Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Broken Arm

So, it's Tuesday. I go to work for an hour, than pick up M and go to the orthopedic clinic. We wait there for 3 hours; the first two in the big crowded waiting room and the last one in the "cast room", which we share, first with a young couple who talk incessantly on their cel phones, rarely to each other, then with a family of serious rednecks who at least are entertaining. The nurse keeps saying that it should only be 20 more minutes. It isn't. During the first hour, I have to leave and go get the X rays from radiology. It has not occurred to any of the various doctors that the orthopedist might need them, so I drive over there and get the films. This actually happens faster than they say it is going to, and I am so grateful I almost cry. M reads Sports Illustrated, I read the April 2004 Vanity Fair and my mother, who has joined us there, reads Birds and Blooms.

I forgot my cigarettes & as a consequence I get nastier and nastier - also, hungrier & hungrier. Finally I drive to a store for cigs and then to Subway where I get takeout & bring it back to the cast room. This, naturally, summons the doctor at last.

He doesn't apologize for our over 3 hour wait, but he is otherwise nice. M has really done it this time: the break is bad; the bone is misaligned. The X-rays make me wince; the jagged edge of bone angled past the other half is really awful and makes me want to pass out or drink brandy or something else Victorian. Given M's advanced age (13.5) there are several treatment options; we opt for the middle one, which is to put it in a full cast and watch it carefully, hoping it realigns itself. If it doesn't, there will have to be surgery, a pin will be put in, or plates and a pin. The doctor suggests we get a second opinion and calls a pediatric orthopedic specialist. Then they put a cast on M. He is terrifyingly brave as they try to realign the bone; I have to leave the room. The cast is pink and black: very 80s London, I tell him comfortingly. Very retro cool.

Finally, 4 or so hours after we got there, we can leave. We pay them nothing - it will all come in giant bills eventually, especially since he now has to come back once a week for more X-rays.

The pediatric orthopedist's office is barren and cold. It's pouring outside now, and we gobbled our Subway sandwiches in the few blocks between orthopedist's offices. M reads Highlights, I read Parenting. We break down and analyze Goofus and Gallant; it makes no sense. M suggests a strongly worded letter to the editor. Children with serious problems come and go in the waiting room; I feel sad. Then we are taken to this doctor's cast room to wait some more: he offers plaster in camouflage, flowers, stars and bars, and a strange pastel pattern of random stripey things, and M is jealous. Finally we see the doctor, who is pleasant and concurs with our decision to wait and see. He talks a lot about how the bone in M's arm should be "as God made it." I want to say, Hey! God had nothing to do with it! I made that arm myself! but I'm too smart - and exhausted - to say anything.

M asked the doctor casually if it was still okay for him to go canoeing in Florida for 8 days, leaving on Thursday. The doctor starts to laugh and I like him more than I did. No way, he tells Miles. Absolutely not. And not much fun this summer either. So much for camp, I think. What is he going to do? He can't even play video games.

I asked both doctors: why does he keep breaking this arm? Is there a bone density issue? Does he need calcium? What's going on here? Bad luck, they told me. High energy and bad luck - there's nothing really wrong with him and his bones are fine.

Great. Poor M. Poor me. This had better be the last time, I tell him, or I'll cut that damn arm off myself.

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