Friday, March 25, 2011
Gym Class, A Broken Arm & Surgery, Oh My!
I sent the oldest LanganLass off to school on Wednesday with a sore throat and instructions to go to the nurse if she felt like she was developing a fever. (She had strep a few weeks prior and felt like maybe it was returning.) When the phone rang at 9:43 and the caller ID was the middle school, I assumed it would be the nurse calling me to tell me that LanganLass had strep. I was half right. It was the nurse but she was calling to tell me that LanganLass fell during gym class and that she (the nurse) was pretty sure that she (LanganLass) had broken her arm. We agreed that I would pick up my Lass at school and drive her to the ER.
I immediately put down my coffee (I had literally taken one sip) and then called my husband to ask him to meet me at the ER. I couldn't reach him. So I started calling the desks of his coworkers, trying to reach one of them. No luck. I spent about 10 minutes trying to reach a human being at his company before finally speaking with him. (My cell phone is broken so I thought I should call him while I had access to our home phone because I didn't know if I'd have to beg a stranger for use of their cell phone in the ER.) Had I known how badly the Lass had broken her arm, I would have waited until I got to the ER to call him.
As I was driving to her school, I was thinking that she had most likely injured her arm during the rock climbing unit in gym class. The nurse said she was "pretty sure" the arm was broken so I was thinking maybe there was a chance it wasn't broken. Maybe just fractured?
Imagine my surprise when I get to school and find out that she broke it playing basketball. She gets through the rock climbing unit without incident and breaks her arm playing basketball? Apparently she went after the ball, tripped over someone's foot, hit the floor and broke her arm.
The principal took me to the nurse's office where the Lass was reclined on a table, still dressed in her gym clothes, her arm wrapped in a make-shift sling that consisted of ace bandages and an ice pack. We (me, principal, nurse) took her to the car and then proceeded to the ER.
When we arrived at the ER (around 10AM), I had to drop her off to wait by herself while I went to park the car. By the time I got inside, her principal was waiting with her. (He ended up spending nearly 3 hours in the ER, only going back to school once we got a diagnosis. The poor guy just sat and sat while we met with nurses, doctors, xray techs, PAs, etc. He didn't have a laptop or work with him to help pass the time. So nice of him to come with.) Anyway, shortly thereafter my husband arrived and he took the two LanganLads home while I waited with the Lass. (Such a gift to spend the day in the ER with only one child and not have to chase around after a 22 month old!)
The took us into Triage, took off the make-shift sling and my heart sank. Her arm was caved in on itself and I have never seen anything like it. I was mentally scolding myself for staying at home to call my husband and wasting precious time in getting her to the hospital. (Little did I know that we would be there for over 9 hours.) I was wondering how on earth she was sitting still and not shrieking in pain. The nurse looked at her arm and asked 3 questions:
1. How did this happen?
2. When is the last time you had anything to eat or drink?
3. Did the school nurse give you Tyelnol or Motrin?
Uh oh. This was my first clue that we were headed for surgery. Knowing that she was in pain, I asked if she could have Tylenol or Motrin. The nurse said, "No. Not yet. We have to find out what kind of break it is before we administer pain medication." Yep, we're gonna end up in surgery. Then the Lass asked how long it would be before she could get xrays and a cast? The nurse said a cast might not be the best thing for her. Another indication that surgery was likely.
They sent us to an exam room while we waited for the xray tech. (The principal stayed in the waiting room.) The exam room had a TV and a phone but the Lass was in too much pain to focus on anything but the pain. I tried all my pain management techniques that served me well through five labors and deliveries but nothing was helping. (And really, at least with contractions the pain comes and goes. Her pain was constant.) She did come to the realization that it was easier to manage the pain if she walked around so they allowed her to do that even though normal protocol is to stay in bed. FINALLY they took her for xrays, which was horrible because they had to move her arm a few times and I could tell she was having a hard time managing the pain. And then it was back to the room to wait.
A long time passed before someone came to tell us that her arm was broken. Yeah, we know! And that she'd need surgery to repair the break. At this point the Lass begins to cry for the first time. The doctor and nurse talked to her about what would happen and assured her that she would not feel anything during the surgery and that she'd feel much better after the surgery than has felt since she broke her arm. Then the nurse tells her that she's going to insert an IV that will allow them to give her pain medication right away and will also give her medication during surgery. The Lass is "terrified" (her words) of the IV insertion and I keep trying to tell her that it will be easy compared to what she has already endured.
Around 1PM the IV is inserted and they start giving her morphine. Which didn't really help. I asked for more but they refused, saying they had to administer it in small doses to make sure it wouldn't stop her breathing. About 30 minutes later they give her more morphine. Still lots of pain. I ask for more. Same story: wait. Another 30 minutes passes and they administer a third dose and finally she is able to sit, no longer needing to pace to deal with the pain.
Check back for PART TWO, coming soon!