Friday, November 19, 2010

The First Break

About a week ago, the German fell and broke his thumb. Being the diligent child he is, he didn't break just any old bone, he broke the growth plate -- the part of the bone structure responsible for ensuring his thumb develops properly along with the rest of his body.

As a caring parent whose responsibility it is to ensure the safety and well-being of my children, I responded accordingly when he entered the house holding his hand and crying.

"Can you move your thumb?"

"It's just swollen. You probably just sprained something."

"It'll be okay with a little ice. Or is it heat? I'll look it up online."

"Go show your mother."

Unfortunately, my Lovely wife's responses were amazingly similar to mine. We iced his hand and by the next morning some of the swelling had improved but he still babied his hand and didn't seem able to move his thumb with full range of motion. So, we did what all concerned parents should do -- we spent the day shopping in Fayetteville and took the entire family to play indoor laser tag.

By the next morning, it was obvious we couldn't rely on a "time heals all wounds" approach. After going to school to participate in the Veteran's Day program -- hey, he had a line to perform -- I signed him out and brought him to the family practice our children have gone to since our Darling Daughter was born 13 years ago. Sad to say, it seems we need to change practices. Not only did they leave it to us to find an orthopedist who would take our insurance, they ushered us out the door with crappy x-rays and no sort of treatment or stabilization whatsoever for the German's hand. I'll leave it at that because I'm still too pissed to write about it without excessive use of foul language.

Fortunately, we located an outstanding orthopedist who took our son's injury seriously. After a thorough exam, followed by a three-dimensional CAT scan of the injured hand, our second meeting resulted in the confirmation the German would require surgery to realign the bones and insert a pin to hold them in place. What the swelling had hidden and the standard x-rays did not show was how his thumb was off kilter by 35-degrees.

Now, both my Lovely Wife and I are free-cryers. You give us half a reason to well up and we unashamedly will. Just the thought of the German being admitted to the hospital was enough to choke me up.

When the time came early Thursday morning to bring him to Outpatient admitting, I was concerned about our ability to hold it together in front of him. The last thing anyone -- especially a 9-year-old boy being wheeled through a hospital for his first ever surgery -- needs is to be surrounded by blubbering idiots over-reacting to everything anyone wearing scrubs has to say.

"He'll need to wear this gown."

"A gown?"

"And when we take him back we'll take him in a wheelchair."

"A wheelchair?!"

"Here's the remote for the television."

"Remote?!?!?! Waaaaaaaaaaaah..."

But we held together well, even when we entered the staging area and they inserted the intravenous line into the back of his right hand. The German was amazing. He watched the entire process like it was a documentary on the Discovery Channel. When I looked at my Lovely Wife, I could see the tears beginning to build in her eyes. At last, was I finally being given the opportunity to lose control?

As it turns out, no.

Not long after the IV went in, the nurse added some "happy juice" to the flow. Several seconds later another nurse asked Nathan why he was there. He lifted the cast to his face, stared at it blankly, and finally answered, "I lost track of everything."

We couldn't help laughing.

The nurse turned to us instead for answers to her questions. The German interrupted a couple times with seemingly disassociated comments such as "Max-A" and "Nellcor," both of which were written on the pulse oximeter taped to his index finger. Little did we realize that general anasthesia could be the solution to his dyslexia.

In the end, our brave little man made it through the entire day without an "ouch," a whimper, or any apparent fear. Most shocking is that his Mother and I made it through without a single tear.

© 2010 Mark Feggeler


  1. Great stuff, Mark. My older daughter, who now is 9, had a CAT-scan when she was about 2. Had to hold her down for it, through her tears. Very tough. Glad The German made it through.

  2. Always sad to see little kids needing medical procedures. Still, our big guy was a champ all the way through. Some day I'll grow up to be just like him.

  3. My older son, now 22, once broke his wrist sledding. We didn't know it was broken at the time and he wasn't complaining much, so we iced it and wrapped it with an Ace bandage. TWO DAYS later we took him in and felt like the worst parents in the world when they asked when the injury had occurred. I feel a little better about it after reading your post. :-)

  4. Hi Karen,
    Apparently ice and a compress are a parent's go-to solutions. Don't worry, though, they will remind us of it for the rest of our lives.