One year ago today, September 3, 2009, was a day our family (and a really good friend) will always remember.
I had dropped Charlie off at Crystal's house and then headed into work to get ready for that month's business meeting, scheduled to start at 9am. I got to the office shortly before 8:30 and started my normal routine. I was able to begin checking my email, say hello to a few agents who arrived early for the meeting and answer a few phone calls before my cell phone rang. I saw it was Crystal calling, answered to have her say, "Can you call me back from your office?" as she knew I wasn't supposed to use my cell phone during office hours.
I hung up and called her back right away to hear her very calmly say, "Charlie fell, something's wrong with his leg, you need to come right away." We hung up, I quickly called a co-worker to cover the phones, and I then interrupted my boss in a meeting to tell him that we thought Charlie broke his leg (thinking I was exaggerating as I had absolutely no idea at this point what was really wrong) and I had to go. I could hear in my voice just how jittery and nervous I was about what I was going to find when I arrived at Crystal's.
As I got to my car, I attempted to call my husband at work to let him know what was going on. I called and got a busy signal. I called again. Same thing. I'm starting to panic now. I call my mother. Answering machine. Call my husband again. Busy signal. Panic.
I called Crystal back to see how Charlie was doing and to see what she thought we should do: call the doctor, call an ambulance (not the best idea out where we live), who knows? Luckily, I was able to reach her. She said she tried to have Charlie stand, he won't put any pressure on the leg and is crying uncontrollably. We were expecting to discover that he had dislocated his knee because his lower leg was very wobbly and almost seemed like it was disconnected at the knee.
We decided I should try the doctor's office to see what their suggestion was. I did, and as I hadn't seen Charlie yet, they wanted me to call back once I arrived at Crystal's house so I could more accurately describe what his leg looked like and go from there. I proceeded to call Crystal back to let her know and he was still crying.
By now, my mother noticed that I called and called me back. She knew I was supposed to be at work and thought it was odd for me to be calling at that time of day. I told her what was going on and told her I would keep her updated. I hung up and tried Chris again. This time I got through and filled him in as I reached Crystal's house.
When I arrived, Charlie was cuddling with Papa, Crystal's grandfather, who often visited during the day. He wasn't full-out crying, but was pretty teary. Once he saw me, tears began again and Crystal attempted to fill me in a bit more over the noise. Charlie was wearing socks and they had a hardwood floor. He was playing peek-a-boo in a doorway and slipped, landing on his knees. I called the doctor's office back, explained that he was in a lot of pain and they told me to bring him to the ER at the hospital and they would inform the ER that we were coming in.
Crystal drove to the hospital with us (Papa stayed with her kids who she had been able to put down for naps while I was driving from work), sitting in the backseat with Charlie in order to (attempt to) stabilize his leg. She was holding his knee and could feel it grind with every bump. We carefully rushed him into the ER and they saw us right away.
Once there, we had to fill them in on what happened while getting Charlie checked out. Now, because we were in the ER with an injured child, we weren't really treated very nicely, I guess you could say. Instead, we were treated as the cause of that injury... child abusers. I was holding Charlie on the exam table and he was starting to calm down a bit. Because he wasn't crying and the leg looked normal, the nurse wasn't taking us too seriously. As horrible as it is, I actually had to jiggle him when she wasn't looking to make him cry so she would understand the seriousness of the situation. When we got his shorts off, we realized that his knee wasn't the problem. His thigh was swollen to 2 or 3 times its normal size.
Charlie was taken in for an x-ray and we followed. Thankfully, Crystal was there to remind me and the x-ray tech that I was 5-months pregnant! I had to stand behind the door while poor Crystal had to help the tech position Charlie for his scans, including straightening out that injured leg.
After x-rays, we were taken to a bed in the ER. I think Charlie was given pain medication, but the doctors and nurses actually didn't fill us in on much, no, make that ANYTHING, of what was going on with my child, so I honestly don't know. When the doctor finally came to talk to us, he was addressing Crystal rather than me and we had to inform him that I was the mother! The doctor informed us that we would be transferred up to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center because Monadnock wasn't equipped to handle pediatrics. At this point, Crystal and I had no idea what was wrong with Charlie's leg! I had to ask! When I did, they informed me that he had a spiral fracture in his left femur - a broken leg.
