This was a long, traumatic, painful and sad bunch of days. It all started when we wanted to help celebrate Christmas with some events while we were in Tucson. We had found a couple festivals to attend but all were after 3pm so we wanted to find a place where the girls could play in the meantime.
Finding a playground in Tucson is not an easy task. Apparently funding for such luxuries is limited in the city, as told to us by a local. We chose Himmel Park, which had a great pho log theme to it with lots of great climbing. It was almost completely new except for an old metal slide that the parents of the neighborhood lobbied to keep because of their “fond memories of getting burned and hurt as a kid on it,” as told to us by the same local.
How it happened
A sweet couple we met with a young girl were just chatting with us at the playground telling us about the dangerous slide when we heard a kid screaming a blood curdling scream. My first thought was, “Ouch! Some kid just got hurt. I’m so glad it wasn’t one of my girls” as I was looking around for my girls. Then the dagger hit home that it WAS one of my girls. It was our oldest laying at the bottom of that same metal slide the locals were telling us about. My heart was in my throat as I ran to her. I hadn’t even recognized her scream! She had never screamed like that before! This was our first red flag.
Through screams our oldest along with a Dad who saw what happened told us that she had gone down the slide and shot off the end landing in a hard heap at the bottom. The woman of the local couple we had been talking to just so happened to be a pediatrician and felt around on our daughters leg, ankle and foot. Our sweet girl was telling us that her shin area and ankle were hurting the worst and some in her foot as well. The pediatrician thought it was at-least sprained, told us where the closest ER was and gave us her contact information if we had any other questions. It was so very kind of her.
We gave our daughter some water and carried her back to Azul hoping to gather more information as to the severity of it. It wasn’t swollen or bruised and she was able to do things like move around her ankle (carefully) and wiggle her toes. We drove to the ER and sat out in the parking lot for over an hour contemplating if we should go in. We decided that since our daughter reported it not hurting “very much” anymore combined with the fact that she could move things around without too much pain coupled with no bruising or swelling we wouldn’t do an ER visit.
Since we were close to the Christmas fair we had traveled to Tucson for we decided to attend it. Our oldest didn’t want to put any weight on her leg so we carried her. It was a fine craft fair with little performances from local school classes singing Christmas songs and a group of adult carolers milling about. Though, it didn’t feel Christmasy at all. It’s really hard to make things feel Christmasy without the cold I think. It seemed as if we were at something similar to Portland’s Saturday Market on the waterfront but smaller and less cheery.
We then headed to a dinner restaurant called Seis which I would recommend to all who are visiting Tucson. It has a Mexican bakery in the plaza too which had amazing apple empanadas and coricos. The seating is arranged outside in a little courtyard with lovely string lights and a live band that was warming up while we were there.
By this time our daughter was still reporting some pain but it wasn’t consistent. It seemed like it would stop for a while and then she’d get a burst of it. Our second red flag was when she took only two bites of her burrito and was done with dinner. On the way back into Azul her leg got gently bumped on the door frame and she exploded into painful tears. We then wished we had gone to the ER earlier!! Something was clearly wrong and our sweetheart was in pain. Our options then was to bring her to the ER and know that we would all be up all night long with the hospital pace or bring everyone home, try to get some sleep and go in first thing in the morning. We thought it was best to get some sleep under the girls belts before taking them into a hospital setting.
This is a decision that in the morning we were regretting. I slept in Azul with our oldest so she could have more space and I could tend to her without waking the others. I wrapped her ankle in an ACE bandage to keep it a little more stable and propped it up with pillows. The night was heartbreakingly horrible! She was up every 5-10 minutes with the discomfort. The poor thing was moaning and crying in her sleep. Finally at midnight I was able to get some Tylenol in her and she slept for about a half hour.
As soon as everyone was awake and dressed we were on our way to urgent care. We wanted a place where they would do an x-ray on her leg/foot/ankle. We went to Southern Arizona Urgent Care because it was semi-close to camp and because I saw in their pictures that they had a kids room which told me they work with children.
The nurses were SO phenomenal here and the place was beyond fancy! We felt like we were at a 5 star resort complete with beautiful artwork, giant bouquets of flowers and a mix of marble and rustic wood decor. It was stunning! They gave us the kids room I had seen on the pictures before we arrived. The exam table was a dog and the whole room was themed around it with a big dog house on the wall and other dog items. The exam room also had a whole shelf of kids books on it. The girls were thrilled to listen to books as we waited for the doctor to arrive.
They were SO good with our daughter! The technician did two x-rays and after the second she scooted out telling us she had to go get the nurse. This didn’t sound good! After some hushed murmuring between the nurse and technician the nurse came out and told us the news that our daughter had a severe break in her tibia and that we needed to go to the ER as soon as possible.
Sweet sweet thing. I couldn’t believe she had a broken leg all this time and we hadn’t brought her to the hospital earlier!! Justin and I felt like terrible parents! The poor girl dealing with all that pain. Shockingly enough though there was still no swelling or bruising! To me these are normally the two tell tail signs that something is broken. Now I know this is not always the case.
Over to the ER we went and they took us in immediately after I gave them a 3 minute run down of basic information. We went to Banner Hospital since it was close and they had a PEDS ER. I wanted the process to be as positive as it could be since this would shape our daughter’s experience of hospitals for the rest of her life. No pressure!
