the second, more serious break, and was confident that it could be fixed easily. When she had the surgery Dr. R was able to fix it with less hardware than initially expected and in one-fourth of the time she was scheduled for. I would never have thought of calling Shriner's to set up an appointment, I would have taken her to her regular ortho, and who knows what kind of care we would have gotten. Yes, things have been rough, but they could have been so much worse.
I did speak with the owner of the gym, which was a very difficult thing for me to do but our insurance company recommended it. She informed me that students aren't asked to pay an insurance fee, and that she has never filed an accident report and doesn't carry any sort of liability insurance on the gym. She also felt like I was wrong to say that her spotters were negligent and that they did their utmost to provide a safe experience for their students. I reminded her that they didn't even have the decency to tell her my child had been injured, and she said that of course they didn't because she was still teaching at the time, but after we called she asked what happened and they told her their version of events, which differed in that they said they had their arms behind her...and they didn't. She also attempted to play down the injury by offering examples of other students who have been hurt doing things that shouldn't have hurt them at all. I must say that just made me very angry. I was trying very hard to remain in control of my anger, emotion, and volume. She, on the other hand, made sure that every word she said was very loud so every person in the gym could hear and know what was going on. My daughter has made the decision that she's done with gymnastics, because next time it might not be an arm that she hurts.
Frankly I'm glad that she's done. When I took gymnastics from this person she had more safety measures in place, and her equipment was in much better condition. Students had to have a firm mastery of one skill before they moved on to more difficult skills. Classes were skill-based - beginner, intermediate, advanced - and you had to complete one class before moving on to the next. Now the classes are mixed-ability, and every student does everything up to at least a back-handspring on their first day in class. Every week I was nervous that something was going to happen. It has, and we're done. I can choose to be angry, or I can choose to let it go. I made like Elsa and let it go. Anger and resentment will eat you from the inside if you let it, and I don't have the time or energy to be that person. So today I'm choosing to answer with a resounding YES, I am having a GREAT day!
Thank you to all of the people in our family and friends and church families who took the time to pray for our child. I am so blessed to have such a network of believers I can call on in a time of need.