Next, we had to wait for the ambulance to arrive to transfer us to Dartmouth. I called Chris, informed him of the situation and he left work to come with us. I called my mother to let her know what was going on and she came over to the hospital to be with us while we waited.
Once my mom arrived and was able to stay with Charlie, Crystal was able to return to her kids. As she didn't have a vehicle, she took mine home. On our way to the car, we stopped at the pediatrician's office to see Charlie's doctor and let her know what was going on. The receptionist wasn't going to let us in, but the doctor's assistant (thank you, Tiana!) saw us and waved us in. This was where I lost it. Charlie's doctor was my doctor so I've know her for years. Charlie was (is) a small child and I was peppering her with questions. Did this happen because he's so small? Will it cause any problems for him later? Will he be able to walk normally once he's healed? He'd only been walking for 5 months at this point! Was this somehow MY fault?! She calmed me down, told me what would probably happen and informed me that she knew the Pediatric Orthopedic doctor we would most likely see and that she was wonderful.
After I settled down, Crystal and I walked to my car so I could get a few things and she could head home. I returned to the ER to discover we still had a bit of a wait for the ambulance. While waiting, a volunteer brought in a blanket for Charlie - a wonderful Cheerios blanket that was the only good thing that came out of that ER visit. This volunteer also had paperwork for me to fill out before the ambulance ride. While filling out the paperwork, I wanted to ensure that I would be able to ride in the ambulance with my son. She wasn't sure and asked one of the nurses. The nurse informed me that she wasn't sure, but was guessing no. I promptly informed her that my 22-month-old son who was in a lot of pain from his broken leg would NOT be riding in an ambulance with people he did not know without his mother. She said she would talk to the EMTs when they arrived.
Luckily, we had 2 wonderful female EMTs who told the nurses I could ride with them, up in the front. Once we walked outside, they told me I could ride in the back with Charlie. Big sigh of relief!
My mom and Chris followed the Ambulance up to Dartmouth. To get a sense of our day, Crystal's call came to me shortly before 9am. I had at least a 20 minute ride to her house, time to call the doctor once there, another 20 minute ride to Monadnock, time waiting before x-rays, time for x-rays, time waiting for ambulance. By the time we headed up to Dartmouth, it was around 1pm and it was about a 90-minute ride. Once at Dartmouth, we had to go through the whole ER thing again. At least Dartmouth had a special pediatric ER and each room had its own bathroom (with 2 toilets, too - an adult-sized one and a child-sized one - the coolest thing!) - a wonderful blessing with me being pregnant!
The nurses and doctors at Dartmouth were friendlier than those at Monadnock, but because we were suspects in our child's injury, they weren't that friendly. We were questioned about what happened, informed that because of the injury, Charlie would have to go through a whole body scan to check for other possible abuse, etc. We were fine with this. Eventually, because of our story, the nurses/doctors decided that the full body scan wasn't necessary and the tone of things got a bit nicer. Charlie had to go for another x-ray of the injury and we had to wait.
The staff at Dartmouth was also wonderful enough to inform us of everything they were doing to our son. After x-rays, we were informed that, unfortunately, they wouldn't be able to cast his leg that night, but the next morning. That night, they would splint his leg and send us up to CHAD to spend the night.
I left the room for the splinting. It involved drugging Charlie briefly (with a short-acting drug that wouldn't knock Charlie out, but would give him an out-of-body experience so he would be awake but not be able to feel the pain of them straightening out his leg) and they informed me that it can be traumatic for parents to see their child like that, so my mom and I left while Chris stayed with him. I called Crystal to let her know what was going on while we waited.
After the splinting, we returned to the room and waited some more. Have you noticed a theme here yet? We had to wait for a special transfer technician to come transfer us up to CHAD. Once up there, the nurses gave 11am as a time for Charlie's casting the next morning. We settled in for the night and my mom headed back home.
