On August 9th, Pearl and George were happily playing in my parents' basement (we were living there at the time) when George decided to push a twin sized mattress (that was standing upright on top of a couch-- long story) down to build a fort. The story is not super clear (only G & P were there), but somehow Pearl was under it when it fell, and when I heard her screams I knew something was wrong. It took me about 20 seconds to really hear her, but when I did, I ran. She was now on top of the mattress (neither G nor P can explain that), and was just so frantically grasping and clawing at her right thigh. I instinctively grabbed her leg and immediately felt the bone poking out and it just felt all loose and jello-y. John was right behind me, and I looked up at him and immediately told him it was broken. I walked away for a moment while John jumped in with Pearl and I just started crying.
I was crying because I was sad for Pearl, yes, but I knew she was going to be okay. I was mostly crying because of the burden that I knew was ahead, both financially (for us) and physically (for Pearl). John was graduating from BYU the next day, and we had just kind of made the (unwise) decision to go without insurance until we moved to Oregon a couple of weeks later. I knew we had to go to the hospital, I knew it was going to be expensive, I knew we couldn't afford it, and in a bad mothering moment, George saw and heard my distress. John scooped up our broken baby and headed for the stairs, while her broken-hearted brother looked on, willing the tears to stay away. I watched this all in slow motion, and before I could jump in and comfort my dear boy, he had walked outside, shut the door, and begun to sob. Oh, my heart! I quickly snapped out of whatever it was that I was in, and ran to my son. I hugged him so fiercely, looked him right in his eyes and assured him that EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO BE OKAY. That beautiful, tender-hearted boy of mine. I immediately pulled myself right together; I needed him to know that I knew everything was going to work out. I had unintentionally put some grown-up worries in his little-boy mind, and I felt awful about it. He was talking about not having enough money and insurance, and holy cow, what did I do to my son?! I was feeling a little guilty for sure, but the dearness of children is such that by the time we pulled out of the driveway to take Pearl to the hospital (less than 5 minutes later), he was all smiles and thrilled that had I assured him we could re-schedule his last swimming lesson that he was now going to miss that morning.
I had put the camera right by the door so that John could take it to document that final swimming lesson, and I mindlessly grabbed it as I walked out to the car. When we ended up going through 2 hospital ERs, a transfer by ambulance, a closed reduction surgical procedure, a bright pink spica cast, and an overnight stay in the hospital with our baby girl, I was grateful I had that camera on hand to document this life-shaping event. So, a photo essay of our experience, from that first (painful) car ride to the ER to the next day when we left the hospital with some fancy hot pink plaster pants.
She mostly didn't cry on the 8 minute car ride to the ER, but she was in obvious pain. She just squeezed her right thigh to try to keep it stable, closed her eyes, and had the most enormous frown on her face.
You can see her swollen right leg in this second photo, and when I look at this all I can think about is how squishy and loose her leg felt when I first grabbed it and felt the bone broken. Ew and ouch.
Here's the first x-ray they showed us, and it's actually not even a good one, but you can definitely see that spiral fractured bone. (It should be noted that I could not stop obsessing over the absolute adorableness of her chubby little 2-year-old baby thigh that is so perfectly captured in this x-ray.)
Here's a little bit of a better view. This was actually taken 2 weeks after the injury; you can see the outline of the cast in the x-ray.
Once they had confirmed a spiral fracture, we were told we would have to be taken by ambulance to Primary Children's for surgery. They administered an IV to deliver some pain medication, and then got her leg stabilized in a splint for the ride.
She looks so out of it and in pain to me in all these photos.
There was a lot of waiting. A lot of waiting. And by this point Pearl had started asking for water. She was so thirsty, but wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything because she'd be going under anesthesia for the surgery. We did our best to distract her with Dora on Netflix, but honestly, she was just so miserable not being able to drink any water. She kept pointing to the sink right there in her room and just begging for water, and she could not understand why we wouldn't just give her some. That was really the hardest and worst part of the whole ordeal, I think. It was so painful to watch her just suffering and pleading with us for a drink, and not be able to give her one.
Eventually the ambulance showed up and we got Pearl loaded into her carseat and into the back for her first ambulance ride (my first, too). This second picture of just that perfect little foot there in that big ambulance bed makes me a little emotional. My sweet tiny girl.
