Yesterday was the long-awaited day when we were told to head back down to Valley’ Children’s Hospital in Madera for our follow-up appointment. We weren’t totally sure Elias would be cast-free after this, but we knew his cast would come off and the pins holding his joint in place would be removed. I was nervous, as is my Pavlovian response to hospitals, and to the prospect that all wasn’t healing as it should. He had his share of spills during the past month, and my brain envisioned several more breaks hidden beneath the hardened green burrito that was his cast. Also, pin removal sounded like the opposite of a good time.
Anthony was my opposite and felt everything had to be going well based on how actively he used his cast arm and how little it slowed him down. Which was absolutely true. Aside from the regrettable lack of bathing, he was running and (ugh) climbing and playing and otherwise acting like there was nothing wrong with him whatsoever.
We had set up childcare for Isobel because we had no idea how long we’d be gone. It sounded like a process, especially if they decided he needed another cast. But Isobel was dead-set on coming. She wanted to support her little brother, and even decided to wear her Big Sister shirt in solidarity. In the morning she told me she had drawn a heart around the date on her calendar because “today was the day brother got his cast off.”
We left town early. Madera is about an hour and a half away and the hospital was actually closer to Clovis. We only have to take two roads to get there, but the location is so remote drove through acres of dry farmland. As we approached the hospital, which stood out conspicuously in the flat landscape, as if small city had dropped down from the sky. Isobel said, “Ugh, are we driving through the middle of a desert?” We are in a severe drought right now, so yes, essentially. That’s a pretty good description right now.
We arrived, and Isobel wanted to pose with the two giraffe statues out front before we went in. I checked my phone to be sure we had enough time. We had arrived an hour early.
We brought magazines and library books and ponies and video games just in case, but it turned out we really didn’t need any of them. Even though we were super early, they called us back not even ten minutes after we got there. The nurse did not mess around and immediately set to work cutting the cast off with what appeared to be a shop-vac with a saw attachment. The Waltons, who had been through their own cast ordeals with Kingston, lent us some headphones so the noise wouldn’t be quite so loud for Elias. He wasn’t pleased to be lying there with a saw gnawing at his arm, but he didn’t fuss or cry.
Angela warned us about the grossness of a newly cast-free limb, so we were prepared. It wasn’t excessively hairy, but there was a lot of dead skin that hung around because it had nowhere to go. I refrained from smelling the cast so as not to barf in the exam room.
Elias was intensely curious about his new arm, which remained bandaged because of the pins. I went back with him for x-rays and the technicians kept telling me how well-behaved and sweet he was. With a horrible lack of modesty, I agreed. They rewarded him with four giant stickers.
While we waited for the final word from the doctor, a nurse came in to remove the pins. I was told at the hospital that he would be medicated for this but he actually wasn’t. Whenever pain medication is given the risks and benefits must be weighed. The procedure was quick and removing the first pin didn’t bother him at all. The second pin clearly hurt, and he screamed. Poor guy. I felt awful and Isobel almost started crying, but it was over quickly and that was it. They put gauze on the pin site–two holes near the tip of his elbow that looked like a snake or vampire bite. Almost as soon as the nurse left he ripped all the gauze off. He scratched his arm all over. The dead skin must have itched like crazy.
Anthony and I kept grabbing new gauze from the cupboard as the pin site wounds were fresh and bleeding slightly. It was a struggle to keep it in place. When the doctor came back in he decided to put a sticky ace bandage on top of the gauze so he couldn’t remove it on the car on the long drive home. When I was explaining this to Stef she hilariously compared it to a cat’s cone of shame. She thinks he needs an arm cone. This morning I removed the wrap and replaced the gauze with a Frozen band aid of Isobel’s choosing. Although we are all glad he did not need another cast, Isobel was really looking forward to choosing the color of his next cast–pink. Choosing his band aid was the next best thing.
The doctor said he couldn’t be more pleased with Elias’ healing and that everything looks great. Elias was already using his arm a lot in the exam room, and the doctor was surprised and said it was a fantastic sign. Never have I been so glad that Anthony was right. In all likelihood he won’t even need physical therapy, as the doctor said, “Being a kid is the best physical therapy there is.” Things looked so good we didn’t even require a second follow-up appointment. We are done.
The car ride home from the hospital wasn’t as smooth as the ride up. Elias was just done and escalating into full-on meltdown mode. Fortunately this wasn’t our first car-rodeo, and I had brought our weathered Yo Gabba Gabba CD. One verse of Yummy In My Tummy later and both kids were happy.
We stopped at the taco trucks for dinner on our way home, and Isobel changed into her evening tiara.
He was totally happy to be out of the car seat and mere minutes away from refried beans in his tummy. He had entertained himself by peeling off and crumpling most of his stickers on the way home, but you can still see the hospital arm (er, leg) bands and his “arm cone.” He couldn’t be happier. We are supposed to keep his physical activity limited for the next month (?!!) which, the doctor acknowledged, is slightly impossible for a kid his age. But we can do our best to limit risk: avoid parks, trampolines, and other obvious hazards. He has already tried to get back on the step-stool, of course.
Thank you again for all your concern, kind words, and prayer. It meant the world to us!