Family life

My toddler's first trip to the emergency room

After a minor mishap, Katie Dupuis' daughter Sophie made her first trip to the ER.

Katie Sophie, prior to her recent trip to the emergency room. Photo: Katie Dupuis.

Today’s Parent managing editor Katie Dupuis likes structure and organization. A lot. Now, imagine this Type A editor with a baby. Funny, right? We’re sure you’ll love Katie’s musings on life with Sophie and husband Blaine.

Saturday started out as a lovely day. The sun was shining, it was hot but not too hot, and everyone was in a good mood. We were right on time, as my cousin Rachel (who was visiting from the States), Sophie and I loaded into the car in the early morning for a quick trip down the 401 to my mom and dad’s. We stopped for coffee (me) and Timbits (the young’uns), there was absolutely no traffic and we were looking forward to my niece’s third birthday party that afternoon.

It all came apart at lunchtime. We had just arrived home from a couple of hours in the splash pad, where Miss Sophie was much more daring than I expected, lying in the tiny tide pools, running through the water features and engaging with other kids (the older, the better, as far as Sophie is concerned). She’d worn herself out — which was the goal, so she’d nap before the party — and devoured her PB&J sandwich.

I took her upstairs to “her” room (i.e. the guest room, with her “Nonna’s house bed” as we call her crib) to change her diaper and get her ready for sleeping. As I moved her arm to the side to slide her bathing suit t-shirt off, she let out a scream like nothing I’d heard before. Her whole body tensed and I picked her up quickly, holding her to me to try and calm her down. My mom and dad both came running. After observing her for a few minutes, it was pretty clear there was something wrong with her wrist or elbow, and we decided we’d better get it looked at, stat.

I won’t tell you about my tearful moment upon putting her in her car seat, or how she cried in triage, because I’ll probably start bawling and not be able to finish the post, but I will tell you about the waiting room. Sophie was calm as long as she wasn’t moving; when she put her head on my chest, her arm was stable between my body and hers and she would close her eyes. But as soon as she was jostled in even the slightest way — someone sitting in the chair beside us, for example — she’d start to scream again. At this point, I was imagining horrible things (because that’s what I do) and couldn’t wait to see a doctor.

The resident was wonderful when we were called into the exam room. She sang a little song and asked Sophie questions as she felt down her arm, wrist and hand. Soph was completely fine, and I thought she was about to make a liar out of her mama, but then the doc moved her arm out to the side and in towards her chest, and the wailing started. X-ray ordered, obviously.


Here’s where it gets worse and then better: I went into the x-ray with my girl (because there was no way I’d let her out of my sight) and the freak out started. I was wearing a lead vest and neck collar, and Soph reached up with both hands to pull herself to me. The crying made me cry (again). The technicians got the shots they needed and let me pick her up.

Then an amazing thing happened. Soph put both arms around my neck, without incident. Not a tear in sight. We left the x-ray room and she was back to her old self, using both sides of her body and trying to steal an iPad from the kid beside us. My dad and I looked at each other and raised our eyebrows. Clearly the pain was gone.

When the doctor called me over to look at Sophie’s films (do we even use that term in the digital age anymore?), I said, “Is it possible that she dislocated something and popped it back in herself?”

“That’s exactly what happened,” the doctor said. “It’s called a nursemaid’s elbow. She probably did something to it in the splash pad and you made it worse when taking off her bathing suit.” (Awesome. Worst Mother, right here.) Essentially, it means that the ligaments in little kids are looser and the bones can slip fairly easily, causing a pulled or partially dislocated elbow. Doctors out there, correct me if I have something wrong in the explanation. It’s apparently really common in kids under four. (You know the fun game your kids love where you swing them in the air while you’re walking? Yeah. We won’t be doing that anymore.) Sophie fixed it herself when she reached up to pull at the collar I was wearing during the x-ray.

We left the hospital with a happy girl and went straight to the birthday party, where Sophie refused to eat anything but ice cream cake. And I let her, because I say a trip to the hospital deserves dessert for dinner. I may or may not have done the same myself.

This article was originally published on Jul 17, 2013

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