6:00 pm Monday night, December 8th: I walk into the kitchen as my workday is over and it’s time to figure something out for dinner. Casey and I are talking about the day’s events and other typical, end of the day chit chat. The kids are all upstairs doing their thing – playing, annoying each other, watching TV, annoying each other…and probably a little more annoying of each other – it seems to be a favorite pastime for all of them. Eliot is supposed to be doing her math homework. Supposed to be………
We hear a scream – short, not too dramatic, and for our household not the least bit out of the ordinary and it is pretty much ignored. And then we hear it – “I broke my arm. I broke my arm.” Notice the lack of punctuation at the end of those two sentences. Particularly, notice the lack of any exclamation marks. That was intentional because that’s how it was. It was Eliot speaking those words and she was walking down the stairs with her left arm held across her body and over her right arm which was crossed over her body as well. That’s how she said it – curt, matter of fact, no excitement, and maybe only a slight bit of urgency. I was closest to the stairs and I looked up and could immediately tell, “Oh! She REALLY broke her arm!”
Here’s how the next 15 seconds played out…
Casey: “Oh my gosh!!!!!”
Ethan, walking towards Eliot and sort of towards the couch at the same time: “Come over and sit down, sweetheart. Casey, what do we do?”
Casey: “GET HER TO THE HOSPITAL!!!!!! GET HER IN YOUR TRUCK!!!!!!!”
Me: “Oh, right…I’m going! Come on, Eliot!”
The thought process during those 15 seconds…
Me: “Ok, we need to get her sitting down and then Casey and I will figure out what the best plan is. Do I need to call an ambulance? Should I just take her to the emergency room? Hmm…this is kind of a tough one. Never been in a situation like this…….”
Casey: “OH MY GOSH, MY BABY GIRL IS HURTING AND NEEDS HELP FROM JESUS RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!! ONLY JESUS WILL DO!!! OR MAYBE THE NEXT BEST THING TO JESUS, BUT IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!! WHY DOESN’T ETHAN HAVE HER IN JESUS’S WAITING ROOM YET????!!!!”
Eliot: “Am I dreaming? My arm has never looked like that before and I’m pretty sure that it’s not good for it to so closely resemble a Z.”
So I’m in my truck and Eliot gets her first ride in the front passenger seat of my truck and it’s too bad she is in such a dreamy, painful, uncomfortable state at this moment because otherwise she would have really enjoyed the ride – Daddy is driving like he’s never driven before (except for maybe when he was 16…). Speed limits – ignored. Red lights – also ignored. General common sense – yeah, ignored. The Lakeway hospital is a 20 minute drive from our house and I’m pretty sure we made it in 7. Eliot is calm – thank God for endorphins and adrenaline! – sitting back, still holding her arms across her body, left arm over the right, sweating a little, and calmly saying, “Ow.” every few seconds and then, “Are we there yet, Daddy?” No, not there yet, but I’m hurrying as fast as I can, baby girl (not going to mention to her that by the time we get there, I’ll need more help than she does because my heart is literally shattered into a million pieces seeing my little superstar in such bad shape and not being able to do much about it….other than drive fast…that, I can do.)
5 minutes into the drive I get a call from Casey and I answer it – my truck has bluetooth so the call is broadcast over the speakers of the truck. This is usually a very handy thing to have. Not this time.
Casey: “ETHAN!!!! YOU CAN’T TAKE HER TO THE LAKEWAY HOSPITAL!!!! YOU HAVE TO TAKE HER TO DELL CHILDREN’S – THAT’S WHERE JESUS IS AND HE IS THE ONLY ONE QUALIFIED TO TAKE CARE OF MY BABY GIRL!!!!!! I’VE HEARD BAD THINGS ABOUT LAKEWAY – YOU HAVE TO TAKE HER TO JESUS!!!!!”
Me, grabbing for the phone, knocking it out of it’s cradle to the truck floor, still driving as described above, lean down to grab the phone……..BLUETOOTH: OFF!!!
Me, urgently, firmly, but as quietly as possible: “Casey, you’re on bluetooth! Eliot can hear everything! Get ahold of yourself, woman!!!!!!”
