The Big Break

Silas broke his arm on Tuesday afternoon.

He was at Lynlee’s house, playing in the fort, a clubhouse elevated several feet off the ground. As he tells the story, he was going to break a stick that Violet didn’t want broken. When he wouldn’t stop trying to break it, Max shoved him, and he fell out of the fort, catching himself on his left hand.

The good news is that he understands that it is an accident. He told me that he should have stopped when Violet said to, and that Max didn’t realize how close to the edge he was. I’m impressed that we made it eight and a half years without a trip to the ER. His friends and the other parents involved have all been very sweet in their concern for him. He’s not upset at Max, and I’m not angry at anybody–it’s just an accident, one of those things that happens. If anything, I’m relieved that the first serious Terrific Tuesday injury didn’t happen at my house!

JC took him to the ER on Tuesday evening, while I stayed home with Petra. She was concerned about him and kept saying, “I just hope he doesn’t die… of boredom!” Silas came home with his arm wrapped and splinted, and with instructions to call the orthopedist the next day.

That night, he was sick every two hours, and generally shakey. I didn’t know that having a broken bone could make a person throw up, but apparently this isn’t uncommon. He didn’t have any appetite for a few days. Even now, several days later, he’s not eating like he normally does.

He spent all of Wednesday on the couch. He had to be coaxed to even get up to go to the bathroom. He just kept talking about all the things he couldn’t do with one hand. I suggested that he could read a book. “It’s too hard to turn the pages with one hand!” How about drawing (he’s right-handed)? “I can’t!” Go out and play outside? “All of my things that I play need both hands!” It took me a while to figure out that he was depressed. I don’t think that’s an experience he’s had before. We talked about that–that feeling this way is not uncommon, that it has a name, that it won’t last forever. The next day, I convinced him to get dressed and brush his teeth. He was a good deal more cheerful, and figured out how to use his toes to hold a book open. He keeps having bouts of feeling depressed or hopeless or overwhelmed, but he’s mostly getting back to his usual cheerful self.

On Wednesday, I went to the library and got a tremendous stack of books for him–audio books, graphic novels, nonfiction picture books, short novels. At the time, he just moaned that he couldn’t read anything, but it didn’t take too long before he was working through the pile. He’s particularly fascinated with a book about how broken bones heal.

I also cleaned up his room for him. I know that nagging about it will do no good at all for the next six weeks at least, and I could barely walk in there. I also thought that having a nice, clean space to be in would help his mood. He said he was grateful I had done it–the place was a wreck. As usual, I found some fascinating artwork in there. His book Brian, the Dragonologist has a couple new chapters. He’s working on a graphic novel adaptation of School for Good and Evil, and he also had a couple of notes around that raised an eyebrow…

The whole thing is more of a process than it was when I was a kid. I remember kids getting injured over the weekend and showing up at school on Monday with a hard cast, and then…that was it, until the thing needed to be removed. Silas had a long splint on Tuesday at the ER, and got a shorter one on Friday at the orthopedist. He has surgery on Tuesday (they will put him under general anesthesia and try to straighten the bone without making an incision, but if they can’t, then they’ll open it up. Either way, it would be too painful to do it with him awake), after which they’ll give him another splint, and then finally a hard cast on Friday. As he kept saying yesterday, “It’s just a lot to deal with!”

At the orthopedist, I was shocked at how many medical professionals don’t treat kids like people. I’ve been careful in selecting the doctors that I and my kids see; in this case, the ER just assigned us to somebody and we didn’t have any space for a decision. I’m sure the doctor we were assigned is a competent professional, but he didn’t talk to Silas at all. When he determined that Silas might need surgery, he explained this to me, over his head, using the biggest SAT words he could come up with: “Due to the angle of the disruption, I am going to want to put him under general to manipulate and correct it. If it is intractable via external manipulation, we may need to adjust it internally…” This kind of language just upset Silas. His vocabulary is good enough that I’m sure he understood 90% of it, and also understood that the doctor was trying not to let him know what was going on. He thought there must be something really bad if the doctor wouldn’t just tell him what was up. He got super anxious and as soon as we were alone for a minute, he burst into tears. When the doctor came back, I asked him to please use words that he thinks Silas will be able to understand, and to talk to him directly. “When he can tell that you’re trying to talk over his head, it makes him much more anxious.” The doctor looked surprised, the way I imagine my vet might look if I asked her to talk so my cat could understand what was happening to her. He did try to talk more to Silas after that, though.

And then a nurse came in to put a new splint on him. She said, “This new splint will feel nice because it gets all warm as it sets.” After she wrapped him and left the room, he started crying and kind of freaking out. When we first came in, he said his pain was at a 2, but after the new splint was on and starting to harden, he said it was at an 8 or even 9! I thought there must be something wrong because she said it would feel better, so I went to get help. When she came back in, she explained that she had corrected the angle of the bone a little as she wrapped it, “so of course, it’s normal that he’d have some discomfort from that.” I asked her why she didn’t say so. “I didn’t want to upset him,” she replied. Well, okay…I’m just so used to our doctors and nurses being honest with my kids, usually saying things like, “This will hurt, but only for a moment,” that it never occurred to me that she wasn’t being completely upfront with him.

On the way home, Silas said over and over that he was nervous about the surgery. When I asked him a lot of questions to try to learn why, we finally got to the following:

  1. He is afraid that he might wake up during the procedure. No idea why he would think this–I don’t think he’s ever heard of this happening–but he was very concerned. I told him that I don’t think that happens often, and explained about the anesthesiologist and how their whole job is to make sure that he stays asleep for just the right amount of time.
  2. He’s concerned about contracting a flesh-eating bacteria in the hospital. Apparently, quite some time ago, JC told him that this is a thing that happens, because he is Extremely Unhelpful. Silas was talking about this just last month when Lucy was in the hospital. In his get-well card for her, he wrote, “I hope you don’t get any flesh-eating bacteria!” I thought he was being silly and weird, but he is definitely terrified of this.

Max and Emmy came over after his appointment at the orthopedist. Max brought lots of books and puzzles to share, and all of them drew with Sharpies on the ace bandage on Silas’ splinted arm. JC’s folks also came by with a big tote of gifts from people we missed seeing because we were all sick for Christmas. Their timing couldn’t have been better. So now Silas is happily ensconced in his room practicing drawing Manga characters with a book I got him at the library, trying out his new pens from his belated Christmas presents, and snacking on oat bars that Marcella brought him, while Petra is enjoying some solo crafting using kits that JC’s aunt sent her.

Even when life throws us a curveball, we’re lucky to have each other, good friends, and loving family.

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