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November 16, 2009

My Adventure

We live in a highly diverse neighborhood, and, as a result, I enjoy where I live. Not only that, our apartment is close to campus. It's not uncommon to see people walking their dogs, elderly ladies in their Sunday crowns walking to church, and children riding bikes and playing on the streets and sidewalks.

Yesterday, some of the neighborhood kids were running around, screaming as children at play are inclined to do. But at one point, the hollering took on a different tone and my mother instinct kicked in. Something didn't sound right. After looking out all my windows, I decided to go down to the street and investigate. Three boys were half a block down the street, one on a bicycle, one on the ground crying, and one kneeling next to him. I walked up and asked if everything was okay. The boy that was kneeling said it was just a fall and that his little brother would be okay.

I asked to take a look and, sure enough, the boy's arm did not look right. The ulna and radius did not line up correctly to make for a normal looking arm. The hand was pronated beyond it's normal range of motion. I had no doubt it was broken. Probably a closed, displaced fracture of the ulna and the radius, typical of falling on out-stretched hands (FOOSH).

I asked where their mother was and the older boy said she wasn't home. I thought, "Aw crap." Despite a well-intentioned citizen, you risk liability if you take a child that is not your own to the emergency room. Doctors there cannot treat a child for an injury unless their parent is there. They can't even administer pain medication.

The four of us walked to my house and I got the boy ice and a dish towel. If you don't already know, a handy way to make a quick ice bag is with a plastic gallon zipper baggie half filled with ice and a little bit of water (about 2 cups). The water makes the cold from the ice more conductible to skin, but too much cold is painful and can damage the skin. Always put a cloth barrier, slightly dampened, between the baggie and the skin, hence the dish towel. The cold acts as a drug-free analgesic and helps keep swelling down. Swelling puts more pressure on the tissues and nerve endings, creating more pain, so the ice does double duty.

The boy clearly needed medical attention, there was no way around it. His older brother, who is probably only 8 years old, said they couldn't afford to go to the doctor. I'm going to get up on my soap box, now. What kind of place do we live in when an 8-year-old child must worry about whether his family can afford to get a cast put on his little brother's broken arm? We live in the wealthiest industrialized country in the world and no child, whether a citizen or not, should have to worry about whether they can get basic health care.

My little buddy started to cry again (yes, by this time, he's been upgraded to my buddy). He was worried about missing school (sweetie!). He was also worried that his mom was going to be mad at him. A word about mothers: mother's yell. When my husband broke his leg, his mom yelled at him. I busted my chin open 4 times -- my mom yelled every time. My best friend has a little boy -- she said she would yell if her boy got injured. So I told my little friend that his mother would be upset and that, yes, she would probably yell, but not because she was mad but because she was worried.

Lucky for me their mom really was home, they were just trying not to get in trouble (boys!). He wanted me to walk home with him. And, indeed, his mother did yell. I stayed with him, rubbing his back (which can sometimes distract nerve sensation signals to the brain thereby reducing the perception of pain). While his mother got ready, I distracted him with being able to entertain his friends with a good story. And he could get a cast in his favorite color. And that his friends could all sign his cast. . . .

So, what did I learn from all of this? 1) I didn't panic (though I can't guarantee my reaction if the fracture had been an open compound fracture). 2) Trust your instincts. 3) Ice was the right thing to do. 4) I might not have made such a bad mother after all. I haven't seen my little friend yet; maybe I'll bake some cookies and bring them over so I can sign his cast.


Posted by linda at November 16, 2009 5:50 PM

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