We were greeted by super friendly nurses and intake staff. We told the nurse this injury actually happened the day prior and asked if we did damage by not bringing her in right away. He assured us that as long as she hadn’t put any pressure on it we hadn’t done any additional damage. Thank goodness! Regardless we still felt awful about our decision to wait. We just didn’t know.
Technicians came in to do additional x-rays to determine whether our daughter needed surgery or if a cast would suffice. When the resident doctor on staff was ordering the x-rays we ended up declining the x-ray of her knee, normally ordered as a precaution. The doctor said they always x-ray the area where they think the break is plus the joint above and below it in case there was any damage caused by twisting. We contemplated not declining any but since our daughter hadn’t complained about any pain in her knee or even close to it and the doc said it was unlikely he would find anything we declined. When we saw the print out of costs we were glad we had declined as the x-rays were $400 each! Compare this to the $80 urgent care x-ray prices and it was astronomical! ER visits are just SO much more inflated!! The x-rays sadly were painful for our daughter but the technicians were kind and efficient.
The break in the lower part of her tibia was a spiral break but luckily the broken bone was mostly in the correct position. Because of this fact the resident doctor determined thankfully surgery wasn’t needed. We were so relieved. Casting sounded like a fairly low pain simple process. Boy was I wrong about that!
We soon learned that the resident doctor on staff was not good with kids despite being at a PEDS ER. He was really rough and didn’t seem to care in the least to our requests to have him not twist her leg which was excruciating for her. Our daughter was screaming, “don’t twist my leg! Ahhh, that hurts!” I would follow-up with something like, “Can you see that it really hurts her when you twist her leg like that. Is there a way you can do this without twisting it like that?” He would just keep going about his work and mumble something like, “Yeah, it hurts.”
The doc ended up casting her entire leg incorrectly!! He was twisting her leg (which we were well aware of) and casted her leg crooked. Justin noticed while he was casting it and asked, “Is her foot supposed to be flat?” The doctor responded to his inquiry by telling him they would have her stand and straighten out the bottom. That was baloney! They never did that.
The doc then had to cut the cast off with a super scary looking machine. I asked the doc to please tell my daughter what he is going to do before he does it. Such as telling her about the machine he is going to use. Simple things like, is it going to be loud? It looks like a giant blade, it is actually sharp? Just some kind of prep to make things less scary. He agreed but didn’t follow through. I felt like punching the guy! I was so outraged by his robotics about the whole ordeal. Never once did he put himself into a little girls shoes who is in a lot of pain, in a new scary environment and having all sorts of scary painful things being done to her. This guy just powered through!
Our daughter was screaming at the top of her lungs and was terrified! The vibrations of the machine were scary and painful and the doc kept slipping and slicing into her leg with the cast cutter. If you have never seen one of these machines before they look like a power tool with a rotating blade attached to it. The blade actually vibrates in order to cut the cast rather than rotating. However, when that piece of metal gets poked into your skin it doesn’t matter if it’s a sharp blade, it’s still painful and scary! Especially when your leg is broken for heavens sakes!! It was absolutely heartbreaking. I felt so powerless at the mercy of this crappy doctor.
Another resident doctor came and re-casted it for the second time (thank goodness!) but the original resident doc came back to cut the second cast on both sides. Apparently with breaks like this casts are good for stabilization but don’t allow for any swelling. Therefore, they cut the cast open on both sides allowing space for swelling without cutting off circulation. For the second cutting I asked for a popsicle for her. HELLO!! This kind of thing seemed so simple and obvious yet it was like pulling teeth to get. Earlier when our daughters vitals had skyrocketed so much from her anxiety that all the alarms were going off alerting nurses at the main desk, I had asked for an ice pack as she was drenched in sweat. The doc had come back 10 minutes later reporting that they had no ice packs. “Do you have ice in a freezer somewhere?” we asked. Yes. “Okay, can you please put some in a glove for us?” No. If I hadn’t needed to stay with daughter I would have gone into the nurses station and got some myself for heavens sakes!
What came next…
It was so terribly awful and my heart was so sad for our daughter. For all those doctors who are out there and take the time to explain things to their little patients and go the extra mile of building a little rapport before plunging into the scary job that needs to be done, thank you! It makes a world of difference. Our oldest one will forever reference this negative hospital visit in her future and that makes me sad. Yes, it would have taken an extra 10 minutes to build that rapport, to explain what was coming next or give her breaks when she asked for them but it makes all the difference.
Since our oldest hadn’t eaten more than a tablespoon worth of food since that morning (besides the popsicle we begged for) and it was 3pm by the time we left the hospital we were ready for food. We went straight to Cold Stone. This girl deserved some ice cream!!
Next we stopped at store to get our oldest some pants that would fit over her cast. The girls Skyped with Grammy while I ran to find pants. Thank you Grammy for all your love and story telling!! I ended up finding two large pairs of stretch pants and I cut one leg shorter on each pair so they could go over her cast. We also bought a fold-up wagon so that our daughter could be a little more mobile. This proved to be well worth it.
We contemplated skipping the Fulltime Families Rally we were planning on attending due to the broken leg. We thought it would be really sad for our daughter to see all the kids run and play and not be able to be a part of it as she had waited so long to take part. We asked the opinions of other parents who had been in this boat and the consensus was to stick to our plan and just have different ideas in mind to bring other kids to our daughter. So, we bought some games that might be fun for others to play at our camping spot and I geared up for a gnome making craft to lure in others. It was going to be an adjustment for us all.