To say it’s been a crazy couple of months would be an understatement! In this and the next couple of posts, I will try to give you a glimpse into our recent medical, emotional, and spiritual experiences :)
I’ll start by describing the Amazing Spica Cast That Changed Our Lives!! (Insert: Dramatic announcer voice)
My son, Anders, turned two in April and has been a healthy, active little guy. Shortly after his birthday he learned to jump with both feet, which is what ultimately caused our Big Excitement.
We were having a laid-back Friday evening in early May; AJ and I had put on Mary Poppins and dragged the cushions off the couches and were watching the kids jump off the couch and onto the pillows. Pretty normal, right? Right. Until Anders jumped, landed on a pillow on his knees and didn’t get up. Little did we know it would be almost eight weeks before he took another step.
At first it didn’t seem like a big deal, the guy didn’t even cry! And I, mom-of-the-year, told him, “It’s ok, bud, get on up!” But when he didn’t, we moved him to the couch and watched as he refused to move his leg and wouldn’t let us touch it. A phone call to the doctor convinced us to let him sleep the night at home and then bring him to the ER in the morning if he was still acting this way.
Which, of course, he was. Many hours and several x-rays later, we learned that he had fractured his left femur, poor guy!! To say my heart was wrenched was an understatement! He was such a trooper, though. We were admitted overnight to prepare him for full anesthesia in the morning, when the surgeon would set the bone and administer the cast. The SPICA cast.
The moment we heard the word, we looked it up on google. Enter the thought: Our lives are going to be changed, for a very long time. A hip-spica cast fully wraps around the waist and hips and goes down the affected leg, and often the other leg as well. The pictures online are quite shocking.
With all of this in our minds, we watched as they tried to administer an IV on our baby boy. It took FOURTEEN tries. FOURTEEN times they poked a needle into my son. His hands, wrists, feet and ankles were covered with needle holes. And the IV ultimately ended up in his NECK.
Watching our son scream and writhe in pain and confusion until he vomited was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so helpless, so torn between wanting peace for my son but knowing the pain had to be endured. It was a small help to know he probably won’t remember much, if any, of it.
He came out of surgery, and it would be a full 5 weeks until we would see his little leg again. We were released that evening, mainly due to my persistence and nagging. It had gotten to the point that every time a nurse even walked past our door, Anders started crying in fear. Ugh. You guys, it was truly awful. We needed to go HOME and start our new, crazy life.
I’m so grateful for AJ’s parents, who had watched Tori for two nights. It allowed us to settle in at home and try and figure out how to deal with a two-year-old in a spica cast.
So, how DO you deal with a two-year-old in a spica cast?? We honestly had no clue. Many children who have a hip-spica have hip dysplasia, and their parents have months to research spica care. We, obviously, did not.
So in case anyone is reading this because you, like I was, are furiously searching the internet for any, ANY advice on spica cast care, here are some tips I learned based on our own experience. If you’re one of my regular readers, feel free to skip this part :) Gets kinda detailed!
– The first two weeks are the hardest!!! They are stressful, emotional, and physically demanding. But once you’ve passed the two-week mark, it gets slightly easier. So hang in there!
– Pain. If your child has broken a bone like mine did, expect him to be in fairly severe pain for almost the full two weeks. Keep movement limited. We were tempted to take him to birthday parties, etc, in the stroller, but followed my maternal instinct and laid VERY low at first. The best thing for healing is REST, after all! So be prepared to be home-bound for a while. It sucks, (especially if you have, say, a 4 yr old daughter as well…) but you do what you’ve got to do.
