On Sunday afternoon, I took Claire and Muffin for what I thought was going to be a simple walk down Turtle Creek to Reverchon Park. Unfortunately, this innocent walk turned into a broken leg for poor Claire, all day Monday at the hospital getting her fixed up, and several weeks in a full-leg cast. So, not a good day.
Kit was off at work. After Claire woke up from her nap around 4:30, I decided to do something productive with that dubious time between nap and dinner, so I decided to take Muffin for a bath. This has been on the to-do list for weeks, but Muffin’s hygiene had repeatedly been pushed to the bottom of the list. Her white hair was turning yellowish now, and it was really time to get her clean.
When we pulled up to Dirty Gawgz, the self-serve dog wash place, it was closed — out of business. Muffin was out of luck again! Rather than just go straight home, I decided it would be fun for everyone to go for a little walk along nearby Turtle Creek. Muffin was very excited about the idea, but Claire was only luke warm. I think she said she would rather go get some ice cream. In retrospect, I wish I had listened to Claire.
We walked down the creek for about a half mile when we hit Reverchon Park and started to hear a crowd and some music. It was a festival of some sort. The minute I saw the inflatable “bounce house”, I nearly turned back before Claire (with her lower profile) could see it. I knew Claire would really, really want to go play in the bounce house, as she had enthusiastically done at many birthday parties. But I was not really “up” for a fair and not excited about keeping track of Claire and Muffin by myself in a crowded park. Just as I completed that thought, Claire saw the bounce house and yelled, “I want to go there!” I considered telling her we didn’t have time, or something along those lines. But the fact was that we did have time, and the only thing keeping me from letting her play was my own lack of energy and/or adventurism. Isn’t this the kind of thing childhood is all about? Stumbling apon a fair on a nice Sunday afternoon and getting to go play for a while? In retrospect, just this once, I wish my grumpier and more hesitant side had prevailed. But it did not.
We did a couple of arts and crafts first, to sort of warm up to the fair. But there was no line for the bounce house, so we headed that way soon. In fact, nobody was even watching the bounce house. Claire crawled in with two or three other little kids about her age and started doing her thing. Several minutes later, a pair of older boys crawled in. They were maybe 8 or 10 years old. Their size made me a little uneasy, but everything seemed fine as the older boys gave the littler kids some extra space. Even if I really wanted to, I had no good way of getting Claire out of there. The entryway was too small for me to climb in and grab Claire. Plus I had Muffin to keep track of. And have you ever tried talking a kid out of a bounce house? That must be like trying to talk a fish out of the water.
Then it happened. Claire fell down, as she had may times before in these bounce houses. But this time one of the big kids landed on her leg. Claire screamed and started crying. Everyone stopped bouncing. I pushed through to the entryway but again could not get in to rescue Claire, who was laying down grabbing her left knee and crying. The big kid looked confused and just said, “What happened?”
Claire dragged herself over to me at the entryway, crying. I picked her up and hugged her. I had completely forgotten about Muffin. Fortunately, Muffin is not the type of dog to run off. Plus a nice little girl had stepped on her leash to keep her from getting away. This was the only help I received from anyone during the whole ordeal at the park.
At this point, I did not know Claire’s tibia was broken. It turns out when you break a bone, it does not necessarily make an audible “crack” sound or any other obvious sign of breakage. I thought it was just a “normal” injury, as in “Ouch, someone bonked my leg!”, or worst case some sort of twist or sprain. After a few minutes, Claire has stopped crying, and I tried getting her to stand up so she could walk back with me. We had been through many seemingly similar situations over the years, and the standard drill I had worked out is to say sorry that hurt, now let’s move on and not wallow in it. But even though Claire had stopped crying, she would absolutely not put any weight on her left leg, and I ended up carrying her and walking Muffin back to the car.
One I got home, I called Kit to let her know what happened and to get her medical perspective. Claire was in decent spirits, but she would not walk. She was just happily watching TV while I talked to Kit. But Kit came home to check out the situation. Thinking it was still some sort of sprain, we put Claire to bed that night with one Tylenol to help ensure a good night’s sleep and waited to see how her leg was feeling in the morning.
Monday morning came, and she still would not put any weight on her leg. I took Claire to her regular pediatrician that morning. Claire was very excited about seeing the pediatrician because she usually gets a lollipop at the end of her visit. The pediatrician — much to my surprise — told me to take Claire to the emergency room! She said it was possible the leg or knee had a fracture or tear, and the ER would be able to do an x-ray and determine what was really wrong. We got back in the car, and Claire said, “Bummer.” I asked her if she was bummed about going to the hospital. She said no, it was not that. She was bummed because we forgot to get a lollipop from the pediatrician! Feeling guilty and knowing that we would be in for a long day at the ER, I got Claire a milkshake from the McDonald’s drive-through on the way to the hospital.
We went to the ER right by where Kit worked so she could come visit us and help provide some more seasoned medical perspective. Claire and I were very glad to see Kit. She made us both feel better from the shock of actually being in the ER, and she got to look at the x-rays to see what was really happening. After several hours of waiting, x-rays, more waiting, talking, taking calls from work, more exams, and more waiting, we left the hospital around 5:30 pm with a full-leg cast on Claire’s left-leg. Kit went back to the hospital to finish up her work late that night.
Amazingly, through this long day of boredom and uncertainty, without a nap or a regular meal, Claire stayed almost entirely calm. She had a few short moments of frustration and eagerness, but for the vast majority of the day, she showed amazing steadiness and maturity. At one point later that night, looking at our sweet little girl in a full leg cast, I started to tear up. Claire saw this and said, with genuine curiosity, “Why are you crying, Daddy? I’m not crying, and my leg is hurt. See?”
Not knowing if Claire could even put any weight on her leg, we were not going to just send her right to daycare the next morning. I had already missed a full day or work and canceled several meetings, with several more scheduled tomorrow. This ordeal was not only rearranging my own schedule, but some of my peers at work as well. So we called Kit’s parents late Monday night. They were on their way back to Texas from a long trip to the Northwest. They were in Kansas and said they could be in Dallas by 3 am so they could watch Claire on Tuesday. They snuck into the house undetected in the middle of the night and were ready to take over Claire duty in the morning. Their showing up on such short notice helped keep this difficult situation under control. My parents were unavailable because my dad was back in Houston recovering from a dislocated shoulder, which like Claire, he had suffered while out with me having “fun” (in this case working out) in uptown Dallas. I am bad luck, people.
Claire slept well, and when we woke her up the next morning, she saw her cast and said, “Can we take this off now?” That’s when Kit and I explained that the cast was going to help her leg heal, and she needed to leave it on until June or July to make sure her leg was okay. Claire listened paitently and accepted the news calmly. Until we got the new routine figured out and saw a specialist who would tell us exactly if and when Claire should walk around, we settled into a new routine which involved a lot of carrying Claire around and letting her watch a lot of TV, including her new obsession, Finding Nemo. I wonder if she will forever think of that movie as the “broken leg” movie.
That first day at home with Grammy, Claire scribbled a long note. She said it says, “Dear Mommy, thank you for coming to the emergency room with me and Daddy. And Daddy, thank you for loving us!” She and I really did appreciate having Doctor Mom with us at the emergency room.