Saturday, January 31, 2009

Flesh and Bone

They say kids are resilient. Kids are flexible, adaptable. Kids bounce back. Kids are tougher than we are. They thrive in crazy circumstances. My daughter is a good example--in her four years she's been through crap that I'll never even know about. I've always marveled at her strength, and joked that you wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley. I've seen her lift her entire body weight (considerable, that) while being held upside-down. I've seen her sprint like the wind to get to a fruit leather miles ahead of another child. I've seen her soldier uncomplainingly through pneumonia, high fevers, hacking coughs and worse. I've seen her shimmy to the top of a giant inflatable slide ahead of kids three times her age. My girl, I always say, is way tougher than her marshmallow mama, and already I can tell that she will never stand in the outfield twirling her hair and let a ball roll out of her glove while whining "Owwww!" My girl is Mt. Vesuvius.

So it's humbling to learn, as I must, that she is fragile, too. Like any other tiny person finding her footing in the world, she will make mistakes, she will have regrets, there will be moments she (and I) wish she could take back. Readers, one of those moments is upon us.

Yesterday afternoon was a Friday at the park like any other. A bunch of preschool moms and I lounged in the shade while the kids raced through the wood chips, scrambled up slides, swung across bars, plunged into bushes teeming with bees. I barely even check on her any more--by now, she seems invincible to me. Sure, her knees are mottled with bruises, but that's her job. It was almost time to go when Jarrah decided to bring her friend Amelia a bottle of water, and spun lightning-quick (her only speed) to begin the dash across the grass. Something restrained her--dirt? a rock? her Croc?--and BAM! the full force of her take-off propelled her face-first into the dirt. She cried--she's a big crier--and I hauled her up for a hug, inspecting hands, elbows and legs for scrapes, finding none. I whispered that she was gonna be okay, but she said, clearly, "I want to go home." Well, that was unusual.

She cried out when I buckled her into the car seat. Her shoulder hurt, she said. I drove home, tense, telling her it was going to be okay. She cried out again when I took her out of the car, more desperately this time. Now I was worried. I took her inside, installed her on the couch with Curious George, an ice pack and some Motrin. She sucked her green popsicle stoically and didn't say much.

I called the triage nurse. Can't hurt to call, right? Take it out of my hands. I was a little surprised when she didn't hesitate. "Bring her in. Let's get an x-ray." It was the recurrent crying that convinced her. Kids don't cry more than once about their owies, generally.

I couldn't find David. Turns out he'd forgotten his cell phone--great day for that. And I was a little more than an hour away from teaching Nia. I tried to think straight by talking to myself. "Find the sub list. You can do it. Just call a couple people. No answer? Okay, call the front desk. Get someone to make a sign. It's okay. Focus." I kept calling out cheery updates to Jarrah--"We're going to the doctor, sweetie. To take a picture of your shoulder. No, no shots. I promise."

Back at the car, she clearly found my attempt to get her in the car seat excruciating. I stood there, heart pounding, alone with my furiously ticking head. Drive 30 minutes in rush hour traffic with no restraints? Or mangle my child's injured bones? I strapped one half of her, and she stared at me stoically, using her good arm to "hold" herself into the seat--she knows the rules. (Later, the doctor told me I did the right thing.)

Finally found David. He would meet us there. I was so nervous I threw a bunch of candy in Jarrah's lap and told her to have at it. I didn't want her thinking about pain. David thought I could drop Jarrah and still make my class. But there was no way I was leaving her.

She fell asleep in the car. For some reason this made me almost hyperventilate. I guess because I couldn't get my mind around the idea that she might just be tired. She looked so subdued. That is not the natural order of things. Melissa kept me clinging to the ledge all the way up, making small talk, staying upbeat. Thank goodness for her. Jarrah pitched dangerously forward in her stupor; I envisioned her tumbling to the floor, smashing her shoulder.

When we checked in, no sign of David. Jarrah, alert now, ran (!) to the toys and announced "I'm feeling much better!" It's an indication of my worry level that I genuinely meant it when I said "Well, that's great!" instead of sarcasm about a day turned upside down. She asked to go to the potty. We were in there so long that they called our name. Then I tried to help Jarrah up and she cried and cried. Maybe not better? When we came out David was there--he had gone to the wrong office. Again with the no cell phone.