Casey, crying; no, sobbing: “ETHAN, YOU HAVE TO TAKE HER TO DELL!!!!!!! I’VE HEARD SO MANY BAD STORIES ABOUT LAKEWAY – THAT HOSPITAL IS AWFUL!!!!!”
Me, just as urgently, firmly, and as quietly as possible (thanks once again to God for the endorphins and adrenaline giving me the ability to manage this!): “Casey! It’s a broken arm – Lakeway can handle it! It’s a 20 minute drive and there won’t be a wait in the emergency room! She’ll get right in! Dell is 45 minutes away and they’ll be super busy! You’ve got to calm down – she’ll be fine!!”
Casey, not sobbing, but crying still and with a firmness in her voice that wasn’t there before: “Ok, ok….ok….call me when you get her there. ARE YOU SURE??”
I was sure and fortunately I was also right. We got to Lakeway and there was zero wait. We had her in the doors, into a room, and being cared for in probably two minutes. The pain killers first took effect probably less than 10 minutes from when we parked the car and the biggest issue during that time was convincing the girl whose forearm was in the shape of a Z to allow the doctor to stick the IV needle into her other arm so she could get her pain medicine…girl doesn’t like needles!
Aaaahhh, a little relief. My girl is being cared for, the pain meds are starting to work, and she’s going to be alright. I can relax a little – she’s in good hands. And that’s when I noticed how freaked out I had been. All of a sudden I become aware of how fast my heart is pounding in my chest, how dry my mouth is, and how I’ve apparently been on the verge of tears since I first saw Eliot walking down the stairs. I need to sit down and I need some water. Baby girl is going to be ok soon…….
Meanwhile, back at the house….
Casey: “Guys, what happened?? Did any of you see what happened to Eliot?”
Ryan: “I did! She was on the couch and was doing a cartwheel and when her hand came down on the floor she hit the guitar and her arm broke!”
Britton, starting to cry…no, sob: “Did she break her arm because I didn’t put my guitar away??”
Brooklyn, Ryan, and Britton: “Is that why you always tell us to put our toys away so that things like this won’t happen??” All of them beginning to sob. “It’s all our fault that she broke her arm!!!” (Lila and Jack are sort of concerned, but mostly not.) Keep in mind that Casey is still sobbing at this point.
Casey: “No, guys, it’s not your fault at all! These things just happen and Eliot will be alright!!” (They’re not convinced and continue to sob.)
Jack: “We’re going to get to draw on her cast and put stickers on it!!! Yay!!!”
Back at the hospital, Eliot’s pain meds have kicked in and x-rays have been taken – both bones in her right arm are snapped like a twig – and it’s almost time to set them.
Doctor: “Ok, we’re about to set her arm. I’m going to give her some medicine for the pain, but it won’t take away all of the pain. She’ll get really sleepy and she’ll be in and out while we’re doing it. She’ll be in a lot of pain and there will be some screaming, but when it’s done she won’t remember a thing.
Flashback: I broke my leg when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade while playing football in the front yard with my brother and I have this fuzzy memory from that time that I can never fully grasp. I am in a hospital room with a few doctors and/or nurses and I’m on a table. They’re doing something to my leg and I keeping slipping in and out of consciousness. I can tell in the memory that I’m in misery, but I don’t really remember the misery part or why I was so miserable. I don’t remember the pain, but I now know fully what that strange, fuzzy memory is all about and I know what Eliot is about to go through.
Thoughts: “Thank you, Father, for giving us this amazing pain medicine that will not allow Eliot to remember what she is about to experience. I am so thankful that it’s 2014 and not 1914 and the doctor is not giving her a stick to bite on and maybe a little bit of whisky to numb the pain while they set her arm back in place. I’m so thankful for this emergency room being so close, and yes, having some reputation issues which for us means that there was not a bit of a wait to get her in here and get her taken care of. Amen.”
