A Tale of Bones and Pierogies
There are many moments in my life that I have longed for the freedom to travel through time and make adjustments to situations that, within an instant, had changed my psychology for the rest of my life.
For example, when I was sixteen and preparing for my black belt test during a crowded martial arts class, I wish that I had chosen to wear underwear to shield my bare ass from being displayed like an unsettling art exhibit for the entire class to see once my pants had finally stretched their last stretch mid squat.
I dream daily of a second chance to tell my brother to stay the fuck away from that motorcycle that stole him from me just hours after hearing his voice for the last time, or at the very least, to buy myself an opportunity to say "goodbye".
As a father, I have learned a great deal about myself in two years. I have uncovered traits that I thought I had lost through years of war-torn (metaphorically speaking) adulting (literally an adult). Where once I thought only laid cinder and ash, there had ignited a flame that grows daily, given life by each breath my son takes. I have never cared so deeply or selflessly for someone as I do for him, and he may never understand the extent to which he saved me from myself.
My son is a destructive force. He's approaching his second birthday, and being the tiny tornado that he is, there's only so much one can do to prevent our surroundings from being torn to shreds in his wake. I would have never thought a force as powerful as him could ever be suppressed. But two weeks ago, a toy firetruck parked directly in his line of destruction showed me what true terror was, and made me wish yet again for a chance at time travel.
It was looking like a good day. Luke was his usual cheerful self, and was taking a much needed break from his daily ritual of throwing books from all of the bookshelves closest to the floor. He was navigating YouTube for the latest videos of "The Wheels on the Bus", a song which, if not for it being Public Domain, would have collected millions in streaming royalties from my son alone.
He gracefully dismounted from his usual spot on the papasan chair with iPad in hand, I can only assume to have me close the window he accidentally opened, and during his third step, his foot had landed on a toy firetruck, which shot out from under him and, in an instant, threw him to the ground at what seemed like the speed of light.
His panic was obvious, but not unusual. I jumped to pick him up and comfort him, and during the process, he had fallen asleep in my arms. I laid down on the couch keeping him on my chest and enjoyed a nap as well.
We woke up right in time for dinner, so I sat him in his highchair and cooked him some spaghetti. His mood was less than pleasant throughout the meal, but was tolerable; something I blamed on his late nap. It was only after picking him up from his highchair that I noticed something wasn't right. His body were trembling, and his eyes were wide with fear. I hurried to lay him on the couch to examine him, struggling to pinpoint the source of his pain.
I removed his pants to change his diaper, and that's when I saw the swelling. My stomach dropped and my blood turned to ice. I was not prepared for this. My wife was at work, so it was just him and me. What do I do? Where do I take him? Am I prepared to find out what's wrong?
I finally decided to take him to MedExpress in the hopes that the problem would be easily remedied. I loaded him in his carseat, careful to not put any pressure on his swollen leg, and drove impatiently to our destination.
After explaining the situation to three different people, they took an x-ray and once again my blood froze and tears welled up in my eyes as they told me the bad news: He had fractured his femur. My sweet little angel, my everything had fractured his femur two feet away from me, and it happened so fast that there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening.
Since there was nothing they could do for him there, they sent us to the Children's Hospital. My phone's battery was at 1%, and every bit of that 1% was used to frantically call my wife, hoping that she would be on break. After what seemed like an eternity, she had returned my call and told me she was on her way home to help me take him to the emergency room.
It was now nearing ten o'clock at night -three hours past Luke's bedtime- and we finally made it. We checked in and were taken to a room where we would wait to meet with the doctor. After yet another eternity, the doctor came in with a look of distrust and judgement aimed directly at me. "Before we begin, do any of you feel that you need to speak with a social worker?", he asked as his gaze turned to my wife. We both laughed, and I, like an idiot, felt that a joke would help soften the blow of such a seemingly outrageous and poorly timed question: "All of us are safe, but our dog may want to speak with one because of the abuse he receives from this one." I pointed to my son, and then quickly realized that our doctor seemed to have left his sense of humor back in medical school.
The good doctor's gaze had returned to me, and the tension was palpable. He seemed determined to turn this into a Lifetime movie, while I, out of the need to stay calm, was aiming more for an episode of "Scrubs". After a few brief moments, his gaze softened and he began to realize his little Dick Tracy role play was going nowhere, so he ordered some more x-rays.
Again we waited. around 11:30, we were finally escorted to the x-ray room, where they took shots of Luke's entire skeleton. I was exhausted at that point. My ears were ringing, my head spinning... I could only imagine how Luke was feeling, strapped to a table in the middle of the night in a strange room with strange people, in pain without understanding why. It took everything I had to stay calm for him and my wife, but my whole world was on fire in my mind.
After yet another long wait, the doctor returned while I was out of the room. With great compassion, he told my wife, a woman who lacks any ability to have any sense of optimism in situations like this, that his leg was not only broken, but broken badly. I saw the x-rays they took at MedExpress. I'm no radiologist, but I think I know what a badly broken bone looks like. What I saw in that x-ray was almost unrecognizable as a break. So, either all of the people working at MedExpress and I were total idiots, or this doctor happens to be a hyperbolic and insensitive asshole. All of the evidence suggested the latter, and was later proven to be true by what he told us when we were both in the room.
The terrible, life-altering fracture he had mentioned to my wife, turned out to be a spiral fracture, which instead of going through the bone, wraps around the outside of the bone. A fracture which will heal in 6-8 weeks while wrapped in what is called a spica cast. A spica cast is considered a full-body cast that runs from the middle of his ribcage to the toes on his broken leg and down to the knee on his healthy leg. Not great news, but certainly better than the image the doctor had painted for my wife. Again... asshole.
Unfortunately, due to the late hour, we would have to wait until morning to see the ortho specialist that would put the cast on him, or so we were told. We were told that we couldn't give our son anything to eat or drink due to the fact that Luke would need to be sedated in order to get the cast on him in the morning.
To prevent this from going too long, let's fast-forward 24 hours. We still have yet to speak to an ortho specialist. Our son hasn't eaten in well over 24 hours... We are less than happy about this. Just as my wife was preparing to rage into her hulk-like state, smashing everything and everyone in sight, we are brought down to get the cast put on.
All goes well. The excitement was building because it meant we get to go home. My old friend the shower was calling me, begging to wash this nightmarish experience off of me. The thought of laying in a real bed was like pornography; The kind you have to pay for.
"Well, the good news is all went well! Luke is asleep, and getting some much needed rest. Unfortunately, it looks like you're going to be here for another night because the physical therapist that has to clear you has just gone home."
It was a few hours before I cleared all of the expletives from my system, but in that time, we had ordered Luke a nice, big meal: Potato and Cheddar Pierogies with broccoli, and to drink, good old-fashioned apple juice.
The sounds of pure bliss coming from my son as he gulped down bite after bite was the best music ever to have entered my ear. The next day, the physical therapist saw us late in the afternoon, and we were discharged shortly after.
The tender embrace of the warm air filling our house was euphoric. The effluvium of the unwashed dishes from two nights before hit me in the face, but it was more than welcome after the nightmare we had just experienced.
Two weeks later, I'm writing this and in an odd way, this experience has made me feel even closer to Luke. We've shared something real together. We've grown from it and learned lessons. We're still going through it. So, I suppose that's one positive to take from this experience.
Perhaps we'll all be better for it. I hope so.