Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Sticks and Stones

Is there a particular number that pops up on your cell phone that you hesitate to pick up? A number that always bears bad news? One that will undoubtedly ruin a perfectly good day? 
That’s my dreaded number. The horribleness of it is compounded by the fact that I only get four numbers as opposed to the full ten. Who belongs to this short set of digits?
The school nurse.
For me, this number is one I really don’t want to answer, but I know I must.
After this number comes up on my screen I usually throw my head back and sigh, then close my eyes and answer, “Hello?”
The sweet voice on the other end of the line always says, “Is this Mrs. Hopper?”
The nurse then always proceeds to fill in the name of the child and explain which illness is about to ruin my week. But not last week. Last week I got the absolute worst news that a school nurse can deliver. “Ian is in the office. He fell off the monkey bars and his arm is very swollen. He can’t move it and I believe it’s broken.”
My first thought is to call Andy. But then I remember that he is soaring 30,000 feet over the western states on his way to a week-long business trip. So I inform the nurse that I am on my way and I put a call into the Pediatrician. The doctor can see him right away and I push my old truck a little over the speed limit. The nurse calls me twice in the ten minute drive asking if I am almost there- that seals my fear that it must be bad.
I park in the fire lane (don’t judge) and run inside the school office to see the tear-swollen face of my kindergartner. His arm is laying awkwardly on a clipboard and even from across the room it looks…wrong. The kind of wrong that makes you nauseous and search for something else, anything else, to look at.
It takes almost ten minutes to get him to the truck. Every step causes the board under his arm to giggle and pain to shoot through my child. Getting him into the car takes another five minutes. Driving to the doctor’s office is slow and painful. Getting him into the office takes yet another five minutes.
I think you get the picture.
The doctor sends us to an outpatient clinic for x-rays and then we go back to the office to wait for a radiology report- at lunch time.
An hour later, the doctor comes in with the news. A severe wrist break that may require surgery. That is the good news. The bad news? No Orthopedic Surgeon in our small town will touch a break that bad on a kid that small. The nearest children’s hospital?
An hour away.
Now comes the panic. I still have two other kids. At school. And my sixth grader has a mandatory band concert at 7 pm. It’s now 2:30 pm and even after we get seen in the ER at the hospital an hour away, they are talking surgery. We will never make it back in time if we even get to come home tonight.
I’m staring at Ian and he is playing a DS one-handed, using his legs to steady the device on his lap. My cell phone vibrates with a text from my dad, I have no calls today, do you need help?  
Freak yes.
Gratefully, we hit very little traffic and are seen immediately at the ER. I walk quietly beside my little boy and listen as nurses talk to him.
“Do you want a wheel chair?”
Ian rolls his eyes. “I broke my arm, not my legs.”
And my personal favorite conversation that takes place when a pushy ER doctor engages my son who has spent six and a half hours with a broken arm and no pain meds. “Can you move your fingers straight out?”
At this point, the doctor seems to believe Ian is not being completely honest so he grabs a hold of his hand and wrenches his small fingers straight out.
“OWWW! My arm is broken!” Ian frantically points from his wrist to his fingers. “They are connected!”
With hands raised in surrender,the ER doctor arranges for us to be sent to surgical prep. A great Orthopedic PA comes in and explains that while they do not have to do surgery, Ian has to be put under anesthesia while they manipulate the bones back into place.
The nurses put in an IV and pump Ian full of Morphine, but the fun starts when the surgical team gives him something they call “giggle juice.” Within seconds of that magical liquid entering my child’s body, he begins laughing uncontrollably. They roll him into surgery and I can hear him laughing all the way down the hall.
Twenty minutes later I am standing in the recovery ward staring down at my small child in a big hospital bed. I’ve endured recovery myself, and I have stood beside several adults in recovery. Ian is a whole other can-of-crazy. His memory resets every three minutes. He lays with his head on the pillow, eyes closed, then jumps up, tries to shake away the dizziness and asks, “Where am I?”
“You broke your arm. You are in the hospital.”
He lays his head back down and closes his eyes. Three minutes later- we start all over again. Thankfully this game only lasts an hour. Ian is eventually released and we make our way back home, pulling into the garage exactly twelve hours after he fell off the monkey bars.
The kid has been a trooper. He can’t go outside- it’s hot and his arm will sweat under the cast. The cast goes almost up to his shoulder so he has no use of his arm, but he refuses to let us help him with anything. He has even learned how to play Wii one-handed.
At the most recent recheck at the hospital, I watched with amusement as Ian and another little boy caught each other’s eye across a crowded lobby. Like mirrored souls, they waved at each other with matching arm casts at exactly the same time. At that moment, something an ER nurse said suddenly popped into my mind:

Sticks and stones may break your bones, 
but trampolines and monkey bars always will.

No, Ian did not turn invisible from all the X-rays, he just got a smaller waterproof cast!

**Special thanks to the following people who made sure I did not lose my mind on the day above: Melissa Beard- the school nurse, Mr. Sorg- the principal, Dr. August, the x-ray tech in Decatur, Angie- my sister-in-law and nieces who sat beside us in the hospital, everyone who called and made sure we were OK, and lastly my parents without whom I would have pulled out every hair on my head:)

1 Comment

  1. What a gripping account, Amanda. Poor Ian! Such a cutie, though. I'm glad he's okay.

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