Dora in the ambulance, too, which worked sporadically to keep her calm when we could get her to forget about her thirst for a little while.
We had to be admitted to PCMC's ER first, where we were told (again) that this would require surgery, and then were finally seen by the pediatric orthopedic surgeon. She took one look at Pearl and quickly dismissed surgery without even a thought. When we told her that every one else was telling us surgery was almost certain, she said incredulously, "On a 2 year old?!" We were so grateful to hear that news. She said that when babies are this little their bones are growing at such a rapid rate that her bones would heal together properly without cutting her open and putting pins in place. Instead, they would do a (still surgical, just not cutting) procedure called a Closed Reduction, where they put her under general anesthesia and manipulate the bones from the outside to gain traction and get them in their proper place, and then put her in a body cast (called a spica) from her armpits down to keep the bones immobilized and aligned. Even though a spica cast sounded intense, we were so glad to be avoiding real surgery. These pictures were taken right before Pearl was taken back into the OR, and they kill me because I can just see that dry little mouth and remember her misery.
John and I waited in the OR waiting room for about 45 minutes until I was called to go back into the PACU to be with her as she came out of the anesthesia. This part got a little comically frightening. When she first came to I immediately offered her a drink to help her not feel as sad and disoriented, which worked like a charm. She chugged the entire sippy cup of apple juice that the nurse had so quickly that she didn't have time to breath and her oxygen saturation dropped down into the low 60s (which is apparently a VERY big deal-- all these sirens and alarms and oh my, rip that juice away from her immediately!). This resulted in Pearl crying so desperately for a drink again that she again didn't breathe and turned blue and freaked the nurses out. I lobbied for some more drinks of water for her and just tried really hard to help her slow down a bit. She was just so happy to finally get her thirst quenched, and I didn't blame her one bit. As an aside, I was a little shocked to see her hot! pink! cast when I walked back to her. They hadn't consulted us for a color selection at all so I naively assumed they'd just do white or something, but oh no, only the brightest hot pink for my sweet girl :). Ha, it was okay, I don't mind pink, I just probably wouldn't have picked it.
Here she is coming out of the anesthesia with her oxygen mask that she would not keep on.
It's strange to think that exactly 6 weeks ago tonight this is where we were, in the hospital trying to negotiate our first night of having a 2 year old in a completely immobilizing body cast. We've come so far, and I'm soooo grateful to be on this side of that magical 6 weeks.
Pearl didn't fully wake up from the effects of the anesthesia until well into the middle of the night, and when she did, she was completely shocked to find herself inside a bulky, constricting cast. She startled awake and cried out, "I'm stuck, Daddy! Get me out!" and we had to calm her down and explain her situation to her. When she woke up the next morning she was clearly just a little emotional and confused, but was trying so hard to be herself and feel good. The beginning of this video is a little heartbreaking because you see her so confused by what she's feeling-- should I be happy or sad?
We were so scared to move her for those first few days (and weeks, actually), because it hurt her. Getting her moved and situated into the wagon to walk around the hospital that first morning was hard, but I really wanted to show her (and me) that we could still do stuff, and that we were going to make this work.
We were outfitted with a special carseat and given instructions on getting a wheelchair for her, and then we wheeled Pearl out of her first hospital stay. She wasn't happy about all of the movement.
We didn't think we'd make it out of the hospital in time for John to walk at his graduation ceremony, but we barely did. We (very hesitantly) left Pearl in the care of my family, and raced to Provo where we met John's family to try to honor our dear John who really deserved way more recognition and gratitude for all he's managed to accomplish during the last 2 years (3 jobs, a full-time master's program in biology, completing his 70+ page thesis, serving in our bishopric, and managing to be a very present husband and father). He would have been just fine to not go, to not even notice this incredible accomplishment, because that's just who he is, but it was good to go and celebrate this achievement, even just a little. Here we are, looking tired and overwhelmed (I'm wearing the same clothes and sporting the same stylish hairdo from the day before-- I was happy I wore a very comfortable dress when I found out I'd be sleeping in it :)), showing off our matching pink hospital bracelets. Bracelets that say that yes indeed, that beautiful, brave girl with the bright pink cast?