I feel the need to preface this post by saying there are many things I'm thankful for and that Kate is going to be fine, but I'm still adjusting and it's hard. Jay and I talked last night about how eventually we're going to be able to joke about this, but right now it's just too raw. I need a little writing catharsis, so here it is.
Kate broke her leg on Saturday. We were up at my parents' cabin for a family get-together/my birthday (it's always all about me), and Jay and Sara and John and I decided to go for a walk up the road. Jay carried Kate up on his shoulders, a frequent vantage point for her. We hadn't gone far when we turned down a side road. It had been washed out a bit, and the footing was uneven. I started sliding a little and almost called out to Jay, who was walking ahead of me, to tell him to take Kate down, but I hesitated, and in that split second my tall husband who never falls and is always so careful with Kate lost his footing and fell. At some point in his descent, Kate flew off his shoulders and landed a couple feet away from him.
She started screaming and I came apart. It was like a scene from my nightmares. I know I'm a head-case, but so many times during my day with her I imagine all the horrible things that could happen if I tripped going down the stairs or if she fell off the counter or a myriad of other, unlikely, terrible things--and here one had happened. I didn't even go to her--I couldn't--and I stood there crying with my hands over my face. I am so ashamed, but I needed someone else to assess the damage first, to tell me she was okay. I couldn't face the possibility that she wasn't.
After a moment, I took her from Jay and held her tightly to my shoulder as we walked the short distance back. Her screams stopped and she had a soft, moaning, pained cry. We went inside and took off her kitty pajamas, and other than a few small scrapes, she looked okay. John said he'd seen her fall and she hit her hip first, and she didn't appear to have any head injuries. I tried to get her comfortable and nursed her, bringing comfort to us both.
As the hours passed, it became apparent that her left leg was still paining her. She was fine if it was dangling or held perfectly still--she would even smile or giggle at my brother--but any time it moved she let out a startled cry of pain. I thought about taking her to the ER, but we called a good family friend who is an excellent pediatrician, and he said it was unlikely her bone was broken and that after we got back to my parents' house he'd come over and check her out.
Jay told me to go ahead with the rest of my family to Les Mis, and he'd go home with my dad to take care of Kate and wait for Dr. Nygaard to come over. I was torn because I didn't want to leave my baby, but Jay assured me they'd be fine, so I swallowed my maternal guilt and left.
The play was fantastic and so fun, but about 20 minutes till the end I started feeling increasingly anxious. I almost left to call Jay but stuck it out. When it was over, I got a text from my dad saying that Marty had found a place on Kate's leg that was still tender, so they decided to get an x-ray just in case. He told Jay infants' bones are relatively flexible and that it's rare for them to break, but the x-ray revealed a greenstick fracture on Kate's femur, just above her knee.
By the time I got to the hospital, Jay was trying to put Kate to sleep and waiting for the orthopedic surgeon to put her in a cast. I picked up my sweet little baby and held her carefully, letting her leg dangle. She smiled at my mom and made happy little baby noises. I laid her on the bed in the hospital room and snuggled up next to her. Jay turned off the lights and Kate finally fell asleep for a few minutes.
When the nurse came to bring us to the OR, he wheeled the bed with Kate and I on it through the hospital. As we waited outside the OR and talked to the nurses and anesthesiologist, Kate lay next to me, placidly looking around. The nurses kept commenting how amazed they were at how calm she was. That's my baby, I thought. The best baby in the world.
Jay and I waited for two hours while they put the cast on. It was nerve-wracking. We'd been told it would only take 30-45 minutes, but a nurse came out halfway through to say the cast hadn't formed properly the first time, so they had to cut it off and do it again. Kate was under anesthesia, which scared me to death, but I'm grateful she was because it was such a long and painful process.
When I finally went in and saw my baby, she was so small lying on that big bed. She was crying, and her entire lower body was covered in a huge cast. I was shocked--I had no idea it would be so large. It's called a spica cast, and it goes from the bottom of her ribs down both legs, to the tips of her toes on her left leg and to her knee on her right. A wooden dowel was casted between her legs as a handle to help move her.
It was 3:00 AM, I was exhausted, in shock, and heartbroken at the scene before me. Completely without shame, I broke down. It was too much. I couldn't take it. After a few minutes, I held Kate--still attached to tubes and wires and cords--and nursed her awkwardly. The nurses gave her a dose of Lortab after I was done feeding her, and Jay held her while they took out the IV in her tiny hand.
Whether it was from the anesthesia, exhaustion, pain, or Lortab I don't know, but Kate took that moment to vomit everything in her tiny body all over Jay. She's never done that before, and it scared me to death. I begged the nurses to monitor her for a few more minutes because she looked almost catatonic. She was okay, just exhausted.
I talked to the surgeon and got instructions from the nurses while we waited for the radiology team to come take a final x-ray (portable x-ray machines = so cool and convenient). The biggest challenge came when we tried putting her in her car seat--since the cast comes up so high, she can't bend at the waist at all. As her car seat is L-shaped, this is a problem. The nurses helped us pile blankets and pads in the seat until we could set Kate on the top. The buckles aren't long enough to restrain her, so we put a seat belt over the top of her and drove carefully to my parents' house. It was 5 AM by the time we got to bed.
I've cried a lot these past few days, but at this point I think the cast is much harder on me than it is on Kate. She has a harder time sleeping because she can't move around (she always rolls while she sleeps and usually ends up on her stomach), and sometimes she gets frustrated, but for the most part she's back to her normal, smiley self. I've looked up pictures of other spica casts online, and Kate's is huge and bulky in comparison. I'm sure there are several reasons for this, but it does make things difficult.
This wasn't what I was planning on posting about--I meant to give a brief explanation of what happened and then talk about some of the challenges of working around this crazy cast--but I feel better after getting all this out of me and onto the page. To write about it was to relive it, but I'm more at peace with things now.
Kate is mostly pain-free now and is a little trooper. We're so grateful for Dr. Nygaard and his help--he rode to the hospital with Jay and Kate and gave them the royal treatment and stayed until Kate was all set up with the orthopedic surgeon. Thank you, thank you, Marty. Since we don't have a car seat that can accommodate her, I will be home-bound except when Jay is home to watch her. She'll be in the cast for 3-4 weeks--not so long, really. Babies' bones heal incredibly quickly, and she will heal completely. Jay and I are still dealing with guilt and heartache--Jay, especially, feels terrible. Sometimes, though, accidents just happen. We're learning new coping strategies hourly.
I can't bring myself to take pictures of her yet--it is still too new--but I will soon. I know that she won't remember this time of pain and immobility. I know we'll learn patience through this trial. Jay said the other night that he loves her even more now despite and because of her complete dependence on us and because she has shown such sweetness and strength of spirit. It is a funny paradox. We are very blessed.