Breaking a bone is a childhood rite of passage. Most kids will do it at some time. At any one time there will always be two or three kids wandering around school sporting brightly coloured signature-covered plasters on (usually) their arms. A cast is a passport to instant cool and extra friends. It’s easy to forget that kids have to go through a lot of pain to get it.
For all his mischievous and downright stupid behaviour, my eldest’s first break was caused by the very dangerous activity of watching television. He was 2 going on 3, and sat on my bed, then fell off. I was at work and my mum was looking after him. She was worried, so summoned me home, where I found him asleep. As soon as he awoke he started screaming. He was obviously in a lot of pain.
To be honest, I didn’t think it was broken. I always thought if something was broken it wasn’t possible to move it and that you would actually be able to see it was broken. I hadn’t really considered tiny cracks in bones.
I took him to good old A&E, which was a nightmare. The poor kid was in so much pain he couldn’t walk from the car park. Even though the pain was in his arm, actually his shoulder. But if I tried to carry him, he winced and screamed.
He had his arm and elbow X-rayed and they were clear. I was happy with that. But he was still in pain and doctors were determined to find a break. He was wheeled backwards and forwards on his bed from his cubicle to X-ray. He looked so tiny on that big bed. I remember a porter trying to cheer up the elderly man he was pushing in a wheelchair, saying ‘Look, there’s a baby there!’ A baby! He’s nearly 3!
Eventually they found what they were looking for. A small crack on my son’s shoulder. There was nothing that could be done apart from put it in a sling. He had a Happy Meal for tea at 9.30pm and an uncomfortable night’s sleep before getting back to normal within a day or two.
His second break was what I call a proper break. Again, I was at work and, again, my mum was holding the fort. My son, now aged 8, was playing at his friend’s house. Remember the dentist and his wife from The whole tooth? THAT friend. It was precisely six weeks after his brother knocked his teeth out.
I got a text from my friend telling me that my son had fallen out of a tree and his wrist ‘looked a bit wonky’. After sharing the text with my colleagues and having a giggle about it, I realised this was probably serious and that I ought to go home.
My boy was already waiting for X-ray with my husband when I got back. There was no question that it was broken. It really DID look ‘wonky’. My husband wasn’t in the best mood. He was cross with my son and cross with my friend. There was no need to be cross with either of them. It was an accident. But my husband is very fond of saying ‘accidents don’t happen, accidents are caused.’
The X-ray confirmed the break. And it was going to need an operation to mend it. Manipulating back under general anaesethic if we were lucky, pinning if we were unlucky. So it was through to the plaster room for a temporary plaster. He was also helpfully given some of that freezing local anaesethic stuff on his hands ready for later. Then we were off to the other hospital to wait for his operation.
To the same ward his brother had been in six weeks earlier, the next bed along. The nurses recognised me. The shame! They thought he was the same child.
It was like time stood still. Another boy had a worse break and a long operation, so it was a long wait. My boy was tired, hungry, in pain and bored. Even when it was time to go in for his operation he had a long wait on his bed outside the anaesethic room. By this time it was past his bedtime and he was in tears – the pain and tiredness combined with nervousness. A very nice nurse phoned everyone she could to try to get him in as quickly as possible, telling them there was a very distressed 6 year old waiting. So he was 8, whatever.
He’d waited so long for his operation that the freezy-hand stuff had worn off. Cue much distress as they tried to insert the anaesethic into his hand.
Luckily he only needed the arm manipulating, so the operation was relatively short. Afterwards, he was slow to come round and still distressed. He was in such a state he had to be given oxygen (or something similar, I’m no medical expert) to calm him. It was 11.30pm before his dream came true and he was able to eat two slices of toast. Then he dropped off to sleep. Lucky him.
Remember the boy with the worse break? He was in the bed opposite and threw up loudly and spectacularly three times during the night. Then there was a girl with learning disabilities admitted about midnight, who screamed and shouted all night. And there was me, who is incapable of falling asleep anywhere but a bed, trying to sleep on a reclining chair which un-reclined every time I moved anything more than an eyelash.
We got the hell out of there first thing the next morning. Ten days later, despite the plaster, my son was climbing a climbing wall, and he was back up a tree as soon as the plaster came off. And I’m pleased to say he hasn’t fallen off since. Touch wood.