The doctor didn't have much bedside manner. She asked a lot of questions (how is she going to answer questions accurately?) and said she didn't want to move her too much. Off we went to x-ray. And then we were there forever, listening to Mary Poppins and babies crying until I thought I would scream.

In the imaging room, Jarrah got to pick one parent, and it was me. "Sorry, Dad." the tech said cheerfully. "Mom always wins in these situations." What a difference three years makes! Jarrah was brave and cooperative, and they took three views. At one point, the two techs were around the corner for an age, whispering. I should have seen that for the sign it was. That and the way one pressed the films into my hand 30 minutes later with a significant "Good luck."

It was getting dark now; no doubt the whole building wanted to go home, almost 6:00 on a Friday. But we were on our way back to the doctor with the x-rays, and after some more waiting, during which we decided it was all going to be nothing, she sailed into the room with the opening salvo, "Well, she broke her clavicle!"

"What?" I was in shock. I know it sounds crazy to be in shock about something we'd been pursuing all day, but there you have it. And then this doctor had nothing to say about it. "There's nothing you have to do for it. You can have a sling if you want. Yes, they make an immobilizing splint but we don't have any. Yes, you could see an orthopedist, but not until Monday. Or you could go to the emergency room now if you want. Sure, Motrin is fine if you want." Everything was so vague and blase it's like we were not all staring at a giant picture of a bone snapped in two. A bone in my small child's shoulder, causing her a lot of pain. I excused myself and went to the bathroom, where I sobbed and sobbed. I guess I was just letting out the tension of the day, the smiling and coaxing and thinking two steps ahead for hours and hours.

Outside, I finally connected with Mary, and broke down, asked if we could come over for dinner. (They live around the corner.) They welcomed us with open arms. I asked for Chinese food--got that, too. Jarrah and Joy were happy to see each other, and within two minutes the sling was off, never to be seen again. We pushed past the sadness of Jarrah trying to squirm into a princess costume and screaming when she raised her arms. I said I would go to Target and get her some button-down shirts and Mary offered to come with me. Target is such a dependable memory-wipe that I actually had fun, and got to peer through the window of parenting boys, since the only button-down shirts were in the boys section (and why are they all plaid? is that a rule?)

I arrived home at 10:30, and Jarrah was fast asleep, dreaming away the day. She slept 12 hours and woke in an uncannily agreeable mood, full of smiles. Don't think she isn't learning to milk that bone already, though. We are required to soap, rinse and dry her hands, bring her copious amounts of frozen treats, and David has to carry her from room to room, since apparently she has broken legs, too. She said she is looking forward to telling her class that she broke a bone, but she did have one very hard question for us, suspicious in its extreme adorableness:

"But how will I give hugs?"

"Oh, sweetheart," I said. "Very carefully. Very carefully."

Her attitude has been champion except for the few moments when she's tried to act like her old self and it's hurt like all get out. Then her lip quivers and her eyes well up and she says "I'm worried. I'm worried that I can't do things that I want."

That is a big one. I totally relate.


Aunt LoLo said...

Oh!! Poor miss J. :-( BBJ is the same way...our day in the emergency room is coming.

I think this might take more of a toll on YOU tan her. Take care of yourself!!

Gemvolt said...

Sam, I haven't checked your blog in some time..
interesting that I picked today!!
So sorry about Jarrah and you!!!
We are sending healing love your way...
Anything I can do??

Jennifer said...

Poor you and Jarrah! Hope each day gets better for you all. Amazing how much a little bone can hurt so much. Gentle easy hugs to you all.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Oh the poor dear! And poor Jarrah!

So . . . guess where is Trish? In Colorado with her son and his broken clavicle. I'm going to send her right over electronically.

Also? Never fall far that one parent in the room thing. Sure, they try that with me and Tom each and every time. It took a time or two to get the hang of it. Now we just stay cool and say confidently, "We are both staying." And then we do, each and every time.


Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

"Never fall FOR"

Ack. Typos.

Jen said...

You poor dears! I'm so sorry! What a day. "But how will I give hugs?"--this one really got me.

I know this probably sounds goofy, but I always tell Sage that it's way better to play like crazy and get boo boos than not to play how you want to and have no boo boos. Some boo boos are a sign that you're jumping in with both feet. And Jarrah certainly does that!

