How I handled my son's first broken bone

Jennifer Pinarski shares how she handled her son's first broken bone.

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Despite his arm cast, Isaac stays active. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

Last month, my six-year-old son fractured his pinky finger while on a school trip. I’m told that, for the most part, broken fingers are not a big deal — and since children’s bones heal so quickly, they are rarely set and cast by a doctor. However, in the case of Isaac’s injury — he corkscrewed down a slide — he fractured it in such a way that letting it heal on its own would mean that he’d lose proper function of his finger. On the afternoon we left the hospital ER with little more than a splint on my son’s finger, the two of us were in tears — him because he thought his summer was ruined and me because I couldn’t tell him with 100 percent certainty that everything would be OK.

However, after pressuring the hospital’s patient relations department and getting the nerve and hand specialist’s direct telephone number, I was able to move my son’s consult from four weeks away to just seven days from the time it was first injured. And it was a good thing, too — if it had taken any longer surgeons would have had to cut open his hand and wire the bones together properly. On the downside, because Isaac’s bone wasn’t set properly in the ER, what should have only been two weeks in a splint now means six weeks in a cast.

It was a frustrating few days of phone calls to specialists while reassuring Isaac that he could still have fun on summer vacation. Here are the valuable lessons I’ve learned from our family’s first experience with a broken bone.

1. Trust your gut: I knew that something was messed up about Isaac’s hand and immediately went into Mama Bear mode until I got answers that made me happy.

2. Ask for help: In my case, I reached out to Twitter and Facebook to ask other moms for advice on how to speed up the consult process. Mara Shapiro, you rock.

3. Apologize and thank everyone: Our family doctor took the brunt of my frustration and it was important to me to call him back to not only thank him for his support, but to apologize for being a little too bearish. The hand specialist we are seeing and the orthos at the cast clinic have been helpful and patient with all of my questions.

4. Pay extra for a fibreglass cast: At two weeks post-injury, Isaac’s plaster half-cast was changed to a full cast. We had the option of choosing either a free plaster cast or to pay extra for a fibreglass cast. We opted to pay $45 for a fibreglass cast. While not waterproof, it is lighter and more durable than a plaster cast.

5. Make having a cast fun: I think my son is an exception in that he hates his cast and the attention it brings him. The day before a scheduled pool party, he was in tears because he didn’t want to have a black garbage bag and duct tape wrapped around his arm since he thought people would make fun of him. We bought colourful Sharpie markers to decorate his cast with, and clear plastic bags and patterned duct tape to protect his cast when he plays in water.

6. Don’t expect broken bones to slow a kid down: I thought my active-yet-cautious son would spend his recovery time reading and drawing pictures, but I was wrong. He’s still riding his bike, building forts, playing in splash pads and even teaching himself how to skateboard. I’m by no means a Helicopter Parent, but I have to remind myself that he’s an active boy and his injury is now very well protected.

Have your kids broken any bones? What advice would do you have for other parents?

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