– Diapering. Ugh. Terrible!!! Many people are able to tuck a diaper up the front and back of the cast, all the way to the top. We were not, because the cast was too snug, at least until the last week or so when the little guy had lost weight :( So. The first week ended in a rash. I’m pretty sure it was a combination of true diaper rash and natural blistering from the cast on his bare skin. I felt sooooo bad. At his one-week follow up, I insisted that his cast be trimmed around the waist and bottom. This helped a LOT. If you’re having difficulty diapering, I’d suggest asking the doctor to trim the cast. Also, one word that saved Anders’ bottom: MOLESKIN. Use it all around the cast that touches the diaper. Change frequently, as soon as it gets wet. Use small pieces and “butterfly” it around the edges. It really, really helps. I’d also recommend getting very soft, very absorbent diapers. Now is not the time to get cheap diapers!! We bought Pampers Swaddlers size 3, trimmed off the Velcro, and put it on backwards, wedging it up into his cast, front and back, as much as we could. We then put size 5 diapers around the entire thing, OVER the cast. At night we’d also line under his bum, (in the size 3 diaper) with a wing-less sanitary pad, ultra thin. Remember that since they are sleeping only on their backs, all urine will seep to the bottom and back of the diaper. Change them more frequently than you normally would, and asap when they poo!
– Bathing. Flashback to newborn baths. Yep. He lay on the counter while we gave him a sponge bath and shampoo. He hated every second of it, but we endured.
– Entertainment. LOTS of tv. I can’t even tell you how many episodes of Bubble Guppies we’ve seen. Because of the position his body was in, he couldn’t sit up straight, which really limited the activities he could do. Even coloring or puzzles were awkward. We bought him this lap tray with pockets on the sides which helped, but even that was precarious. (And easy for a grumpy guy to throw to the floor, haha). Because of his age (barely two), I had to sit with him to help with the activities. But, even still, playdough got eaten and juice was spilled and we’re still finding goldfish crumbs from his little area of the couch. It’s a messy business.
– Eating. Ugh. Take an already-picky eater and make him immobile and you’ve got an almost impossible eating situation. He did not fit into his high chair, so one of us ate with him at the couch. Because of the angle in which he was lying, we often had to spoon-feed him. One tip I’d recommend is buying some tall plastic (disposable) cups in which to put his dry snacks. The taller, the better, because a shallow bowl will spill very easily when he tips it.
– Beanbag chairs! A super great idea to give your child a change of scenery. That is, if your child will sit in one. We were given a bean bag chair and Anders REFUSED to sit in it until a week before the cast was removed. Oh well. At least his sister enjoyed it :)
– Sleeping. Ugh. Awkward at best. We raised the crib to the middle level – lifting him out from the lowest level without hurting him was almost impossible. We laid him on his back (obviously) with some small blankets under his upper body to ensure the cast didn’t cut into his back. The we placed a small pillow at the foot of the crib for his casted leg to rest on (otherwise it would’ve been hanging elevated…) Try all different types of support to see which works best for your child. Definitely use the prescription AND non-prescription pain meds for the first week or so at night. After about 4 weeks Anders started rolling to his side, which was such a relief to see. He actually slept pretty well, considering the awkwardness of it. But we did set our alarm to re-dose his medicine for the first week or two. Keeping ahead of the pain is always best!
– Transportation. We were very lucky in that Anders’ cast went down only one leg! Many spica casts are on both legs, in which the baby’s legs are very wide apart. This means that children in a spica cast often have to get either a special carseat (we could’ve borrowed one from our hospital) or a harness type of thing. Anders fit into his regular carseat (Britax Marathon), with just a few adjustments!! I was so grateful for this. He also fit in his stroller (City Mini) fine, with it reclined a little. This was a lifesaver for the last couple of weeks when he wasn’t in pain and we wanted to GET. OUT. OF. THE. HOUSE. :) I’ve read of other parents using a wagon with pillows to get their kiddos around, too.
So, there you have it. That pretty much sums of the logistical end of almost 6 weeks of our lives. I have been wanting to write about our experiences and the things I’ve learned but needed to also get the details out of the way, so now that’s done :)
I haven’t delved into the emotional and stressful parts of it! In my next post, I’ll talk about how this experience has affected my depression, my marriage, how I canceled a much-anticipated trip to Boston, how we learned that we are moving to England (!) and how we prepared ourselves to travel to Florida for a week on the beach and my brother’s wedding, potentially with a boy in a spica cast.
So tune in again, soon!