Friday, May 31, 2013

Broken Caleb

Last week Wednesday around 4.15 pm I was cutting onions for a stew, Aaron was playing outside and Caleb was at his weekly orchestra practice and violin lesson when the phone rang..."Caleb's had an accident and we think he's broken his arm".  Well, it took all of half a minute to drop the knife and leave everything as it was, gather Aaron and get out of the house in a hurry to get to him at the Waimataitai School, thankfully only about five minutes away.  Caleb was white as a sheet and fighting tears and in a lot of pain in the school's sickbay.  I burst into tears so the poor Office Lady (my counterpart) had to console a child and a mother.  He had been playing on the school's jungle gym about a metre off the ground while waiting for his lesson, lost his footing and fell, pinning his arm between himself and the bars as he came down.  We decided to call an ambulance so that we could get things done in a hurry and they would be able to administer painkillers immediately.  Turns out that was a bad idea as it took the ambulance an hour to arrive (apparently it had been a busy day in emergency), so Caleb had to just endure the pain all that time.
On arriving at the hospital we weren't whisked away to be attended to immediately as I'd hoped, but after a quick assessment of his condition he was assigned a seat in the 'Accident and Emergency' department with the warning that we'd be in for a long wait.  They weren't wrong.  It was reaching the two hour mark before he was finally called.  X-Rays happened first, and it was established he'd broken both his ulna and radius on his right arm, near the wrist.
Another wait to see the doctor on duty who decided that a cast would be sufficient, and then another wait before going to the plaster room to get the cast on.  We were finally home after 9 pm.

The following Wednesday, a week after the break, we had a follow-up appointment with the orthopaedic specialist (who also happens to be a long-time acquaintance of ours, who I knew when we were both kids at Honeyridge Baptist in SA), who said with a stern expression that something would need to be done about the arm.  I don't know why I assumed he was joking, but my comment about amputation didn't really seem suitable after it had come out and fallen upon non-laughing ears.  Ah well.  Apparently it wasn't only the two forearm bones that were broken, but one of the carpals (a little wrist bone) had a green-stick fracture and was dislocated.  We discussed options:  (a) try a manipulation to get the bone back in place there and then, with happy gas to numb the pain or (b) schedule a theatre visit for it to be done under full anaesthetic.  It was really Caleb's decision to make, and he could see the benefit of not delaying any further.  So with trembling and fear on both our parts, we got ready - off came the cast (in itself quite an experience), onto a narrow bed, gas set up and ready, then the specialists called back in.  It seemed that despite the gas Caleb was in much pain, although he said afterwards that he couldn't feel the pain and felt like he was somehow separate from the procedure.  Following the pulling and stretching, a new cast was put on.  This cast was purple and made from some wonderful tape that is lightweight and dries rapidly; Caleb was thrilled with the weight, not having to lug the heavy plaster cast around.  Back to the x-ray room to see if the process had been successful.  I think our faces must have fallen a foot when we were told that it hadn't worked - the bone had only shifted about 3 mm (instead of sitting on top of the arm bone, it was still perched on the side).  That meant that Plan B had to come into effect anyway, so we were sent upstairs to wait while the lists were sorted out and Caleb could be scheduled.  After a long wait (that seems to be a common theme) we were sent away, but I was phoned later in the afternoon to say that Caleb was booked in for Friday afternoon.
Friday at 12.30 we were ready and ... waiting.  I was anticipating a long wait as experience has foretold that hospitals like to get you in early so they can keep you there for a long time while they get themselves organised, sort out other higher priority surgeries first, and then decide that today would not be a good day for you after all.  We were pleasantly surprised then that after about 5 minutes Caleb was taken to a small consulting room where a nursing student started taking his vitals and asking questions about his health and wellbeing and so on.  She battled to get a reading on his pulse with the finger-monitor thingie because his hands had turned so cold - a telltale sign that despite his nonchalant demeanor, there was a lot of emotion swimming beneath the surface.  We were visited in quick succession by the anaesthetist and then the orthopaedic surgeon - not the same one we saw on Wednesday, but also a South African fellow with a delightfully unmistakable accent.  They all seemed to be in a great hurry and wanted to get going quickly.  Questions done, Caleb was moved to the ward where he would recover; I got him changed into a hospital gown which caused him much concern due to a suddenly modest nature, but another sheet around his shoulders sorted him out.  Just a few minutes later he was walked up to the theatre - praise the Lord for efficiency and not having to wait around!  I had to leave him there as he walked through the theatre doors without looking back.  We had had some good chuckles earlier about his last hospital experience on St Helena when he had an umbilical hernia repair when he was 4 years old, where we had to literally drag him, kicking and screaming, into the theatre - pretty horrific.  I went back to the children's ward, and within about 30 or 40 minutes the nurses came to fetch me again to accompany him back - so quick!  He was very groggy of course, but said that he had asked the nurses about the procedure and it seems that the manipulation worked without having to cut him open to use a K-wire to lever the bone into place.  Praise the Lord!  Back to the ward, got him settled in bed, then waited.
There are certain things that have to happen before a patient can be discharged - they have to eat, drink and have a wee.  I spoon-fed Caleb jelly and ice-cream; by 4.30 we were ready to leave.  We do pray that now the bones can just go ahead and heal with no further complications.  We will have another follow-up visit sometime next week.

1 comment:

Genevieve said...

Oh Caleb so sorry! Samuel broke his arm twice when he was five though he never had the excitement of traveling in the ambulance. Praying you are on the mend!