Sticks and Stones Part II

I had a brilliant blog ready to go for Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, I left it until Valentine’s Day to finish it, and my day became a little chaotic after a phone call from Second Born Son’s school.

“Hi Sarah, It’s Mrs. Awesomeschoolsecretary calling. I’ve got SBS here and he says he broke his arm again.”

“Holy shit.” was my most eloquent reply, thereby shattering my image as a polite, well-spoken, organized, respectful parent. But really, who the hell was I kidding anyway?

Within minutes I’m looking at my son, who has plastered on his face the best. poker face. EVER! We immediately leave the school to head to our hospital’s emergency room. As soon as the door of my vehicle closes, the emotion pours out of him and he tells me what happened. Snow pile at recess. Bunch of friends jostling each other. SBS falls down show pile with one of the friends. SBS makes it to the bottom first. Friend lands on him. Previously healed arm is on the bottom of said pile of 8th graders. He’s upset because he thinks I’m going to be mad at him. If truth be told, I think he’s mad at himself.

Once again, my college-level psychology class is paying for itself, as I employ the power of positive thinking and advise him I am not angry, but worried about the arm, for obvious reasons. We will deal with what happens.

An x-ray reveals what SBS already knows. It’s cracked right through the spot that broke before. This concerns the emerg doctor who also happens to be our GP. He lightly throws out the idea that surgery may be in the future, refers to how cool Wolverine is, and shoots me a look. Okaaay. Gotcha. We need to get the kid ready for this possibility.

So, armed with the knowledge (pun intended) that we have a bit of an uphill climb in the somewhat familiar road ahead of us, we buy a new collar and cuff sling from the hospital and head home. SBS refuses any pain meds, likely because he feels he deserves the pain. I decide its time to play “Glass Half Full”.

“You know,” I point out, “we can look at it this way; we know how to take care of this because we’ve done it before. No figuring out how to get dressed, or shower, you know?”

He nods, half heartedly.

“And, again, it’s your left arm, so you can still write and you won’t have to miss art class!” I try for some enthusiasm.

“I guess it was a good idea that I cancelled the drums then,” he allows.

“Sure! And you know, it could be worse; it could be your LEG!” I gasp, adding how impossible it would be for me to lug him around, now that he’s taller than I am.

“Yeah.”

It was a rough night, but the next day did seem a little brighter. We had a call in to his specialist and agreed that SBS would stay home from school until we had been to our appointment. I didn’t want to have this fracture complicated by a slip in a wet hallway or a nudge from an overly enthusiastic friend.

Because of the holiday Monday (yeah Family Day – I worked – what else is new, right??) we could only get squeezed in on the Friday – a week after the break. By the time the appointment rolled around, SBS was ready to crawl walls. He’s frustrated, sore, tired, anxious and wondering how he can go back in time and redo recess.

The Big Guy joined us for the drive to the city; all equally anxious and eager to find out what the specialist would say. I had packed an overnight bag for us, in the event that surgery was going to happen. A conversation with a friend who is a nurse reinforced the idea that surgery was in the offing. We had a couple of conversations with SBS who was naturally nervous about the idea. He was reluctant, but in favor of this possibility by the time we got to the hospital, if for no other reason than he could finally stop worrying about doing further damage to his arm. All week he had walked around as though he was made of glass. Sneezing was to be avoided.

More x-rays and waiting. Thankfully the Olympic hockey game was on and we were suitable distracted.

While our specialist was not available, her colleague was and we were in no position to complain, since we wanted to see the first doctor we could who would give us answers.

An intern came in for the preliminary chat and looked over SBS. He gives us the impression that we have done all that can be done by using the collar and cuff. The Big Guy and I look at each other. No surgery? A mix of optimism and dread hits us both. We express that we would like to be aggressive with this injury, since we were advised the initial break had healed and isn’t bone that has healed from a fracture stronger?

