All It Takes Is 18 Inches

written by liz on Tuesday, March 09 2010

January 15th at 3:00am

My sleep was interrupted by a child crying. I sat upright in my bed like a soldier coming to attention and swung my feet on to the floor. I rushed up stairs to the boys’ room to see who was crying and why. When I got there, I found Sam on the floor wailing. It was not an ordinary I had a bad dream kind of cry. The pitch was different. There was pain in the cry. There was some fear in the cry. Even in my groggy state, I knew these things. Like feeling my way along a dark wall looking for the light switch, I started to instinctively feel my way through the situation. “Sam, Sam, what’s wrong?” I asked. No answer, but the crying continued. “What happened?”  Cry cry cry. “Sammy what’s wrong???” I pleaded. I asked over and over and it continued for around five minutes. I started to feel desperate because I sensed some kind of injury and he just kept crying and would not answer. I begged him to tell me what had happened. Finally he said: “I fell out of bed”, pant pant, “MY NECK! MY NECK, Ohhhh my Neck”!

I was stunned and silenced by the possibility that he had injured his neck. I started to sweat. Alex, in the top bunk, woke up from the commotion and wondered what we should do.  I went to wake up my husband. “Michael, Michael wake up, I think Sam hurt his neck”. Michael leapt from the bed and we ran back to the bedroom where Sam was still on the floor crying and saying My Neck My Neck My neeckkkk”. Michael sat with Sam as I went to the bathroom and leaned over the toilet. I was very cold, yet sweating and my heart was pounding. I thought to myself in the dark bathroom, Sam broke his neck… and I almost threw up.

Somehow I didn’t throw up, and I went back into the bedroom and started asking Sam if he was OK again- I asked him to wiggle his toes. He wiggled them. That gave me some comfort. His teeth were chattering from shock and pain (it was not cold in the house), he continued to cry, and I wondered if I should take him to the emergency room. Sam, can you walk? I asked. Do you want to get back in your bed? He started to try. Ouch he yelped and grabbed at his shoulder…Do you want to come get in our bed? I asked.  He liked the idea. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? DUH.  He got to his feet. I have never been more relieved to see someone stand up and walk. As he got to the stairs and tried to walk down, I noticed with each step he would wince and put his hand to his collarbone. I could just tell by the way he would step, wince and react that that was where the injury was. Thank God it was not his neck. He did not break his neck or his back. Somehow he walked down the stairs, and crawled up into our bed. When he tried to lay back, it was obvious he had injured his collarbone. It seemed to be frozen and he could not lean back or get back up without cringing in pain. He settled in between Michael and I and we all tried to sleep. Sam finally fell asleep and I went upstairs and Googled broken collarbone in children. I read that since that bone is not fully calcified or hardened until age 20, it can break easily. I also read that there is not much more you can do for it than put it in a sling.  I went back to bed and tried to sleep. It was a restless and anxious sleep. Somehow Sam slept some.

The following morning I got Sam upstairs to the couch after he woke. Every time he moved his shoulder the wrong way he winced. I made a sling out of a magazine and a dishtowel. (Our neighbor had done that for me when I was in fourth grade and broken my arm). Once again, thank you very much Google for helping me find instructions on how to make a sling. When it was 9am I called the orthopedic doctor Sam went to when he broke his arm. They got us in and out in an hour, he had an X ray and yes indeed he had broken his collarbone. Still weary from the anxiety and concern for my little guy, I took him home (after a trip to the toy store for a little present to cheer him up) we both took it easy.

Six weeks later the bone was healed . .  . the bone healed even though Sam didn’t really wear the sling the doctor provided (every time I put it on him it would slip back around his back). For the first week the hardest part of our day was getting his shirt on and off of him – if he moved the wrong way he would scream in pain.  After a week or so, he was able to move about pretty well, you would not have even known it was broken. All in all, he had a pretty easy healing process. I was grateful it was still Winter and cold so we could  stay indoors, as opposed to the usual climbing and bike riding which the doctor forbade. 

It only takes 18 inches to fall out of bed and break a bone.

When I saw the final X-ray, I saw how the the break mended itself. The doctor explained how a calcification forms around the break ( it looks a bit like a super ball but not that big or defined ) providing the bone a safe space to heal in.  It makes all the sense in the world to me. SPACE creates healing….

The human body continues to amaze me. 

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