I was standing in the kitchen making dinner on Friday February 10th when I heard a hoarse cry from the backyard. I ran the mere 20 feet out to where my daughter was laying on the brick, crying. I picked her up and asked if she was ok, trying to look for anywhere that might be bleeding. She was crying and walking away from me, seemingly confused, but also obviously in pain.
At first I was angry. She was climbing on our fence, which we have told her not to do more times than I can count. As she was crab-walking side to side on the fence, one of the boards had pulled away from the horizontal support beams. When the board came loose she fell and pinned the board under her. This is my only explanation for the broken arm. She must have pinned the board between herself, her arm, and the bricks. I mean, really? She was only about a foot off the ground.
My main concern was puncture wounds from the rusty nails, but there were none of those.
She wasn’t screaming. She was about medium upset. I’ve heard her cry more from a skinned knee. I honestly didn’t think anything was broken. I palpated her arm and wrist – her wrist was my main concern, she was cradling it and cried more when I attempted some gentle movement.
I was angry again. I know now that this anger was really just fear – afraid for my only child being hurt. I have to admit, I wasn’t very nice. I still feel guilty about it even though I’ve apologized to her and told her I was afraid. I wish I had been nicer about the whole thing. I really didn’t think anything was broken….
But she wouldn’t stop crying – and she always stops crying. My daughter is tough. Tougher than most of the boys her age. She always brushes off minor injuries and rarely wants to stop playing to get cleaned up and have her wounds bandaged. This was how I knew something was really wrong.
I left everything I was cooking on the stove or counter, grabbed a few things, and took her to the urgent care clinic on post. I was so relieved they were still open and I could avoid the ER (ha!). We got there about 45 minutes before they were set to close. I thought at most they would give her some ice, a pain reliever, and a brace to keep things still for a few days….
Three x-rays later we were told she had fractured both the bones in her lower arm. The ulna (on the pinky side of the arm) has what’s called a buckle fracture or greenstick fracture. This is where the bone bows out, but doesn’t actually break. This is fairly common in kids since their bones are softer than adults. The radius however, that was actually broken. I saw the films. The head of the bone had splintered away from the shaft at the growth plate in her wrist. This is so common they actually have a name for it – Salter’s fracture. I haven’t taken the time to Google that one, but if you feel so inclined, there it is.
When they told me we had to go to the ER at Tripler and see an Orthopedist, my heart sunk. I knew we would be there for hours and this is not how I wanted to spend my Friday night. Did I mention yet that my husband wasn’t home?
Oh yes, it was only me. My husband just happened to be in Louisiana for training and the previous day had to put his phone away for 2 weeks. I went through the channels I needed to in order to get word to my husband about this and I was very pleased at how quickly they were able to get him on the phone. 11 minutes. That’s all I got. 11 minutes to tell my husband what happened and what was going to happen. He talked to our daughter and tried to reassure her as much as one can from 5,000 miles away.
I knew he wasn’t going to be able to come home. That was hard.
Then we drove.
I could feel resistance creeping in on the 30 minute drive to the real hospital. Thoughts like, “if we hurry up and get there maybe we’ll be home in time for me to be in bed by 11” or “just get this over with, hurry up, hurry up”. You know, totally ridiculous, not helpful thoughts. Resistance. Lots of it. I recognized it right away and knew I was headed straight into suffering because of it. “Don’t resist. Don’t resist. Just let go.” I told myself while driving.
The letting go. That’s the magic. That’s the secret sauce. Not just for ER visits, but for life. Shit happens. It’s going to happen, but the suffering? Sometimes that’s straight up optional. I once heard an amazing quote that I can’t remember the entirety of, something about suffering equals resistance times something. It was profound, I’m just botching it. Anyway, I let go. I knew it was going to be hours and you know what? They passed fairly quickly.
Once I quit trying to control the situation, it flowed. Things happened the only way they could, strangers were kind to us, and we were supported.
She had about a dozen x-rays in total and I had to be present for every single one. I swear the radiation gave me a headache.
Finally we had a surgeon come to talk us and tell us she didn’t need surgery and they could proceed with the casting. I think this was around 11:30pm, about 6 hours after we left home.