I hope she recovers soon so she can do what she wants again. And I hope YOU are okay, too.

Miss J

Teresa said...

Even the more timid of us survive the clavicle breaks!!! J. Dust will pull through in no time. I just hope you & David are okay, too. :)


Marlene said...

The day that Jacob was really constipated for the first time, he was terrified. He sat sobbing in the bathroom, and he whispered to me, "Mommy, will I die?" James found it all comic, even though he was warmly sympathetic to Jacob. My heart was torn to bits. There is nothing like your own child's pain to reorder your universe, to make the ground tilt beneath your feet. I would have sobbed too. That ferocity and frailty in a child--that I understand. Take care of both of you, darling. My thoughts are with you.

Trish said...

Oh geez I am crying all over again. My son broke his collar bone this week too. Snowboarding. Radical snowboarding. Broken in 2 places. No health insurance. He needed surgery and he was scared so I flew to Colorado to take care of him for a few days. I gave him a sponge bath and cleaned his apartment and cooked dinners and baked cookies and he is better now.

The good news is they will heal just fine, the bad news is that you just never get over the gut wrench you feel when your kid gets a boo boo, no matter how old they are.

She will be fine in a few weeks! RX: Twice as many, half-hugs works wonders. So do cookies.

The Wades said...

Poor little Jarrah! That's a terrible break--the kind you can't cast and make all better. It sounds like she was being incredibly brave.

Awful that David didn't have his cell phone. Of all the days, huh?

"Everything was so vague and blase it's like we were not all staring at a giant picture of a bone snapped in two. A bone in my small child's shoulder, causing her a lot of pain." could make me cry!

Hugs, my friend. I'm so sorry.

Sam said...

Girls, you are all making me feel so much better! And Jarrah, too. :) She has been acting fine and aside from having to give up sports and dancing this week, I'm hoping she'll be on target to start T-ball in two weeks! :)

And Trish, oh no! I left you a comment on your blog.

Mary said...

Dear Sammy,

So glad you finally got a hold of us.

Reading it made me get all anxious again.

So so so glad that she is feeling better.



Laural Out Loud said...

What a day you had! Chinese food is always my favorite way to decompress. I hope things get better very very soon. How long is Jarrah's shoulder going to take to heal?

Paul and Heather said...

Poor thing (both of you). I hope Jarrah is back to her spunky self in no time!

Anonymous said...

Oh the poor lovey! My BIL broke his collar-bone a few years back, and the doctor told him it was the most commonly broken bone in childhood. Weird, I never heard that before!
Jarrah is a trooper and so brave. You are too Sam! I hope she heals fast and can give lots of hugs soon.
Laura, Mike and Noelle

Grace Maloney said...

well, wow...wonder how long will it take to heal? goodness, how many times did i see preschoolers take face plants and never think about such an outcome as this.

well, the unfortunate event got me signed on as an official littledragonfruit follower. which is nice. for me.

get better quick, jarrah. ....XO

DrSpouse said...

Oh my. She has my total sympathy as I broke my clavicle (much nearer the shoulder, so harder to heal) about 15 years ago. A sling really helped, and I slept propped up in bed, and the physio gave me interesting exercises (probably actually easier with your mother there to make you do them!)

If you need anything you know where I am...

Anonymous said...

To you all : Lots of long distance hugs that don't hurt a bit but that are just as warm as can be.

Love Nanna and Grandad

dena said...

Michelle told me last weekend about poor little Jarrah... I'm just now getting around to reading about it for myself. However, I've been praying for her since. May you all recover from this accident quickly!

The Wades said...

Sam, the title is to you too, my love! "I love Sam!" Love you to pieces.

Amanda said...

oh my goodness! Poor little Jarrah. As for the doctor...mmmpphhh, I don't know that I would be able to contain myself. It is a strange thing to be a mom to a kid that it hurt, it is like you become an momma lion.
Hope things are getting better,and that Jarrah is well on her way to giving lots of hugs!
(and by the way we live in Oklahoma) where the weather changes pretty much every day (if not hour). Last week ice, and lots of it, today 75 and beautiful, tomorrow they are saying about 60 and buckets of rain!

Synthia said...

Wow Sam,
what an experience. I think YOU are brave. I miss you, almost called you Friday, you were quite busy turns out...

Much love to you, Jarrah and David. Talk soon, syn