Monday, August 11, 2008
My three-year-old broke his arm this weekend.
Technically, he fractured his left radius and ulna, but when I saw him running toward me with a sickeningly unnatural curve to his forearm, I said only, "He broke his arm." I immediately noticed that I didn't use medical language, but at that moment I was solely a mother.
We were visiting family, and Leif had fallen from a four-foot slide. As we headed to emergency, minutes up the road, he kept insisting through his sobs that he needed nothing more than a band-aid. "That always made it feel better before!"
Lying on the gurney in the emergency bay, much more comfortable now with his arm draped carefully over his chest, Leif's chief concern was that the IV not interfere with the (temporary) tattoo on the back of his hand. "Why don't you put it here?" he suggested to the nurse, gesturing to his shoulder.
Hooked up to the monitor, he announced cheerfully, "That's my heart. Did you know it made that little beeping sound?"
I don't think he's ever been cuter. Of course, at home his running commentary has to compete with his two sisters', and we're often distracted by making dinner or driving the van or whatever activity we're engaged in. But lying on the cot, with both his parents directing their full attention and concern at him, the kid streamed charm.
The physician arrived and asked Leif what colour cast he preferred: "Blue? Green? Soccer balls?"
Leif considered the options and replied, "Pink." The lad doesn't have two sisters for nothing.
"Your father will be relieved to hear that we are out of pink casts," replied the physician. "But we do have red."
Leif had to be put under conscious sedation to have the fractures reduced, and as they prepared for the procedure the nurse measured a tiny blue airway against Leif's jaw. "Do you like the colour blue?" she asked him pleasantly.
"What's that for?" asked Pete.
"In case he stops breathing," she replied matter-of-factly.
Once Leif was sedated, hooked up to monitors with on oxygen mask on, his little arm being manipulated by the doctor, I heard Pete make a small distressed sound behind me. I was thinking purely medically at that point, watching the effects of the ketamine and noting the doctor's technique.
I didn't volunteer that I was a physician, as I didn't see how it would influence Leif's care, and there was no natural way to do it. But eventually the physician asked casually, "So, are one of you in health care? Nurse? Doctor?"
"I'm a physician," I admitted.
There was a chorus of Aha!'s, and the remark that we were unnaturally calm.
In fact, I felt grateful throughout the visit. Grateful that in six years of parenting this was our first emergency visit; that the injury was relatively mild; that there was no one to blame for the accident; for the family that visited during our short stay and took care of the girls; for the availability of excellent medical care (working with refugees makes me especially appreciative of our system).
As for Leif, he disregards the cast completely. He's not the least bit frustrated to be constructing forts with one hand, and has been climbing the furniture as usual and threatening to break the other arm.
When I gave him his grape-flavoured ibuprofen this morning, his baby sister asked for some.
"This medicine isn't for you," Leif told her, "It's only for little boys with busted arms."