Then an anesthesiologist came to tell me they wanted to do what was called “conscious sedation” when setting the bone and putting the cast on. He said he preferred to use ketamine. Now, in case you don’t know this about me, I used to use drugs quite a bit in high school and college. That was how I was familiar with ketamine, as a horse tranquilizer that could send it’s user into a “k-hole”. I’m sure you can imagine, I didn’t like this idea.
Then he explained that it didn’t dull the pain, but rather my daughter would disassociate from it. Something about that word disassociate, it really freaked me out. I mean, red flags all over the place, my intuition was basically waving a flaming red flag at me screaming ‘no’. At the time though, it felt a whole lot more like fear than intuition. It’s only looking back that I recognize the feeling. So, I chose pain for her.
And let me tell you, that was a fucking hard decision to make. I broke my hand almost 2 years ago and all I had was a nerve block in the hand when they were setting it to be casted and it was excruciating. One of the 3 most painful things I’ve ever experienced in my life, as painful as labor. So yes, I knew what I had chosen for my daughter.
Two weeks later and I’m still not sure about that decision, but it’s what I chose and there’s no going back.
She actually didn’t cry that much. The nerve block must’ve worked fairly well because there was minimal screaming. I sat, alone, and had to listen to my daughter scream. If you don’t have children, let me tell you, listening to your child scream and cry in pain is PAINFUL. It’s terrifying. It makes you feel helpless. I breathed and breathed and breathed like it was my job. I tried to stay calm so she would stay calm. The nurses were fantastic. I’m glad they made me stay seated, I might have passed out.
And then it was done. They gave her morphine and she fell asleep. They wheeled in an x-ray machine to recheck while she was sleeping. I was so relieved.
They finally let us go around 12:45am. They gave her 2 popsicles and I had my second KIND bar of the evening. By the time we got home she was asleep and I just sat in the car for a few minutes feeling so intensely relieved and so incredibly grateful for the kindness from every single person who we dealt with.
I also felt proud of myself. I did it. The shit hit the fan when my husband was away for training and I fucking did it.
And now what? Healing. Continuing to heal my adrenals from the intense stress of that night, and obviously my daughter’s body is working hard to heal her arm. Besides healing there is the gratitude, living life as a spiritual practice.
Spirituality in the ER. It can be found everywhere when we live our lives as a spiritual practice and lessons in gratitude. I’m grateful this wasn’t worse. I’m grateful for my incredible friend Joelle that came over on Saturday with flowers, movies, gifts, and good vibes.
It would be so easy for me to look at this situation and sink into a shitty story about how life sucks and it’s out to get me and how this month/year is going to suck and blah blah blah. But the thing is, I genuinely don’t feel that way. I genuinely feel blessed and grateful. And this is where the true challenge of life lies – in the keeping on. In the getting up. In the not giving up or giving in. In surrendering to the knowledge that we are fully supported and loved. That we are on our path and we have deep knowledge in our bones if we’d only get quiet enough to listen.
My spiritual practice has truly changed me and my life. I have practiced witnessing myself. I witness the joy, the pain, the resistance, the love. And because of that practice of witnessing I was able to let go. I was able to let go of that creeping resistance that was taking me to suffering town. I am SO grateful for that.
Before this practice of witnessing myself I suffered, a lot. I tried to control life instead of just controlling my reaction to it. That’s the magic difference. We cannot control life, but we can control whether or not we freak the fuck out about it. And seriously, I have done a lot of freaking out. Years of it. And I was not happy.
Although I will tell you where I should have exerted more control was when this whole thing first happened. When my daughter first fell, the situation was controlling me instead of the other way around. I was afraid and that made me angry, so I acted from a place of anger. I wish I had accessed that sense of peace and knowing when she first fell. I could have handled it differently, but I didn’t. And that’s where my lesson is.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should beat ourselves up about how we handled past situations and let ourselves become stressed or depressed about it. However, we should reflect on them and learn from them. That’s what I’m doing anyway.
But overall? I’m proud of myself. Peace. Understanding. Love. Surrender.
Yep. I guess that’s it. That’s how I found peace and spirituality in the ER.