He gives us a smile and agrees to pass our thoughts along to the specialist. The Big Guy and I make a pact that we are not leaving this room the way we came in; with a broken kid with a broken spirit.

Within minutes the specialist enters. Her bicep is a big as my wrist and everything about her is boney and angular. Her smile is phoney and forced. Her voice has a sharp tone and her words are clipped. Immediately the energy in the room changes, and not for the better. She has SBS move his arm at the elbow and wrist and checks for pulse and blood circulation issues. Before addressing us, she’s has told SBS she wants to see him moving the arm so the elbow doesn’t seize up, and that tells us all we need to know.

There won’t be any surgery.

Now I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of medical details here, but the moral of this story is that The Big Guy and I should have been thrilled that our son was not being scheduled for surgery. Instead, we felt like we were being ignored. When we asked to understand her position, she immediately became aggressive and condescending; an AWESOME mix, especially when my hubby is involved. Boyfriend doesn’t always edit if you know what I mean. The more questions we asked, the more annoyed with us she became. She pulled out her god complex and wielded it with the dexterity I can only assume she  possesses in the operating room. She can do A, B and C, sure why not? If that’s what we as parents were saying we wanted to subject our son to! She then turns to SBS and unloads on him all the worst case scenarios that could take place during and as a result of surgery. He is suitably traumatized and withholds telling her how he feels about certain aspects of his situation because he just wants to LEAVE! (At this point I want to thank her face with my fist because now if we ever HAVE to do surgery for what she later stated could be a recurring issue, he gets to ponder on the very detailed possibilities she implanted in his brain. Gold star for you, Sweetheart!)

I stop her and advise that for SBS’s peace of mind, we need something done. She ROLLS. HER.EYES. Yes, yes she did; and this pretty much finishes me. After some chatter with the intern and someone from casting, she agrees to “some kind of splint for this”.

Why did I just bore you to tears of this childhood injury? Because I think it exemplifies beautifully a concept that I advocate regularly. Grab your pen and paper now!

It’s not always WHAT you say, but HOW you say it!

Blew your mind just there, didn’t I?

She had no idea of what we had been through in the week leading up to our appointment; but she wasn’t interested in hearing it either. She should have listened to all three of us, and then come back with her position, supported by heavily edited reasoning regarding risks. She should have respected our concern as parents and not simply dismissed our questions as being ridiculous. She should have parked her tone AND attitude with her ride in the underground parking. She should have remembered that even though in her world she sees thousands of broken bones every week – this is the only broken bone that matters in our world. She should have seen that while the patient in front of her is the size of an adult, he is still a child inside. She should have known that while surgery and casts were not, in her opinion, in the patient’s best interest, neither is living with uncertainty and fear.

Her only advice was if he was “that nervous” about going to school, then he should stay home for another week. What he needed was to get back to his regular routine. Thankfully, the splint we begged for has had the necessary effect; provided physical protection while offering emotional support.

It took a lot of talking on the ride home to understand that while we put a lot of faith into doctors, they are only human. Just like every other profession, there are good ones, and there are bad ones.

We can’t wait to see our GREAT specialist when she returns in time for our first follow-up appointment. I don’t think any of us needs a repeat of last week’s performance.

8 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones Part II

  1. There is a certain type of doctor that doesn’t seem to understand they actually work for the patient, we can change at any time, and without us they won’t have a job. It sounds like you had that type, too important to be bothered with a mere patient. I hope your son recovers quickly!

    • Thanks Broad! My father had a similar experience with a specialist – she refused to address anyone but him, in spite of the fact that my mother and I were his primary “people” for him at the time. Thanks for your words of encouragement!

  2. HO boy, Sarah. Surgeons are notorious for having the bedside manners of a rattlesnake, possibly because usually their patients are comatose. They stomp around as if they are gods and I guess it takes a certain type to thrust a knife into someone. And empathy does not exist in their world. Hope you have better luck with the next surgeon! And hope SBS and everyone finds a space of calm. Hugs, Judy

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