First of all, thank you to everyone who sent us love, prayers and support over the last two weeks. We appreciate it so much! I’m sorry if I haven’t personally connected with a message or well wish you sent, it’s been an overwhelming couple of weeks. We just kind of stepped away from everything for a lot of reasons. Second, before I share what happened please know that it is not my intention to make this about me or my PTSD, I’m actually very hypersensitive to that. I don’t want my child that is hurting to ever have to worry about how I am coping or handling something. I just want them to be able to count on me, no matter what. I wanted to focus on him, his needs, his pain and making sure he was ok. That being said, the reality is that setting foot back in a hospital for the first time since our trauma 2.5 years ago was like a living hell for me. I did it for Jonah’s sake. I did hard things. This is our reality but it also feels very vulnerable to share. If you think I’m making this about myself, please show some grace and keep that opinion to yourself. That would help me a lot as we are all practicing a lot of self care right now.
We have been looking forward to visiting Acadia National Park since we decided to start traveling full-time almost 2 years ago. We were super excited to finally arrive on August 14, 2019 for a week long stay. We pulled in to our campground, Narrows Too, got set up and immediately drove over to the visitor’s center to get the lay of the land. We knew we would hit the park first thing the next day. We went home, had dinner and decided to go down to the water’s edge at our campground to watch the sunset and take a few photos. Jonah and I went outside first, Taryn and Jude soon followed. Just then, Jonah tripped over a large rock in our site and immediately started screaming. The thing is, I’ve seen him fall way harder than this fall, but he fell in just the wrong way and severely broke his arm. His forearm was completely bent. I turned to tell Jason because I thought he was right there. I’m not so good in moments of panic anymore, I wanted to retreat, run away, but I caught myself and corrected. Jason wasn’t standing behind me like I thought he was. I ran to Jonah, picked him up and sat him in my lap trying to stabilize his arm. I whispered that he was going to be ok, I was going to stay with him and that as soon as his adrenaline and body got the message of his injury, that it would hurt a little less, he only needed to wait a moment or so and try to stay still. We quickly loaded everyone up in the truck and tried to locate the closest hospital with the help of a few RV neighbors that ran over to assist. There aren’t a ton of services in the area, we called urgent care, they said no, ER. Later, after finding out the extent of his injury, we were thankful we didn’t start at urgent care. Off we went.
I don’t remember much about the ride there, but I do know that we tried to keep Jonah calm and still. I had arnica in my purse and gave him a dose. And I know that if felt like the 30 minute drive was taking hours. I was also dreading what I knew was about to happen, I was going to have to enter the hospital upon arrival. Neither Jason or I was sure if I could make that happen once we got there. I wanted to. I needed to. But my brain is still sick and we just weren’t sure when the moment came how it would go. I knew this day would come eventually, sometimes hospitals are necessary and needed. But that didn’t make it easy for me. I did it. I ran inside, got a wheelchair and wheeled my little boy inside. My feet wanted to refuse, my brain was screaming on the inside not to do it. Don’t go in there! But I did. I wish I could say from there it got easier, but it did not. Fairly quickly we realized that this is not a hospital we would want to be at. They assessed him, took an x-ray, asked the same questions over and over again, zero bedside manner, didn’t speak to Jonah, only about him. Then a PA walks by the room and asks when Jonah last ate, they need to intubate him…..WHAT?! WAIT! We are here for a broken arm. Are you telling us that our son needs surgery?! His response…”oh, uh, yeah, no one told you yet?” Then an anesthesiologist comes in to start talking to us about putting him under general and we were baffled, we had not even seen a single doctor or ortho yet! The anesthesiologist was surprised by that too and abruptly left. We wait. And wait. The PA comes in and he doesn’t speak very good english, so we have to ask him to repeat almost everything he says. He gets frustrated and starts yelling at us, waving his hands around and Jason had to ask him to stop. We requested the charge nurse and a patient advocate, neither shows up. Again, we ask a nurse if we can see the doctor assigned to Jonah’s case. She mutters he’ll never do a surgery this late and leaves. He finally shows up and gives us a very firm, he needs surgery asap because he not only broke both bones in his arm, they also twisted. We are never shown an x-ray, even after asking multiple times. We go back and forth about anesthesia because both Jude and I have had negative reactions, require much more than is typically administered and breakthrough it. We didn’t know if that would be the case with Jonah going in so we wanted everyone to be aware. A part of my c-section trauma was feeling the surgery because the anesthesia stopped working no matter how much they gave me. So finally both the anesthesiologist and ortho surgeon come in at the same time so we can all be on the same page.
