My two year old son fell over in a tent and broke his femur. It sounds impossible, and he has a spiral fracture, caused by a twist and pull motion. He was stepping out of the bedroom compartment of the tent, and managed to get his foot wrapped around the loose fabric of the unzipped door before falling. Twist. Pull.
Since then, having done some research, I find that it is surprisingly easy for toddlers to break their femurs, the biggest bone in their body: jumping on the bed and landing awkwardly, slipping on a wet kitchen floor. I was told in hospital that the most common cause is slipping on a toy car.
I took him to A&E expecting, at worst, that he may have dislocated his knee. It hadn’t even entered my head that he might have broken a bone, let alone his femur. Even when I held him still for a x-ray, it didn’t click. But I’ll never forget what the radiographer said to me before I left. “He has broken it, and it’s bad, so be careful with him.” I cried all the way back to the cubicle where I had to be laid on the bed because I was about to pass out from the shock.
But, this isn’t a story about how he broke his leg. This is a story about how he recovered.
Like all little boys, my son is as active as you can be. Boundless energy, limitless enthusiasm, and unstoppable curiosity. He doesn’t walk, he runs. And he climbs everywhere. His ambition often outstripping his ability. Suddenly, he found himself in a full leg splint, tied to his hospital bed.
The wonderful play leaders at the hospital kept him busy, laying a large cardboard sheet across his mattress so that he could have a train set to play with. They brought a bottle of bubbles to his bed, offered to wheel his bed up to the playroom, or into the garden. They were not going to let him get bored.
After a good night’s sleep (we had both arrived at A&E on about two hours sleep), my little boy was finally back: chatty, smiling, and ambitious. He’s always been one to sleep on his stomach, and he wasn’t going to let the splint stop him from doing that. He crawled around the bed, propping himself up on his elbows to play. All of the nurses were amazed; they wouldn’t normally expect so much action until a week or even two after the injury. The play leader told me she’d worked in the hospital for 12 years, and seen a lot of broken femurs, but had never seen such a lively patient on day two. Yep, my boy is very special. This was going to be a long summer.
We were preparing for the possibility of him being in hospital, attached to his bed, for the entire time. We had been told, that it would be at least 10 days before they made a decision to either put him in a cast, so that we could take him home, or if he would spend the whole summer attached to a hospital bed. But after just two days in hospital, they decided to cast him.
And so, the hip spica cast. It’s pretty full on; running all the way from his chest to the ankle of his broken leg, and to just above the knee of his good leg. Legs slightly apart, with a gap in the middle to fit his nappy. It had to be done in surgery, under general anaesthetic (cue more tears from Mummy). When we turned up at recovery afterwards, we could hear him wailing before even getting in there. But, quite frankly, if I woke up in a pair of concrete trousers, I’d have been wailing too. I was allowed to pick him up and cuddle him, and he quickly calmed down. I swear the cast is as heavy as he is. By the end of the summer, I’m going to have some very muscular arms!
Of course, straight after sleeping off the anaesthetic, there he was, crawling round the bed, enjoying his extra mobility. He got the hang of flipping himself over, and made it clear that he wasn’t going to let this slow him down at all. Us adults can learn a lot from children; they’re adaptable and resilient in a way that we can only dream of being.