Day-to-Day Life in Plaster

We are currently on our fourth cast and boy have we learned a lot by now. Much of it I wish we had known sooner, but isn’t that often how life goes?

Nora adjusted pretty quickly to her first cast. It really wasn’t holding her back from doing anything. In fact, she was developing some serious baby muscles. When we would remove her knit-rite shirt, that’s worn underneath her cast, and she would flex and pull herself almost into a crunch and you could see a six pack muscle outline. I kid you not. Carrying around that extra 2 to 2 1/2 pounds on such a little body is making our baby buff!

Speaking of the shirts, changing these little suckers is not fun nor is it easy but we feel it’s a must with a busy toddler who’s into everything. There was one changing episode where I didn’t think I was going to be able to get a new shirt on. The cast was so tight and it was so hard to dig and squeeze my fingers in between to try and pull it down and into place. After about 20 minutes and a few breaks I finally got it.

We’ve figured out a sponge bath routine that to this day, eight months later, is still a dreaded task. She simply hates just about every aspect of the sponge bath and hair washing. No matter what distractions we have or how many pieces of bribing candy we have on hand, it doesn’t matter she hates the whole thing and screams and cries. She just wants in a big full bathtub. But even though she hates it and fights it, she has, in a way, come to terms with it. As soon as we are done she, all on her own, happily applauds herself and smiles and typically does her happy dance.

Having the cast trimmed or removed is an absolute nightmare. Unfortunately, after four casts we’ve had to have 3 trimmed for various reasons. Being too high under her arms, too low on the hips so she can’t move about normally. The sound of the machine and the way it shakes her entire little body while it’s doing its job is simply terrifying for her. The techs felt so bad one time they went to the hospital gift shop and brought her back a couple of stuffed animals to keep.

We’ve taken her to a closer branch of Children’s hospital just for trimming and removal and it got to the point where she was crying and pleading as soon as we walked into the hospital – she just remembered. Holding your child while they try and cut and tear away at the casting material while she’s crying… No, not crying – screaming, screaming sheer terrified help me screams is just awful. I’ve broke down crying right along with her.

But once she’s settled down after having her casts removed, every time she points to her belly and pats her ribs and has a look of wonder, joy and confusion in her eyes. These casts have become a real part of her and suddenly they aren’t there anymore. It’s almost awe inspiring to witness. With each removal we’ve spent a few minutes afterwards just taking it all in…And that includes endless hugs.

The cast removal appointment is a roller coaster of emotions. I can’t tell you how amazing and incredible it feels to be able to wrap your arms around your baby…Around her body, touch her skin, feel her body expand and contract with each breathe after two months of wrapping your arms around a hard plaster cast. It’s like Christmas morning to me. I can picture it and I can feel it right now as I write this…I long for it and I miss it so incredibly much. It’s one thing I often find myself jealous of. I see parents pick up their little ones and give them a quick hug like or a big huge snuggle. They don’t think twice about it usually, why would they? But I do.

So after a long hug and squeezing session in the doctor’s office our routine is to go get milkshakes on the way home as a reward. In fact, it’s become our routine for just about any doctor visit now. And once we get home its bath time. The excitement on her face when she’s in the tub and realizing she can actually splash and play is infectious. It’s impossible not to grin ear-to-ear.

These breaks from her casts are filled with more baths than you can imagine, almost daily trips to the pool, ooey gooey messy crafts projects, more hugs and snuggles. I’m beyond grateful for these breaks where we have a few days to live life like normal.

milkshake  crafts  pool

 

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First Cast – August 14, 2013

This was a hard blog entry to write, resurfacing all the emotions and everything that happened that day is hard for me.  It was the beginning of a major change in our lives.  But while some of this is hard to read, it does end well and I must say we are so very thankful and grateful casting has been an option for us. 

We had to be at the hospital by 6:30am that day.  After getting all checked in we once again found ourselves in a little hospital room, with a little hospital bed, getting Nora dressed into a tiny little hospital gown.  So many nurses, residents, interns, anesthesiologists, physician assistants, casting technicians, and our own surgeon came in and out of that room going over much of the same things over and over.   It was pretty non-stop for a good hour, which was probably good as it didn’t give us time to dwell on things.  When we did have down time while waiting, we spent time in the playroom.  We didn’t even know this existed till we got there, but after all our visits since, it has proven to be a fantastic perk to the Children’s Hospital.  This playroom is full of toys, books, blocks, ride on toys, train sets..you name it.