Normally, CHAD only allows one parent to spend the night at a time. Because we were so far from home and not a long-term stay, they allowed us both to stay and we curled up on a pull-out chair for the night. VERY cozy - keep in mind that I'm 5-months pregnant. LOL I'm very glad I was prepared to go to the gym after work that day because I had a gym bag packed with sneakers and gym clothes and wasn't forced to spend our entire hospital stay in work clothes and high heels.
The next morning, breakfast arrived for Charlie and we waited some more. Charlie's injury occurred right before Labor Day weekend, so not too many doctors were around. My mom came back up on Friday to give us a little moral support. We waited and waited and the 11am casting ended up happening around 2pm. By the time the casting was over, it was close to 4pm and the nurses had to make sure we were able to handle the cast at home so we had to stay ANOTHER night.
Because of the nature of Charlie's break, he was to be in a SPICA cast for the next 5 weeks. The cast went around his waist and down his entire left leg. At 22 months, he was still in diapers so diapering required a newborn diaper in the open area under the cast and a size-5 diaper wrapped around the entire cast to keep the smaller diaper in place.
Because the cast went the full length of Charlie's leg, he was quite awkward and we had to learn to move him as well as diaper him. Another thing to worry about was whether or not his car seat would accommodate the cast. Luckily, it did and we didn't have to borrow a special one from the hospital.
Amazingly, Charlie did very well during this whole ordeal. For an active little boy, he was quite calm and under control, not even too teary about being in any pain. Once that cast was on, he didn't complain once about his leg hurting and when we returned home with him, we didn't feel the need to keep him on pain medication past the first day. He rolled with the situation very well; he knew something serious was wrong and that he couldn't move around as he normally did, even though he didn't understand exactly what had happened to him.
Once we knew we had to spend Friday night at the hospital again, Chris and my mom drove back home so that Chris could get our vehicle and some necessities. While Charlie and I were waiting for Dad, we did some walking around the hospital hallways with me pulling Charlie in a Radio Flyer wagon. He was very bossy telling me to keep walking him around and I was extremely compliant. :)
We were finally able to head home late afternoon on Saturday and start acclimating ourselves to dealing with a small child in a huge cast. Charlie did very well and we even took him to the Hopkinton Fair while in his cast! Labor Day was Monday and I ended up taking the rest of the week off from work. I think Chris returned to work on Thursday. I was nervous to send Charlie back to Crystal's right away because that cast was SUCH a pain to deal with.
After that first week, the cast was a bit easier to deal with. We were so afraid that moving would hurt him, but it didn't bother him at all. Once the cast was on, he was a pretty happy boy.... at least in terms of pain. :) The cast made him weigh quite a bit - probably more than he weighs now at almost 3 - but it also made propping him on your hip a bit easier because the bend in the cast fit just right. I will say that a parent doesn't fully understand a "poop-tastrophe" until they have a child in a SPICA cast and the poop ends up underneath the back of the cast when you can't fully get up there to clean it! YUCK!
The 5 weeks went by pretty quickly, apart from having to add weekly doctor's appointments for Charlie (first at Dartmouth, then later at the Dartmouth Clinic in Manchester - which I hated by the way; the staff there was horrible) to my monthly pregnancy appointments. In addition to hospital bills not covered by insurance, it all added up to a lot of time taken off from work!
By the 3rd week, Charlie was crawling around in his cast.
By the 4th, he was walking in it. Very comical!
It was amazing to see the x-rays progress each week. Children heal so fast! I can remember thinking there is no way 5 weeks will be long enough for him to heal and I was prepared to have the doctors keep it on longer to be safe, but by the 5th week's x-ray, you could only see a bump of new bone where the break had healed. The cast was sawed off and the back half of it was made into a splint to support muscles that might be weak from lack of use. We Ace-bandaged the splint to his leg for the first day or two, but thereafter, life was pretty much back to normal.
Cold weather occasionally bothers his bone and for the unsuspecting person (Auntie!), Charlie will say his leg hurts so he can be carried, but for the most part, you would never suspect that anything had happened to Charlie just one year ago.
Well, apart from his parents being deathly afraid of the combination of socks and hardwood floors. :)