Breaking bones

Around 11 o’clock last Tuesday, I was in a meeting with limited cell phone reception. A message suddenly came through announcing that I had 9 new voicemail messages. Excusing myself, I listened to the messages, 5 were from Alex’s preschool. All the messages went something along the lines of “Hi, it’s Gina again, Alex has fallen and hurt his arm quite badly, we need you to come and get him!”, the urgency rising in her voice with each subsequent message.

I got to the school as quickly as I could, but driving from Bryanston to Senderwood late morning holds a ton of traffic along the way. I got to the school 45 minutes later. The poor boy was sitting in Pre-school reception with his teacher, clutching his damaged arm. The accident report said that Alex had fallen off the monkey bars on the green jungle gym at 10.45 AM. The teacher had wrapped his arm in a splint and an ice pack. His eyes were swollen from crying, and as soon as he saw me he started to wail. And I started to cry too. The teacher that had seen him fall appeared out of nowhere with a glass of water and some rescue remedy. “Drink this, you’re going to need it!”


(As luck would have it, Gary was away in Knysna playing golf. He also discovered a few voicemails on his phone from the school when he came off the course at around one.)

I got him to casualty as quickly as I could, trying to navigate pot-holes and speed-bumps along the way as gently as I could. There was no parking at the hospital and I ended up parking at the ass-end of nowhere. Luckily a golf cart was on hand to take us to the building, and the driver kindly organised me a wheelchair to take him down to casualty. They rushed us through as soon as we got in, as it was evident that Alex was in a huge amount of pain. By this point he was screaming like someone had chopped his arm off. They gave him some pain killers (2 x 25mg Panamor and 2 x 250g empaped) but they didn’t even take the edge off. He must have cried for 3 hours solid before he literally passed out from the pain. (Side note: I saw his paed the day after, and after looking at his x-rays on the hospital system, he was completely surprised and annoyed that they hadn’t given him morphine in casualty! On a positive note, there was no damage to his growth plates.)

The x-ray revealed that he had broken both the radius and ulna clean through about a centimeter from the wrist. The bones were close to having pierced his skin. He needed to have surgery to fix it. His arm was buckled into an unnatural position.


We then got taken to the ward and waited for the surgeon. The surgery was scheduled for 4PM. He was very scared at the prospect of surgery, and kept begging me to take him home. It was absolutely heart breaking, I felt so sorry for him, and sorry that I couldn’t take his pain away. The doctor manipulated the bones back into place under anesthetic and had to secure the bones with wires, which they put in through the skin. (Which are incidentally removed in 4 weeks time under anesthetic, by literally pulling them back out through the skin. Ouch.)

We were eventually discharged just after 7PM, with his arm in a half cast and sling. What a day!


On the bright side he wasn’t in a lot of pain anymore, and managed to have a fairly good night’s sleep. He even insisted on going to school the next morning, and was quite the hero amongst his peers. (Caris, however, was completely horrified that her brother was broken and couldn’t stop crying when she saw him. Sweet girl.)

Yesterday we went to have the half cast removed and a hard one applied. (The poor boy has been like a caged animal for the past week, and all he has been wanting to do is run and be physical!) He was so excited to go to school today so that his friends could write and draw on it. I am amazed at how quickly he seems to be recovering from what was a very nasty break. Even the orthopedic surgeon remarked that children have an incredible ability to heal and just get on with things.


Case in point: playing soccer in the garden with his sister, cast and all!


Don’t sweat the small stuff

At dinner last night, with a few good friends, we were chatting about our kids (and other things too) as women with children are wont to do. We were laughing about the silly things they say and do, bitching about how hard it is sometimes, and moaning about eating issues, bed-wetting and cheekiness. Then my friend J mentioned that she had changed the way she approaches parenting since a good friend of hers’ child had died. How she is more lenient, softer, and a little less hectic. How she tries not to sweat the small stuff. I think every single one of us got goose-bumps at the thought of losing one of our children.

About a year ago, in one of the local pre-primary schools, a young boy choked to death on a cherry while at school. They allegedly tried everything they could, and even asked the Vet in the property next door to help. He was then taken to a nearby hospital, but sadly the little guy did not make it. I don’t recall his exact age at the time, but he was 4 or 5 years old. At the time of the incident, I remember thinking: Imagine getting THAT call from the school. “Hi, this is um, the principal, your, um, child had an accident at school. He is, um…. DEAD.”  And just like that, in a two minute phone-call, your life would change. Forever. No more hugs and kisses from a small boy whose parents are the most important people in his life. No more giggles, silly discussions and a thousand questions. No more arguing over eating dinner, putting on shoes or tidying up the playroom. No more goodnight kisses and playing with reckless abandon. No more anything. Gone. Forever. Dead.

