My daughter Sophie is four-years-old and she’s just like any other girl her age except for the part where she’s much cuter and far more gifted. I don’t get to play with my kids much during the week but on the weekends we go to our cottage where I can really focus on Magna-Tiles, papier maché and midget tossing.
I throw my kids around like rag dolls. I’ll set up the bed with a duvet and all the pillows in the house and just throw Sophie and her two-year-old brother Duncan into the pile like I’m taking out the trash. It’s fun watching them soar and the faces they make mid-air are priceless.
On a recent tossing expedition, I mixed it up by jumping off the bed with Sophie while holding her hand. We’d both land at about the same time as her brother screamed, “Do dat ta me!” This new co-jumping sport proved to be even funner than the throwing until the time I jerked my daughter’s arm too hard on the upswing and she landed looking distraught. “You broke my arm” she said letting it fall limp by her side. “All right Sophie,” I said rolling my eyes “I broke it.” I did air quotes over the “broke” because she always says that. When she’s tired she says her “legs are broken,” when she has a headache she says her “head is broken,” and if she’s hungry, her “stomach is broken.” This was more of the same though I couldn’t help but notice her acting was better than usual.
Sophie opted out of the next few throws so I focused on catapulting Icharus as high as I could without melting his wings. After he hogged maybe five turns in a row, I asked my daughter what was up. “You broke my arm” she repeated sticking to her story and holding it in an L-shape.
I think it’s important to foster a child’s imagination even if they’re full of shit so I got some white paper and crumpled it around her arm with blue painter’s tape. She made little “ow” sounds as I affixed the tape and I started to get a little worried. This was on some Oscar-level shit and she usually gives up acting about five minutes into the bit.
Sophie continued to nurse her broken arm for another hour and a half until it was bedtime. She didn’t complain if the arm wasn’t budged but I’ve broken my arm before and that’s how it works. There’s that one magic spot where you can hide from the pain and to leave it is to get a jolt that feels like your being tazed.
As I lay my daughter in her bed, she held her paper cast and started barking “Ow! Ow! Ow!” like a panicked Chihuahua. I moved her arm into its magic spot and she immediately ceased complaining. A few minutes later, she was asleep.
Now, at this point, any responsible parent would take their kid to the ER. I could have done that. I could have dragged her out of bed into the car, driven the twenty minutes to Bon Secours hospital in Port Jervis (AKA “Bon Voyage”) and then waited for three to five hours as she tried to sleep on my lap. Instead, I turned to the studio audience, my wife, and said, “There’s got to be a better way.”
She grabbed her computer and went on to a wonderful message board called Youbemom. The site is made up of hundreds of (mostly New York) moms commenting at light speed and answering questions with the ferocity of a caring mob. Ask how long to leave a pork roast in the oven and within seconds you’ll get “If it’s a pound, do 30 minutes but make sure the internal temp is 170˚.” We told the computer genies about our daughter’s arm and “Nanny’s elbow” popped up within the minute. Then Google told us the name comes from angry nannies yanking toddler’s arms so hard they dislocate the elbow. It’s also called “radial head subluxation.” Apparently the gunk that holds the joints in place isn’t well formed at that age and it’s pretty easy to rip it out of the socket.
I ran to our neighbor who is an anesthesiologist. I explained the problem and he said, “How the fuck should I know? I’m an anesthesiologist.” Then he told me not to go to Bon Secours because he’s on call there and doesn’t want to treat her. I’m not sure if he said this because he doesn’t want his neighbor’s kids to be traumatized by the sight of his face or because he’s just lazy. At any rate, I put “thanks” in air quotes and ran back home.
Using the Internet as a substitute for the hospital is what terrible parents do but I wasn’t prepared to give up on it just yet. After all, it had done better than a guy who studied medicine for twelve fucking years. Soon YouTube was showing me videos depicting “Nursemaid’s Elbow Extraction.” Apparently, you sort of grab the arm below the shoulder with one hand and then hold the kid’s palm with the other as you pull and twist her hand back up to her shoulder. It’s excruciating for a tenth of a second and then… serenity. The videos showed kids screaming in horror as their arm was pulled up and then switching to a blissful smile immediately after.
I decided to wake Sophie up and give self-taught pediatrics a try. My wife and I sat her up like she was the daughter of the guy in Weekend at Bernie’s and began the procedure. As I pulled her hand down and then up, she went from wobbling half conscious – to screaming bloody murder – to back asleep. The whole thing must have lasted three seconds.
As she lay there, I tried moving the troubled arm. Before the procedure, even touching it made her shriek. Now it was flopping around like all her other limbs. So I went to bed. It wasn’t over but it was almost over.
In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, fellow Canuck Rick Moranis and Mr. Kotter’s wife go to sleep knowing their kids are still miniature and lost in the garden. I would NEVER do that. If my kids were Shrank, I’d keep looking until I found them – even if I had to do meth to stay awake. This was different. I wasn’t sleeping while ants and bees considered devouring my children. I was sleeping while the children were nestled all snug in their beds. Besides, it takes a long time for a broken arm to heal wrong. That’s why you have to wear a cast for six weeks.
The next morning, my daughter bounded into our room like it was Christmas morning. She was back to her old, gifted self again. I was relieved and happy I hadn’t wasted the night at ER surrounded by the People of WalMart who usually frequent rural American hospitals. “The Internet cured her” my wife said tired and a little self-conscious. “What happens upstate stays upstate” I replied and we vowed never to tell a soul, ever.
Originally published at Bunch Family