While in the playroom, the anesthesiologist came in to talk to us a bit more, explaining that Nora would not only be put under general anesthesia but that she would be intubated.  The tube down the throat just like you see on doctor shows dramas and movies.  The need to intubate is basically because they twist, turn and apply a ton of pressure on her little body to get her spine corrected as best they can and into a plaster cast so with all that pressure and twisting they need to really protect her breathing.  However, she would be put under, at first, with gas and Matt and I would go into the OR with her and hold her while that happened.

first cast at hospital

When it was time to get started, Matt and I put on our hospital issued blue scrubs jumpsuit and caps to go into the OR.  The tree of us took a few funny photos together just to try and lighten the mood. The nurses came to get us and we gave her our fancy duck tape with pink flying pigs to be used on Nora’s cast and then we carried her down the long hallways to the OR.  The last time I had been in an OR was when she was born just 14 months before.  I was scared then too but this was so different.  It was a large room, so white, so sterile, and so many people in blue scrubs in there, way more than when I had a c-section.  We walked over to the operating table and to the right of it was the casting table.  My first thought when seeing this table was, it looked like a mid-evil torture device.  I had visions of her being tied to this thing and being pulled in every direction. Which frankly, is what they do.  I quickly had to turn away. I couldn’t look at it any more.  My heart was already racing, I was terrified and so many people were trying to talk to me and explain things.  Again.

casting table

I sat down holding Nora as the anesthesia team came over and placed the oxygen mask on her face.  Nora instinctually fought the mask and the gas.  She fought it hard.  Crying, screaming, pleading, trying to pry the mask off.  It was awful and it took at least a minute, which is a long time for something like this. But eventually her body became weak and heavy and she was asleep but there was still this faint crying, weeping sound I had never heard from her before, emitting from her tiny body.  It’s a sound and a sight that is ingrained in my brain and I will never forget.  My eyes well up just thinking about it and writing about it.

We laid her down on the table and the team told us to give her a kiss and tell her we love her and will see her soon.  I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want to stop caressing her face and kissing her forehead.  I didn’t want to be doing any of this.  As the nurse took Matt and me out of the room there were tears streaming down both of our faces.  That experience was so difficult, so scarey, so many unknowns.  As the nurse walked us back to our room she comforted us and said, it’s very hard to see them fight so much and go to sleep, she assured us that part was harder for us than her.  She hugged me and told me she would take care of my baby.

When we got back to our little hospital room, Matt and I both cried more and just hugged each other till we were ready to take those goofy jumpsuits off and head to the waiting room.  I sat in that waiting room numb and nervous.  I had my rosary wrapped tightly in my hands and I just prayed… and prayed and then I facebooked.  Yep, facebook.  I had to kill the time somehow and find a little escape.  I was grateful for all the funny posts and stories I saw that morning.

Finally, our surgeon came out to tell us it well; they were just finishing up and taping her cast.  He went over a few details and said the anesthesiologist  would be out to talk to us soon.  We waited another 45 minutes or more till we were able to go see Nora.  When they walked us back to the recovery room, she was in the arms of a nurse, she was unhappy, she was crying and this cast looked ginormous.   As he handed her to me, I couldn’t believe how heavy she was, how thick the cast was, how stiff it was.  It was Plaster is much heavier than fiberglass be grateful  fiberglass casts for broken arms and legs my friends.  I was somehow delusional beforehand to just how stiff a body cast would be.  She was so upset and so confused and I didn’t know how to comfort her.  Her body couldn’t wrap itself around me in a big embrace; I couldn’t rub her back to comfort her like I normally would.  I hadn’t thought about this and suddenly I didn’t know what to do.  I was scared; I didn’t know how I was going to be able to handle this as our new normal.  Panic started to hit me and I had to give her to Matt to hold and try to calm her. Nothing was working to calm her, understandably.

first cast at hospital - matt

We had a whole team of nurses and doctors coming to check on us and try and help get Nora settled.  She was unhappy with everything, including the IV in her hand.  She was constantly trying to pull it off.  The nurses finally said her vitals were ok and they could remove the IV and we moved back into her hospital room.  She wasn’t happy there either.  She wanted juice, then she didn’t want juice, she wanted popsicles, then she didn’t.  We found walking the halls was the best we thing we could do to keep her calm.  Matt and I took turns carrying her around.  She was heavy.