The very thought still makes the hair on my arms stand up as a cold shiver runs over me. It makes me nauseas in the pit of my stomach.

It has been a year since the untimely passing of this young boy, and apparently his family have tried to move on as best as they can. They have had another child, and are trying to be a normal family. But I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be for all of them. How the trauma surrounding the death of their child must haunt them daily. And how they must always wonder what it would be like if the accident had not happened. How they must think about that child. Every. Single. Day. How they must long for one last hug, one last kiss and even one last argument. How they must ache with sadness every time they see his photograph or remember something that he said or did.

So we all vowed to not fight with our children today. To let them wear whatever they want to. To let them eat ice-cream in the car. To let them be silly, laugh and mess around in the Pick ‘n Pay. To just let them be kids without forcing our grown-up boundaries onto them. To relax with our rules, just a little. To not shout at them for dirtying the newly-washed floors. But most importantly: to not sweat the small stuff, and to hold them tight and love and cherish them. Today and always.

The other night at the emergency room

 “The decision to have a child is to accept that your heart will forever walk about outside your body.” Katherine Hadley

 A few Saturday’s ago, we were watching TV, when we heard Alex scream from his bedroom. We both went bolting upstairs to see what was wrong. He has been having some “age-appropriate” nightmares of late, so we assumed that this was the case. Alex slept through the night from about 8 weeks old, and has never really given us any trouble in the sleep department (other than when his sister was born, but that is a different story entirely!), so these nightmares have been a real shock to the system for us.

He was hot and sweaty, and absolutely frantic when we got upstairs. After about half an hour of trying to get him back to sleep, and with him point-blank refusing to stay in his room, using all the excuses in the book, from complaining that there was a bee in his room, to heartbreaking complaints that his tummy is sore, along with hyper-ventilating, we decided to let him fall asleep with us, and then take him back to his room later.

After about 20 minutes of him rolling around like he had insects under his skin, and some myprodol for the slight fever and some telement drops for the tummy ache later, we decide we better take him to casualty. At this point, he is telling us his tummy is sore, doubled over and crying big whimpering tears. And as much as we know most three year olds are hypochondriacs, these were real tears. I finally managed to convince him to let me touch his tummy, and it was hard and bloated. Gary and I got out of our pyjamas and into clothes suitable for rushing to the hospital, (I may have even gone out wearing my slipper crocs, which really are strictly for “at home” use!)  strapped Alex into the car seat, and headed towards the hospital. As I was closing the buckle on the car seat, I had a moment of real panic. How would I live without this boy if something were to happen to him. Every speed bump we went over on our drive, made Alex whimper in pain. I think my heart nearly stopped a few times.

At about 1030PM, we arrived at the hospital, and being a child, they rushed us though, and sent a nurse in to do a preliminary diagnosis. All the while Alex is crying and saying his tummy is sore. People in the rooms around us are giving us that terribly pained look of sympathy and fear that is reserved for the parents of sick children. The nurse asked us for a urine sample, and I carried Alex, still whimpering, into the bathroom, telling him that he had to make a wee in to a very special little cup. Alex has been fully potty trained since he turned 3, and stays dry at night. He started to wee into the cup, and it was like a flood gate on a dam opening up! The wee went everywhere, the cup was full in a nanosecond, and what seemed like 2 litres of wee went spilling onto the floor. Stupid me thought a 3 year old would be able to *stop* weeing once they started. Umm, nope! Note to self, hold the boy over the toilet next time. So half the paper towel supply later cleaning up the floor, I embarrassedly tell the nurse about our little “accident”. Then we headed back to the examination booth to wait for the doctor.

Alex was suddenly a new child, asking us what all the medical equipment does, peeping through the curtains at the other casualty visitors, doing bunny hops up and down the passage, and all the while we are realising that he is fine. Not dying, not in any pain. And then the penny dropped. Alex’s sore tummy was in fact a VERY full bladder. Neither of us thought to ask the boy if he needed a wee, and he didn’t make the connection that the pain he was feeling was his bladder.

We discussed slipping out quietly, so that we wouldn’t have to face the doctor and explain that our boy was right as rain. When the doctor came in a few moments later we explained the situation with rather red faces. She examined him for good measure, and everywhere she pressed, he of course said was sore, even his knee and little toe. The doctor laughed with us, and said it happens … it wasn’t the first time she had examined a toddler who was dying the one minute and 100% fine as soon as they were examined. Who would have thought that emergency room doctors have a sense of humour at 11 o clock on a Saturday night. So she sent us on our merry way, and our little guy was fast asleep by the time we pulled into the driveway. So all’s well that ends well, but my standard question to any complaint he makes now is “do you need to wee?”. *Breathe*