Friday, August 21, 2015

Ruthie's Broken Arm

Zach already did a thorough job telling this story so I'll just copy and paste it in case you didn't catch it in the family letter:

Let’s be clear up front: Ruth Anne is doing just fine. Yes, her arm is broken, but she’s recovering nicely and in great spirits. In fact, thanks to the sedative she was given during our hospital trip, she remembers almost nothing from the experience other than being given a stuffed animal and lots of princess stickers. I think she regards the whole experience as a long date with Dad. That being said, the sedative that has bequeathed Ruthie happy hospital memories made it something of a horror show for Dad. But I get ahead of myself: let’s back up.

Ruth broke her arm on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM while climbing down from the trampoline. She wasn’t jumping crazily; she wasn’t jostled by her bigger brothers. She just slipped and put out her arm to brace herself for the fall. Alana was gone, shopping at Walmart. I was in the front yard at the time, getting ready to do some painting. I heard her cry out, but she wasn’t particularly loud, and she didn’t come running around the house, so I kept moving. When she kept moaning/softly crying (WAY softer than when she’s offended, for instance), I put down the can of paint I’d been preparing to open and walked to the back yard. When I saw her lying on the ground, I knew something was wrong. Once I got close enough to see her arm, I knew what was wrong. Between her left elbow and left wrist, the arm dipped in an U-shape; it was obviously and traumatically broken. I called the older three boys inside, assigned Gabe to read a book, left David in charge of Lincoln until Alana returned, locked all the house doors, and put Ruth in the van. I couldn’t buckle her into a car seat for fear of jarring her arm, so I drove very slowly to the emergency room.

Other than her time in that car seat, she was in my arms more or less continuously from 3:30 to 10 PM. And while she cried a bit and asked for Mom, she really never shrieked or screamed or threw a fit; at times it wasn’t even clear that she was feeling any pain. She fell asleep on several occasions in my arms (she gets quite tired in the afternoons anyways, and I’m sure the shock left her more drained than usual). After we arrived at the ER, she let the nurse stick her hand with an IV without so much as a whimper; as all of the nurses commented at some point, “She’s better than most of my adult patients!”

Once the orthopedist showed up to set Ruth’s arm, the doctor administered a sedative through that IV: ketamine. Unfortunately, Ruth experienced a relatively rare side effect of that drug; her vocal chords began to spasm, she couldn’t swallow the copious amounts of saliva stimulated by the ketamine, and because of those two reactions, she briefly stopped breathing. The doctor “bagged” her (pumping oxygen into her lungs via a facemask) and periodically suctioned the saliva from her mouth; a cardiac resuscitation unit was called, and there was a real possibility that they would intubate her. I could see in the faces of those working to raise her oxygen levels that there was palpable fear that she could die or (through lack of oxygen) experience permanent damage. At one point in this sequence of events a nurse placed her hand on my shoulder and asked, “Is there anyone you want me to call?” That question was the most troubling and fear-inducing moment of the entire experience.

Notwithstanding the urgency of the situation, I was quite calm throughout; once the moment of crisis had passed, it seemed like my lack of angst was about all the nurses could talk about. I asked: “Would you have been comforted or worked more effectively if I was screaming at you?” This is the second time that I’ve been the responsible party present when a member of my nuclear family was in real, life-threatening medical danger (the first was when Alana delivered Gabe; she picked up an infection that had us all worried).

Because Ruth reacted poorly to the ketamine the doctor wanted to admit her for the night, but I insisted that—as Ruth eventually woke up—she be given the benefit of the doubt and discharged. What she really needed was a good night’s sleep in her own bed (which she would NOT have received in the hospital) and to see her mother, who she asked for CONSTANTLY during those six hours (to the point that I began to feel a little unwanted). And when Ruth woke up Sunday morning chipper and cheerful, I felt completely vindicated in my push for discharge (3.5 hours after her reaction). She’s her normal happy self and, as I said, seems in retrospect to regard her hospital visit as a daddy-daughter date. All is well; happy day. Well, until I get the ER bill. Eesh.

This picture was especially pitiful


Finally, the bright pink cast. Can't dampen her spirits, she is even back to jumping on the trampoline. Should be off in about a month.

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