Thursday, April 4, 2013

Greenstick Fractures!

Yesterday afternoon.  It's been a normal day.  I'm helping Atticus lower himself to his bedroom floor.

 He performs this weird, sideways twisting motion on the way down, because he is physically and emotionally incapable of making normal motions; he must insinuate extra hops and twists and gyrations no matter what he's doing.  I'm not sure if this is a boy thing or a four-year-old thing.

I'm not sure when it happens, when the strange twisting motion turns into a cringe of pain, but suddenly he's on his stomach, screeching and trying to lift himself up, only to find that his left arm can't support his body weight.  He collapses, then fruitlessly tries to crawl into his bed, doing his hurt cry the whole time, while I gape in astonishment.  I honestly have no idea what has just happened.

I help him into this bed.  He's lying on his back, his left arm stretched out by his side.  The slightest movement causes screams of pain, and he freaks out anytime I give the slightest indication I'm going to touch it.

Now, Atticus is not my hypochondriac child.  I have one of those.  She acts like her leg is broken when she stubs her toe and begs to visit the ER when her stomach hurts.  If this had been Adelaide, I would have waited until I left the room to roll my eyes, heated up a rice pack, and robotically patted her head while muttering, "There, there."  (Depending on how hurt she has decided to be, she either begrudgingly finds this funny or is severely insulted.)

Atticus doesn't do that.  When he does his hurt cry, I know he's actually hurt.  So the fact that he was doing his hurt cry and couldn't move his arm, hand, or fingers kind of freaked me out.

So I called my mom.

After describing the situation, she said it sounded like it could be a greenstick fracture and recommended getting him in to see the doc for an x-ray.  (Do you know how rare it is for my mom to mention the words "Doctor" and "Go" in the same sentence?  That alone was enough to get me moving at warp speed.)

I got Cade up from his nap, and hustled him and his sister out to the van.

I very gingerly helped Atticus get out of his bed, and we made it down the stairs and outside with only about a dozen pained outbursts from Mr. Greenstick Fracture.

On the two-minute drive to the doc's office, I call my friend Shayla.  She offers to come pick Adelaide and Cade up, and calms me down after I semi-hysterically wail something like, "My mom said it sounded like a greenstick fracture, and I think that's the fracture that shows up in forearms of children suffering from child abuse and now I'm about to be arrested for child abuse I didn't commit!"  She's also a nurse, and reassured me that a kid has to come in three times with something like this for the parents to be arrested.  Which was comforting.  And terribly depressing.

We get to the office.  They get us in within two minutes.  We see a nurse and doctor within ten minutes, which is amazing given that our boys' regular doc is off that afternoon and another doc is squeezing us into her schedule.  I love small towns and small-town clinics.

The nurse is suitably impressed with my magazine-and-Ace-wrap splint.  I tell her my mom's a school nurse, and she coached me over the phone.  The nurse nods as if this makes more sense.  I may have been exhibiting a bit of the crazy eye at this point.

They do an x-ray.  Atticus gets a sucker.

The doctor comes back into the exam room.  There are no broken bones.  (HALLELUJAH!)  He has nursemaid's elbow.  The doc does that little twisting thing that I could have done at home, Atticus writhes in pain while it's being done, but once she feels it click into place, our son is miraculously fine again.

I feel a little foolish until the doc says that it really wasn't presenting like nursemaid's elbow (that Adelaide has had four or five times): he wasn't cradling his arm the way they usually do, he was complaining of pain in the wrong place, he didn't seem to mind when she was manipulating his elbow.  So it wasn't only me that was fooled.  Or maybe it was and the good doctor was just nice enough to pretend otherwise.  Either way, I'm satisfied.

I call my mom back.  She says that no, it's a spiral fracture that is indicative of child abuse.

All I remember is seeing two x-rays side by side in one of my psych textbooks, one greenstick and one spiral, and that one was a red flag for abuse and one wasn't.  Evidently all I took away from that was BROKEN FOREARM BONES (that's a technical term, friends) IN YOUR OFFSPRING MEANS YOU ARE THROWN IN JAIL AND YOUR CHILDREN ARE TAKEN FROM YOU.

All in all, it was an unnecessarily traumatic afternoon.  But I am extremely grateful that Atticus doesn't have a broken arm.  And that I'm not in prison.


  1. Well, I had to go look up nursemaid's elbow too. None of these things happened to Emma, which is good, since I think I do enough panicking without broken bones :-)

    I'm glad it was something easy to fix, rather than necessitating a cast. That would ruin spring!

    1. Oh, I didn't even think of that. A cast would have put a real damper on spring!

  2. Yikes. I have never heard of either kind of fracture. Nursemaid's elbow (I also had to look it up) doesn't look like a picnic, even if it is not a fracture. (And why is it named after a nursemaid?) This is the same child who bruised his forehead, yes? He's had more than his share of injuries.

    I made it a policy never to feel foolish about taking a child to the doctor. (But then, I do not know how to do the twisting thing to put an arm back in a socket - I'm feeling faint as I write that!) I did feel foolish once when I had to take a dispute about origami to the school principal.

    1. Maybe "nursemaid" because it tends to happen to younger children still requiring the old-fashioned nursemaid?

      I'm now dying to hear about an origami dispute requiring a principal.

  3. Seventeen years into parenting, I have never heard of any of these things. Ignorance is bliss, I assure you. :) The only time I ever worried about getting turned in for child abuse was with Kiana's Mongolian spots on her rear! ha

    1. Oh, the things mothers have to worry over. I've never seen that in any parenting book.

  4. Ah ha - now I completely understand what was going on during the random phone call from you on April 3. No one answered me when I said "hello" but I could hear you say "this is Atticus" and I could hear him crying.


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