Thursday, September 6, 2012

Harmful Myths

I realize I’m not a wizened senior citizen or repository of all medical knowledge, but I’ve been here for 35 years now – enough time to make it around the block.  And therefore I knew that if a foot were broken, you couldn’t walk on it.  It would probably also be black and blue and hurt intolerably.

I’m not so shocked that I was wrong, thirty-five years is also enough time to figure out my own fallibility.  I’m shocked that I erroneously believed the “can’t move it if it’s broken” lie so thoroughly and for so long.  Do you know how many times my three kids have gotten hurt and I assured them their arm, hand, knee, foot, etc. weren’t broken because they could still move them and they looked fine?  Well, at least one too many.  Stretch has been walking around for eight days on a foot that is broken in two places.

She fell down about half of our stairs last week.  Not for the first time, but she did cry longer than she usually did.   But, for the record, my criminal one, she was already crying before she fell down the stairs because she suffered a serious blow to the head during a pillow fight she got into with her brother and his friend.  (No charges were filed in that case because the plaintiff hit herself in the head with her own pillow.  So glad I didn’t name that one Grace!)

No matter how many kids are doing something questionable that could end in tears, it’s always Stretch who gets hurt.  There could be three or thirty of them running at the pool, or jumping on the beds, or throwing things, but having Stretch take part guarantees the safety of the others because she consistently sustains the token injury.

After hobbling around for a day or two, she returned to her normal awkward, long-legged, uncoordinated gait.  I considered a trip to the pediatrician, but we go for so many obvious illnesses that I didn’t want to throw another twenty-five dollars at them just so they could say she had a sprain or a strain or a flair for drama.  And, as I already stated, she could move it, walk on it, and even skip when giving chase to butterflies or cupcakes.

But today we went in for the twins’ six year check-up, so I had their doctor look at Stretch’s foot because it was a little swollen and still bothered her sometimes.  She gave me a transparent look of reassurance as she suggested we get an x-ray.  A harmless little x-ray.  As a precaution, right?

When the orthopedic doctor announced it showed two small fractures, I needed a new kind of doctor that could prescribe me the antidote to being sick with parental guilt.  I failed one of my kids.  Again.  “God, please let that be the last time.  So, you know, make me perfect, please.”

I had three alarmed and very hungry children waiting for a good chunk of the afternoon on a pink cast to be built from her toes to just below her knee.  We tried to distract Stretch from the pain by discussing what we would eat for lunch.  Or dinner, if our ordeal dragged on much longer.  But all the talk of milkshakes and French fries made our growling stomachs louder than her crying.  It wasn’t helping.  Instead, we talked about where we might purchase her rainbow colored flying unicorn kittens instead, since Mommy blew it and desperately needed to make it up to her. 

The doctor said it really didn’t matter that I waited a week; the breaks weren’t that severe.  I reminded him that it wasn’t his job to assuage my guilt; he’s an orthopedist, not a priest.  “No really,” he said, “it was easy to miss and it probably didn’t make it worse at all to wait.”

“Oh yeah,” I countered, “even when her sister accidentally sat on it in the toy room this weekend or when her brother stepped on it trying to get around her in the hallway yesterday.”  Because she walks slow, because she’s crippled, because her mother doesn’t take good care of her!

“Those things aren’t great for a broken foot trying to heal,” he admitted, “so we’ll avoid them for a few weeks with this cast.”  He didn’t mention how to avoid making this same mistake again, so I guess anytime one of them says something hurts, we’ll go get x-rays just in case.  Because who knows how many broken bones they’ve already had that have gone untreated just because they could still move something.  Apparently, I’m only qualified to diagnose paralysis, not broken bones.Photobucket

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