This is a personal post, not “paper” or “paint” related…but there’s certainly “love” involved. And while it ends with some cool painting that I did and how I scored “Rad Mom” points with the kids, it’s really about an experience my son, our family, and our neighborhood went through. It wasn’t an entirely uncommon occurrence for kids or parents…but it was the first (and hopefully last) time something like this has happened to us.
Ah yes, the life of a Mom of BOYS. I guess scraped knees, bumps and bruises, a plethora of holes in new jeans and shoes, and dirty fingernails are to be expected when you’re raising two rambunctious boys (and I haven’t even begun to describe the kids…lol!). Just kidding, I try to keep my fingernails clean at least.
No, really…having two boys is so much fun and it keeps me on my toes. And even though I grew up with two younger sisters, I think my interests and hobbies help me relate to my boys. My self-professed geekery and affinity for comic books, Star Wars, animation, cartoons, sci-fi, action heroes, video games, etc. means that I can pretty much hold my own with most kids. I’m really just a big kid at heart, preferring a weekend at Comic-Con with my family over a spa/glam getaway any day. I like being the fun Mom: trying out cool science projects, going to museums, drawing pictures for them, face painting, planning awesome birthday parties, playing games, hiking/exploring, making up weird stories, eating interesting things, trying out new experiences, encouraging them to be different and unique.
But, I’m not the daredevil or adrenaline junkie Mom. You won’t see me parachuting out of an airplane. Ever. I’m afraid of heights. I don’t drive fast. So when it comes to that aspect of being a mom of two boys, I have a lot of anxiety about letting them do things where they could get hurt. My husband is the one who oversees the sporty activities…he’s the motorcyclist, waterskier, wakeboarder, snowboarder, mountain biker, football/lacrosse player, risk taker of the family.
As much as I would like to keep my babies in a protective bubble every second of the day, I know that is just not realistic. I have to remind myself that falling down, getting hurt, making mistakes are the only way for them to learn how to get up, shake it off and be more careful next time. These are the lessons that we all learn as children and a part of growth and development…right? And as much as I’m constantly yelling, “be careful” or “don’t do that” or “watch out”, there’s just no way I could be there at every waking moment to protect them or prevent them from getting hurt. That being said, it’s certainly easier said than done (to give in to not being able to control everything)…and I was in no way prepared for what happened to my six year-old last week.
So, we had just returned from our family vacation visiting Nana and Papa’s in the Bay Area, and the boys couldn’t wait to get home and play with their neighborhood buddies. They had been gone for almost three weeks and missed all their friends. Plus an eight hour drive had them antsy for some outdoor time and running around. No more than a few hours after we got home (I was in the middle of making dinner and still hadn’t unpacked or started laundry), there was a frantic knock at our front door. Our neighbor Jon, visibly shaken, said “Isaac broke his arm!”
Apparently, he was trying to do a jump on a ramp (like the older boys in the cul-de-sac) and wasn’t going fast enough to complete the jump, so he lost control and fell off the bike ramp, landing on his arm and was then accidentally run over by another kid that couldn’t maneuver out of the way fast enough (Isaac had tire marks and scrapes on his back). For the record, I had no idea he was riding his bike. My husband and I thought he was playing ball or tag or pretend Minecraft with his neighborhood buddies, like they do almost daily. He had already put his bike and helmet in the garage and was supposed to be coming in for dinner. But decided on his own that he wanted to try “just one jump” on the ramp before dinner.
