I don't ever want to hear a thud from baby's room
Tim Whyte · May 18, 1997
There was a loud "Thud!" Then the boy started screaming. It wasn't the usual scream that means, "I want my milk now," or, "I've got a dirty diaper and I'm not very happy about it."
Luc was in pain.
I was in the bathroom.
No one aside from Luc knows exactly what happened. I heard it happen on the monitor. One second, he was in his crib, having just awakened, and happily chatting with the dogs. I was just getting up myself, preparing for the morning rituals Luc and I share after Mommy leaves for work: Get up, play hockey on the living room floor for a while, have breakfast, and get ready for work.
"Da-ba-dah," he said, which means "puppy dog" in babyspeak.
Then there was this thud, and the screams. My God, what did that kid pull into his crib?
I rushed into his room and, when I saw him, I was overcome with fear: My 19-month-old son was on the floor, on his back, screaming but otherwise not moving. It scared the hell out of me.
Within seconds, I was relieved to see him roll himself toward me, wanting me to pick him up. This was the good part: He was able to move.
The bad part: He was favoring his right arm, and with good reason: It was bent, and very clearly broken.
He had never climbed out of the crib before.
I carried him to his bean bag chair and placed him there gently so I could throw on a pair of shorts and shoes. He screamed continuously. We were out the door in what must have been only a minute, and fortunately the emergency room at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital is just up the street.
"Bump," Luc said between screams, as we went over a speed bump exiting our condo complex. Then I remembered how painful bumps were when I was riding to the hospital with a broken leg two decades ago.
The next few hours are a blur.
Erin got one of those phone calls that all mothers fear: "We're in the emergency room. . . ." It was two days before Mother's Day. I warned her not to drive like a maniac getting there from Glendale, and I tried to assure her that, aside from a wounded wing, her baby was OK.
The wait at the hospital wasn't long. I cradled Luc's arm between him and me, so as to keep it from moving too much, and he seemed to make a conscious decision that he was going to be Mr. Tough Guy about the pain. He stopped screaming for a while but couldn't help a whimper here and there. I sang "King of the Road" to him over and over, and it seemed to soothe him. Once in a while, though, it seemed to really hurt, and he would cry out.
The people in the ER at Henry Mayo were wonderful. They promptly got his arm into a splint, and X-rays were done quickly. Everyone was kind and compassionate. The doctor -- I didn't take down his name -- answered my questions quickly and clearly, seeming to understand my sense of urgency for information. The nurses seemed genuinely interested in making Luc comfortable, and I swear, broken arm and pain notwithstanding, he even managed to flirt a little bit.
Luc had broken his right forearm in two places: One break on the radius, one on the ulna. Both, we were told, would probably take five or six weeks to heal. We were lucky: When you consider the possible injuries a child can suffer -- and a broken arm is no picnic -- there are worse things. Much worse.
I wish it were my arm that was broken.
They gave Luc something to ease the pain, and when he finally settled enough to speak, he said, "Da-ba-dah. Ball. Up."
We never did figure out exactly how he broke his arm. There are two theories: One, he fell while trying to climb out of the crib and broke his fall with his arm. Or two, he was trying to lower himself from the crib and got his arm wedged between a pair of the crib's vertical rails.
But his own words seemed to clarify the reason for this, the latest in a frustrating series of speed bumps in the boy's young life: He wanted to pick up a ball and play with the dogs. This kid, he's not one to sit still for long.
We waited while the doctor consulted with an orthopedic surgeon, and it was decided that we would take Luc to the orthopedist's office in Mission Hills to have a cast put on the arm.
As we were leaving the hospital, I realized it had been more than two hours since Luc broke his arm, his ordeal was nowhere near complete, and I, having gone almost directly from bed to the hospital, was in tragic need of deodorant.
Murphy's Law of Health Care: Whenever you go to the emergency room, you will be at your worst.
At the orthopedist's office there was brief talk of putting Luc under so they could set the bones, but the doctor said he thought a local anesthetic would suffice. Great, I thought, he has to see it happen.
But I was surprised. That Tough Guy act I told you about earlier? This was Act 2. He cried a bit when they gave him the shot, but he was rather mellow as he watched his arm being set and put in a cast. He only became upset when he caught me cringing at the sight of it all.
Daddy, the wimp.
We brought Luc home, and within a few minutes he picked up his hockey stick with his good arm. It wouldn't be long before he learned how to cradle the stick with his free hand and his cast. I wonder if this means he'll eventually shoot right? He's always been right-handed, but a lefty shooter, like his dad.
He weighs 23 pounds. I swear the cast weighs 5. But he swings it around like . . . well, like he's trying to scare the bejeebers out of Mommy and Daddy. If you ask him where his "boo-boo arm" is, he holds it up high. Once in a while, though, he just looks at the cast and says, "Off."
That first day, after we got him settled into the house, I ventured into his room to begin dismantling the crib and assembling his new toddler bed, which is much lower to the ground, thank you very much.
I looked at the spot on the floor where his feet had been when I found him, next to the crib, and where his head had been, over near his closet door.
And there, on the floor, was the dog's orange ball.
I looked at the calendar after things settled down. I counted out five weeks, sort of the target for Luc's arm to be better. Five weeks would be . . . two days before Father's Day. You know what would be a great Father's Day present? You know what I'd really like? You do, don't you?
Is there any doubt?
Tim Whyte is the magaging editor of
The Signal. His commentary appears on Sundays.
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