My first question to them: can we try a reduction first under conscious sedation? Y’all, he looked at the ground, kicked his feet and pretended he didn’t know what we were talking about! I was FLOORED. He would not answer us. Just said we needed to schedule surgery for the next day “because you don’t want the night crew working on your baby”. All I could say was “then why do they work here?!” He just shrugged and said call the charge nurse in the morning to schedule the surgery and don’t let your kid eat before then. It was seriously the weirdest interaction with medical professionals. We couldn’t get answers for many of our questions, they never spoke to Jonah. They put up a fight about one of us staying with Jonah. Instinctually, everything about it felt wrong and off. I kept checking in with Jason to make sure my instincts weren’t off in the situation because I really didn’t want to be there. He agreed this was crap care. They gave him some Motrin, put his arm in a flimsy split and we took that opportunity to get the hell out of there. We have 5 kids and this is our families 3rd broken arm. If we were first timers I’m afraid we would have agreed to the surgery with people who were not looking out for Jonah’s best interest. We wouldn’t have known to ask for the reduction. Taryn had one, so we knew it was possible.
Before he was even discharged we researched and found the closest children’s hospital about 3 hours away. We made the decision to go home and sleep for a few hours, we had all 4 kids with us, it was 3 am and we were all just beyond exhausted. During all of this Zachary cried for at least 3 hours, it was awful. Jason frequently had to step out with him so I could talk to the staff and hear over the screaming. If you are a Big Bang Theory fan, you will understand how Taryn is in hospitals, she’s a Sheldon. Germs are not her thing!
We went home, but that wasn’t easy. Jonah, Jude and I all had a hard time seeing the scene of the accident. I didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want the kids feeding off of it. Jude mentioned it first, he had a really hard time and kept telling me he wished he wouldn’t have seen it happen. Then as we walked past the area to get inside, Jonah mentioned it as well. It was a pretty rough few moments after the accident. We got inside and slept for a few hours, got everyone up and I called the Ortho office attached to the children’s hospital. The Pedi Ortho’s nurse was amazing, she requested his records, put them in front of the doctor and called me back within a half hour. He felt Jonah should have a reduction before jumping in to a surgery (yes, instincts!). He suggested we head that way and go through the ER for the fastest care. They were wonderful and so efficient and helpful! We packed up the RV in a mad rush, Jason had to go get gas while the big kids and I packed up and pulled in all the slides. We did everything we could to manage Jonah’s pain, then we secured him as best we could with pillows around his booster seat to elevate his arm. And we hightailed it to Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, Maine. We arrived at an RV park 15 minutes of the hospital, dropped the RV, grabbed some food and rushed to ER number 2 in the last 24 hours.
I walked through the doors of ER #2 without as much hesitation. I knew I could do it this time. I was so concerned about our last ER experience and praying so hard this wouldn’t be a repeat. I just wanted Jonah to be ok, we needed to get his arm set. My heart sank when the receptionist said we were #101 in line. It was a very busy place with a lot of sick people, mostly adults, in front of us. Thankfully, because they were expecting us, we were taken back in less than 15 minutes!
The difference in care was night and day. Step one was manage pain, then they assigned a child life specialist to Jonah. She was in charge of making sure he understood everything. She got on his level, interacted with him, always called him by name and was just awesome overall. She turned on a movie for the kids, brought Jonah a stuffed animal, coloring pages and even included Zachary (who was in a much better mood this go around) by bringing him a bear and a sticker book (his fave). Every person that came in introduced themselves, they were kind and compassionate. Just a totally different experience. The Ortho came in and agreed that it was best to try a reduction under conscious sedation first because it was less invasive. If it didn’t work, we could talk surgery. Outside of the fall and break itself, the hardest part of all of this was the IV. Jonah is a pretty tough kid and not much bothers him. He’s never had blood drawn or anything so the needles were hard for him. His dedicated child life specialist came in ahead of time and explained everything at a 6 year old level so he could understand. She let him hold and touch an IV kit and then they put it on his new stuffed animal. He got to do it himself and that definitely helped him be less scared about it when it was his turn. It still wasn’t easy, my poor little guy has deep veins and it took 3 tries. But he was so brave through the tears, he did it.