We still had to get an x-ray.  They wanted to see just how much correction they were able to get with her in the cast.  After a good hour or more we made our way to radiology.  Forcing her to stand in a position she didn’t want to for her x-ray just upset her even more.  It was becoming clear at this point she didn’t want to see anyone in scrubs. We soon learned that before her cast was on her curve was at 58 degrees, in the cast they were able to correct it to about 37 degrees.  This was great news.

Nora x-ray - first cast 2
(look at that correction in the cast!)

As we made our way back to her room, she was still so unhappy and I noticed her left arm and hand seemed red and slightly puffy.  The nurses took a look and didn’t know why.  They called to have a resident come down and look.  Of course that took awhile and I was starting to get nervous.  We also noticed at this time the cast seemed too high under her arms and she couldn’t put her arms down very well.  They told us we would need to trim her cast.  They also said that first casts can be tricky and trimming isn’t uncommon.  They finally determined her hand was ok but it was time to trim this cast.

She was very leery of anyone coming near her, she didn’t trust anyone.  And now there were five doctors and nurses in our room ready to trim this cast.  This became the worst part of the day. By far the worst and the hardest part of the day.  We laid her down on the bed, she’s screaming.  The cast trimming and removal machine was turned on.  Anyone who’s ever had a cast taken off knows it’s loud.  The entire team and Matt and I are holding her down…pinning her down while they cut the thick plaster cast and the padding around it under her arms.  It was taking an eternity and my sweet baby is screaming terrified, “help me!” screams.  I was losing it.  I looked at Matt, scared, mad, angry and terrified myself.

While holding her down and trying to soothe and reassure my baby while simutaneously trying to help the team cut and tear away at casting material, I started thinking of a scene from the movie Terms of Endearment.  It’s a scene where Shirley McClain’s daughter is in the hospital in dire pain waiting for her pain shot that she has to wait till 10:00 for. It’s finally 10:00 time but the staff isn’t bringing it to her, Shirley’s character asks nicely several times and no one’s bringing the shot.  Soon she’s running the halls screaming “Give my daughter her shot!”  Here’s the clip from that scene  http://youtu.be/plqzeUB9B-w

I felt just like that.  I wanted to scream, “Stop! Enough is enough!” I was fighting it so hard.  Looking back and knowing what I know now, I wish I had said stop and figured out a new strategy.   When it was over Nora was exhausted, exhausted from all of it.  She collapsed in Matt’s arms, so happy to have her dad comfort her.  We were all exhausted.  Thankfully, we got to leave about an hour after that.

car seat image

We were happy to be home, but we were very nervous.  Nervous on how to handle all this, what to expect from her and how to adjust, she was still sleepy from anesthesia and the trauma of it all.  We all laid down to take a nap together, but I couldn’t sleep.

Shortly after her nap she wanted to walk around and do the things she had before but she was a bit uneasy on her feet and was still adjusting to the weight and position of her torso. She had a couple spills, but soon figured it out.  But she wanted to be left alone much of that afternoon.  It was as if she didn’t trust anyone. Who could blame her.  That, too, was very hard for me. Not to be able to comfort your child when they need it the most.   There were so many tears that day.

That night she slept in our bed with us.  It was a restless night and we soon realized how cuddling with our child had changed not to mention sleeping with her too.  Getting hit or bumped with that cast hurts.

The next day, Nora was back to being Nora.  It was amazing!  She was laughing, bouncing around, adjusting to her new hardware.  And we were adjusting as well to all the new challenges we faced.  It’s really true, kids are very resilient and adapt so much better than we adults would.  It was incredible to see how quickly all-in-all she adjusted.

unnamed

This video below was taken about 4 days after she got her cast, for anyone out there worried about how their little one will adjust and handle having a cast on, you have to see this video.  This will make you smile, laugh and feel some reassurance that your little one will be ok. This, in part, makes it all worthwhile.  http://youtu.be/ueeOTdRFt2o