My husband and I rushed outside to a sight that still makes my heart drop and stomach turn just thinking about it. Isaac’s left forearm was “bent” in the most unnatural way…an image that is now permanently burned into my memory. My poor baby, he was in so much pain! I couldn’t even see straight, I was in such shock…I thought I would pass out. Fortunately, my husband is incredibly calm, level-headed and responsive in emergencies and stressful situations (seriously, he should have been a firefighter or EMT), and we have a lot of wonderful neighbors who acted quickly and rushed to Isaac’s aide, bringing ice packs and trying to calm him while we prepared for the drive to the ER at Rady’s Childrens Hospital. (WARNING! The next image is not for the faint of heart)…
Before we left the house, I gave Isaac some children’s Advil and grabbed his favorite stuffed animal, “Pandy”…I didn’t know what else I could do to help except get him to the hospital as quickly as possible. That helplessness is the worst feeling…not being able to to comfort my child or make the pain go away or help “fix” things…it just tore at my heart. No amount of kisses or hugs could make this boo-boo go away. My husband, Aaron, was calmly and gently holding Isaac and trying to carefully get into the car, as I was scrambling like a crazy woman to figure out what to do next: what to bring to the hospital, should Mason come with us or stay with a neighbor, which is the easiest route to take to the ER, do I have our insurance card? The 30 minute drive to the Children’s Hospital was the longest.ride.EVER! I felt like the eight hours it took us to get home from the Bay Area went by faster in comparison. Aaron held Isaac in the back seat, with the broken arm supported on a pillow, surrounded by ice packs. I tried to drive as carefully as I could, avoiding bumps and quick stops or turns…but it still seemed like we were driving over old cobblestone roads and pothole-ridden streets every inch of the way. Ugh, poor Isaac! But he was so brave, barely mentioned his arm and only complained about being thirsty and not wanting to be in a cast for his Halloween birthday.
When we arrived at Rady’s, it was after 8:00 p.m. and the waiting room was fairly quiet, thank goodness! Aaron carried Isaac in, with his arm still stabilized on the pillow, and we had a minimal wait time before they called Isaac into triage. It was quite obvious that his arm was broken, so the nurses tried to move things along as quickly as possible. We had to wait a bit before they could sedate him because we made the mistake of giving him water to drink on the way down to the hospital. But the doctors made the best of the wait time by giving him pain meds and getting the x-rays done beforehand. Once he was cleared to receive the sedative, they could immediately set the bones, put on the cast and send us home. Everyone on staff at the ER that night was wonderful. At one point, there was a team of seven nurses and doctors attending to our little boy and I knew he was in expert, capable hands. And Isaac was such a trouper! He did not cry at all during the entire ride down or at the hospital, even while they were examining him before giving him morphine. In fact, he was nodding off in the car and asleep for most of the time in the ER. He only yelled out once when they were putting in the IV (they tried to wake him up to warn him about the needle prick for the IV, but he was sound asleep). There was a funny moment after they administered the morphine when they asked him if he knew where he was and he said matter-of-factly, “Yes…the dentist.” We all got a good chuckle from that. He nodded off immediately after and didn’t wake up until after they had set the bones and put the arm in a cast.
Isaac woke up from sedation disoriented and dazed, his eyes were twitching wildly and he looked thoroughly confused…but thankfully the sedative worked it’s magic so that the doctors could stabilize his arm, set the bones and hopefully avoid the need for surgery…and Isaac wouldn’t remember or feel a thing. The sedative basically gave them a 15 minute window to manipulate the arm, under the guidance of a live x-ray (portable fluoroscopy) machine. He was a bit a nauseous afterwards and threw up all the mac ‘n cheese he had eaten earlier that afternoon, but otherwise did well and was feeling no pain. Fortunately (and we’re keeping our fingers tightly crossed on this one), the doctor was able to situate the bones so that they’ll mend and remodel properly and Isaac won’t need surgery (with pins that would have to be implanted and then later removed) in order to repair his arm. He was confident that Isaac’s bones will heal quickly and it would be like he never broke his arm at all.
Isaac went through the entire ER experience like a champ and the ER staff at Rady’s Children’s Hospital were incredible…doing everything in their power to make the visit as pleasant and efficient as possible…and helping all three of us feel secure, comfortable and informed. It almost seemed like a regular doctor’s office visit and not a scary, chaotic emergency room. When they released us to go home and offered Isaac a wheelchair ride to our car, his eyes lit up with excitement. That kid loves being on the move and taking a ride on anything with wheels! He climbed right in and tried to push the wheels himself…at 1:30 a.m., still slightly delirious from the sedative, with one arm.