They agreed to let one of us go with Jonah during the procedure, not something they always do. They understood our previous hospital trauma and anesthesia issues and were totally supportive. Jason and I decided that it’d be best for him to go with Jonah. Even with better care, just the sights, sounds and smells were difficult for me. I’m glad we made that decision. As we walked toward the procedure room, I got to the threshold and it looked exactly like an OR. My feet stopped me at that threshold. I couldn’t move forward. I felt frozen. Jonah was laying on the bed and I wanted to go in so badly. The nurse in charge of the procedure paused with me, aware of our trauma. She put her arm around me, turned my shoulders, made eye contact with me and promised to take the absolute best care of him. Then she gave me a hug. That is exactly what I needed. I walked in to that room, kissed my baby and told him his Daddy would be there every minute and I’d be right across the hall. I told him he would be ok and I’d see him soon. At this point he wasn’t in a lot of pain, thankfully. The nurse later told me that they ask kids to think of a happy memory where they play and have fun because some kids have hallucinations or night terrors coming out of sedation and in the days after. This is apparently reduced if they are happy while going under. She said most kids talk about the park or their yard at home, not Jonah, he talked about playing at Yellowstone! They were so enamored by that! Ha!
The reduction was a success! It took a lot to get the twisted bones back in place and they think one broke further, but we knew that was likely and a risk with a reduction. It wasn’t perfectly aligned, but because he’s young, they feel the new growth will straighten out. They put a much better, more sturdy, splint on him and got him set up in a sling. Our main focus was to manage his pain, get his swelling down and keep him still and mostly sedentary. If you know Jonah that last task was no small challenge. That boy does not slow down for anything! We were really concerned about him tripping and using that arm to catch himself, or even just bumping it a little. He’s SO active! Our hope was that if we could get the swelling down enough he’d get a cast on one week later. We jumped in to bone healing food and supplements, natural pain relief on top of Motrin, immune support. We had to move out of the park close to the hospital, it was expensive and we weren’t planning on that money being spent. This has actually been a huge financial hit for us. More on that soon as it’ll likely change our plans, Jason needs to get a new job. Stationary or remote, we have no idea at this point but he’s been sending out resumes daily for 2 weeks. We moved to a free park in southern New Hampshire for 10 days because we couldn’t get in to the Thousand Trails closer to Portland until then. It was a pain to drive back and forth for care but we are super thankful for fellow full-time family friends, the Kimball Family, who helped with the kids. Lots of snuggles, movies, audiobooks and board games later we returned to the Orthopedic Surgeon in Portland, Maine in hopes of a cast. Thankfully, his arm still looked in position to heal even after a few painful bumps during the week. His swelling looked great, better than expected (thank you turmeric and dandelion!). But the break was so bad they weren’t willing to remove the splint until it showed signs of regrowth. Jonah was super bummed to have to wait another week to get his cast and a little more freedom. He was unable to get in his bunk bed with the splint, getting in and out of the truck is a challenge and he needs help doing a lot of everyday things. He really wanted that cast. We came home thankful for no surgery though, because if it had moved that was a possibility. My mom sent him a fun box of games and markers to help pass the time. And we waited another week.
Today was his 2 week followup and he got his cast!! Finally! He’s super pumped! He gets a bit more freedom now, nothing extreme, but with it more secure he can move around more! 🙌🏻 He will be in it for 3+ weeks before we go back for more x-rays to check healing. We are in Wells, Maine for the next week and then we head back to Acadia for 2 weeks. We will definitely request a different site this time. We are all thankful that we still get the chance to visit Acadia (minus anything involving sand or water). Then we will come back to Portland for continued care and hopefully we can get the cast removed here. While we could technically do that somewhere else, we are so confident in his care providers, we’d like to stay with them until the cast comes off. We don’t use conventional medicine often, we are a pretty natural family, so to have had a great experience we didn’t have to fight for, is a big deal. Hospitals don’t usually understand or like our lifestyle. I’ll even say that this was a little healing for our family. All of us experienced trauma in one way or another 2.5 years ago. This was redemptive. This hospital was amazing. They treated Jonah so well, I don’t have a single complaint about his care there. And they showed so much compassion for Jason and I – knowing it was a struggle for us just being there.
The funny thing is, Jonah is genuinely surprised he broke his arm. Literally no one else is. We knew it would happen eventually. He’s just that busy, daredevil, adrenaline seeking kid. Why is he so surprised? He thinks he’s invincible! We’ve had so many conversations about it just being an accident. It wasn’t a bad choice. It just happened. He has a lot of people that love him. And we all got through it together.