Other thoughts: Ok, she’s going to get through this just like I did when I broke my leg. She’s going to be alright and this is one of those moments that she’ll never forget. The cartwheel, the ride to the hospital, the fear, the cast she’s going to have, the attention – she’ll never forget any of it. Maybe this will be a turning point for her where she begins to realize that she can handle things that she never thought she could handle before. This is a character builder for sure.
One more thought: I’m glad Casey isn’t here to see this.
Last one for now: Man, I hate character builders….
Setting the bones was every bit as awful as the doctor described it would be. They pumped her full of meds which knocked her out, but almost as soon as they started working on the arm she would wake up and start writhing in pain. The anesthesiologist stayed right by her with a full syringe, ready to pump more meds at the doctor’s orders. He was a busy man for those 10 minutes.
I learned something that night: the science of setting a bone in 2014 is much like I’m guessing it was done in the year 2014 B.C. This is not a good thing. While the doctor wrenched and pushed and pulled and jerked and all other manner of things you would never, ever, ever do to a person’s broken arm, four of us (I was recruited for the effort) held Eliot down (girl is strong!) while the anesthesiologist kept pumping the meds (and she metabolizes pain medicine fast!). When they were done, she had given up the fight and was sleeping soundlessly while they put on her splint and took another round of x-rays. I collapsed into a chair by her bed, got some cold water down my throat, and started to make calls and send texts. Casey had called a good friend who came over to hang with the Fab Five and was on the road heading our way.
About the time Casey got to the hospital, Eliot was waking up and as soon as her eyes were open she became Miss Chatty. She was hopped up on silly pills apparently and was ready to tell all about her experience. The drive – Mom, dad ran through 3 red lights! – putting in the IV, what were the 5 doing? Who was with them? Am I going to school tomorrow? What color will my cast be? Do I get ice cream?
And guess what? She didn’t mention the pain. She didn’t remember it or anything else at all about setting the bones back in place….(thank you for that one above all, God, but I’ll never forget it.)
By the way, I kept mentioning that Eliot was holding her left arm over her right – she did it from the moment she broke the arm to when they were putting in her IV. But she broke her right arm and after it was all over I realized that she hadn’t been holding up her broken arm with her good arm; she had been holding her good arm over her broken arm. Casey asked her why she was doing that and she said it was because she didn’t want to see her broken arm because it scared her. I mentioned that her forearm was in the shape of a Z and I wasn’t kidding. She said she felt like she was in a dream and didn’t think that her arm really looked like that. Out of respect to Eliot’s wishes and to the potential of freaking y’all out there will not be a picture of her broken arm posted anywhere on this site or anywhere else online.
Since that night, Eliot has been her usual self – an absolute superstar. She’s been patient with her immobility, obedient with the doctor’s instructions, hasn’t complained a bit and has been quick with a smile…other than the smile part, we have no idea who this child is! She will not require surgery, thank God, and will be in a cast a total of about 8 weeks. So far she says she misses being able to play and be active the most and she really misses her jiu-jitsu and dance classes. I miss being able to rough house with her, but I do like the child who has emerged from this experience. Before this happened, Casey and I had noticed that Eliot has been subtly different from the little girl we’ve always known and loved. She’s still very much our baby girl, but she has matured a bit. She seems to have a slightly better understanding of the bigger picture of life and her responsibilities and role within that picture. This experience with her arm has caused another leap in the direction of further maturity which has been really interesting and wonderful for us to experience along with her. Eliot has always been a little fireball of energy and light from the day she was born which has been fun and challenging all at the same time. Casey and I have felt from the beginning that if we could just get all of Eliot’s energy focused in the right direction she’d be a force to be reckoned with in any pursuit in which she chose to engage herself. Lord willing, the Eliot we’ve come to know this year and the little girl we have walked with through this experience represents a sign of things to come for her……Lord willing.
Look out world, here comes Eliot McKenna!!
*Ok, so maybe I used a bit of hyperbole when writing this post and it’s possible, I suppose, that Casey didn’t quite react as I’ve described. I suppose it might be within the realm of possibilities that she didn’t call out for Jesus and Jesus only to care for Eliot’s arm. I suppose it could have happened some other way, but I stand by my story….. :)