Isaac came home with a cast that was cut down the center and taped with spacers to allow for swelling during the first week. We were instructed to keep his arm elevated whenever possible to keep the swelling down, and to have him wear a sling for support. As long as he could wiggle his fingers and the fingernails turned from white immediately back to pink when pressed, meant that his arm was getting the proper circulation. When we woke up later that morning, we were greeted by an outpouring of support from our friends and neighbors, many of whom had already gone out of their way to help us the day before. Ron, across the street (who was the first one to get to Isaac when he broke his arm), left freshly baked muffins at our door. Kristin and her sons (my boys’ buddies) Jordan, Nathan and Grayson, kept Mason for the night while we were at the hospital and brought Isaac an Ironman mask the next day (his all-time favorite superhero is Ironman and we referred to him as “Ironman” all night at the ER). Isaac’s pal Hannah (who was his dance partner at the school talent show last year) and her sister, Haley, made Isaac the sweetest cards. His buddies Tallulah and Cash’s parents, Clark and Irene, brought over Isaac’s favorite, Clark’s homemade teriyaki chicken and curry. His 8 year-old cousin, PJ, took care of him the next day at Mason’s birthday party (which was at trampoline park). These are just a few examples of how kind our friends were. Everyone was so helpful and understanding, we are truly grateful for our wonderful neighborhood.
Isaac enjoyed having his friends sign his cast and loved the attention from everyone. I wanted to do something to cheer him up…so, I did the one thing I know how to do when I want to show someone I care…I make art. Knowing that he would get a new cast in a week, I did a quick sketch of Ironman on his cast and told him that I would paint his new cast to look like Ironman’s arm (an idea that my amazing artist friend, Torin, suggested). For the first day of school a few days later, I surprised my boys’ with sketches on their lunch bags.
A week later, Isaac had an orthopedics follow-up appointment where the x-rays showed that his arm (so far so good) was healing nicely and as expected. We weren’t 100% out of the woods for surgery yet, but it was looking positive that he would be fine. He requested a red cast so that I could paint it to look like Ironman’s arm, complete with repulsor blast.
When we got home from the appointment, I grabbed my gold metallic Modern Masters paint and some multi-surface indoor/outdoor craft paints from Michaels, let Isaac choose which Ironman action figure for me to reference, and started painting. He chose Mark XLII from Ironman 3, and I basically copied (the best that I could), the left arm from his toy. He patiently watched a movie while I painted…it was the next best thing to snuggling and watching with him. He checked on me periodically to make sure I was on the right track and gave me the thumbs up when he felt it was finished and to his liking.
Isaac was so excited to show off his cast to his classmates at school and he was especially thrilled when two of our local firefighters stopped him while we were at the grocery store to admire his cast and ask him about his arm. One of them asked, “is this how the casts come nowadays?” And it made me happy to hear him answer, “No, just mine…my mom painted it…she’s an artist.” Everywhere we go, people notice and compliment him on his painted Ironman cast. He beams when he hears people whisper, “wow…look at his arm, it’s painted like Ironman”…and all the kids and teachers at school know about his cast. I’m just glad I was able to make something cool out of a bummer situation. And I certainly scored some “Rad Mom” points with the kids. It’s funny because a few of our friends have said custom painted casts should be one of my new product offerings…and now all the kids are going to be breaking their arms to get a cast like Isaac’s. Even my son Mason mentioned, “so when I break my arm, can you paint mine to look like Halo armor?” NO. Please do not jump out of trees or hurt yourselves!!! I DO NOT want anyone I know to break a bone EVER! I hope that I don’t have to paint another (broken bone) cast again. But in the event that someone does, and needs a little cheering up, well…you know who to call.