When good holidays go bad!

Firstly, I just want to thank each and everyone of you for your countless messages, WhatsApps, DM’s and prayers for our darling Soph, I cannot tell you how touched we have been to be ‘carried’ through such a traumatic time by so many special people. Daily check-ins, wishes and messages even when I haven’t had the time or energy to reply to the previous ones – I’m blown away, thank you. I thought it would be easier putting it all down here than replying to so many messages – so here it is. If you follow me, you’ll know what happened, but otherwise, here’s the story of Soph’s unfortunate incident.

We flew down to Cape Town on Oli’s birthday to meet up with our family and were having the most wonderful time until Friday. We decided to visit Plaas Kombuis in the Hemel en Aarde Valley as they had a kids play area (something the kids were desperate for after all the rain) so that’s where we ventured. We always sit as close to the kids area as possible wherever we go. And normally one of us goes out to check out the area first, but in this instance, I sat down to quickly scan the menu to order for the kids as they’d been complaining that they were starving. I checked the menu, told Dyl what to order and turned to get up and that’s when I saw Soph crying at the top of the wooden jungle gym. Rushing outside I asked what had happened and she seemed more concerned her beanie was off and on the grass below the monkey bars. Grabbing her off the jungle gym I asked her again what had happened (Oli was around the corner ‘talking’ to the doves in the aviary) she said she fell off the monkey bars. My heart sunk.

Swinging about five minutes after her fall. You can see her broken arm is lower on the handle.

Monkey bars (as important as they are for children to master) are one of the leading causes of broken bones as the nurse in the ER later told me. I can name a few close friend’s children who have had broken bones as a result of just this. I scanned the playground again and noticed just how high up those monkey bars were. No thick mat underneath like she is used to at school. She was cradling her right arm but no longer crying and said she was fine, and wanted to play some more. I sat there and watched her play, all the while praying it was just a sprain or a bruise. A little while later my sister arrived, who happens to be a paediatric nurse, and she checked her wrist and hand (that she kept cradling, it looked fine) so she played on, ate pancakes washed down with sweet apple juice and perked up. I asked every ten minutes after she still cradled her hand, “are you sure you’re okay, where are you sore?” – each time she pleaded she was fine. You know that feeling in your gut when you know something is wrong – well, that feeling wouldn’t go away.

Still playing, broken hand cradling the small bucket of sand and digging with her left hand.

When we got back to the cottage she played with bubbles, her cousin and even tried to play frisbee – all the while with her left hand, not a peep of a complaint. At about 4pm (keeping in mind she fell at 11:00) I convinced her to take off her multiple layers for us to see her arm and immediately I saw the swelling on the bone above her elbow, on the inside of her arm. Not once had she showed us where it was sore and we just assumed the wrist as that was what she was cradling and a common reflex when falling is to stick your hand out to break your fall. It was time for the ER. Thankfully Hermanus has a Mediclinic in town that my Grandpa had been to years ago when he got sick down on holiday too and we rushed her there. By this time my Mommy guilt had overtaken and I was a blubbering mess. I knew I should have looked sooner. I knew I should have gone to check out the playground first. I knew better than to have ignored my gut instinct. But none of this would help me know and we just had to get through this and do whatever we could for Soph. Being a Public Holiday, the ER was madness. Paramedics rushing patients in, the room a whirr of buzzing and beeping machines and only then did it become a little overwhelming for my Bugg. She was scared. I was scared. As a mother there is nothing you wouldn’t do for your child, which includes taking away and easing any of their pain, and here I was helpless. The doctor checked her out, and with each “is it sore here?” touch she said no. Of course she did. This child is a soldier. When they got to the humerus and touched gently she still replied ‘no’ but there was a curt telling sign as she twisted her neck. There. We were sent for x-rays, putting on a brave face and entertaining everyone waiting their turn (by now the pain meds had kicked in – this involved a lot of singing – the one patient even said to her nurse how much she was enjoying the ‘show’. We met a kind Australian man and his cousin who had been involved in car accident earlier and he chatted to Soph all about his niece that was her age and how brave she was being. Once the x-rays were done I asked the radiologist what she had seen of which she replied ‘I can’t tell you”. I knew it was bad. Back in the ER the doctor read her x-rays and came through immediately to say she was calling the Orthopaedic Surgeon in as this was now an emergency.

Still smiling in the ER

As a result of the fall, Soph had a supracondylar fracture with the bone being displaced (an injury to the humerus, or upper arm bone, at its narrowest point, just above the elbow). It also happens to be a dangerous break because it can result in nerve injury, impaired circulation and permanent damage. The Surgeon arrived within ten minutes and we were already getting prepped for surgery. Buggy insisted I don’t leave her side so off I was wheeled to the operating theatre with her on her bed, all the while she’s happily shouting ‘chooo chooo, we’re on our way’ telling the obliging nurse she was Thomas The Tank Engine. Passing medical professionals joined in on the action and the angst at arriving at the theatre calmed down. We met the team that would be operating on her – each bringing her a balloon glove smiley face which she thought was pretty incredible. When it was time for the mask to get her to sleep, we each got one – hers, connected to the good stuff and covered in multiple stickers, mine, for sympathy. She fought the gas like it was nobody’s business and watching her arch her back, kick her legs and thrash around was one of the worst things I have ever had to see. Watching your child be forced to sleep was horrific. As was leaving her in the (very capable) hands of four strangers for a hour while I sat alone outside the operating theatre. Dyl was at the cottage with Oli which I knew was just as important – I knew he would be out of his mind worrying about his precious sister. That was possibly the longest hour of my life. Staring blankly at the closed doors in front of me I nearly didn’t notice the friendly Australian and his cousin walking past, until they were sitting next to me and I was sobbing. Sobbing for not being able to protect my child, the unknown and just being plain scared. I have no idea what your names even were but thank you. That’s when the doors finally opened and the doctor came out to explain what had gone on and that it was a success. Three K-wires were inserted through an incision, sturdy – but because of the precarious position with the nerves the next 3-4 weeks would be crucial and she would have to be extra careful.

She battled to wake up after the anaesthesia. She fought, moaned and cried. I slept in a bed pushed up against hers and finally at around 1am she woke up needing the loo. She also desperately wanted her drip out, but that had to stay until the morning. Going to the loo I noticed in the light how swollen her eyelids were – some kind of allergic reaction to the tape over her eyes in surgery, but that cleared up on Day 2.

What an absolute champ this child of ours is. Her Surgeon said she was the strongest four-year-old he had ever seen – yep, that’s our Buggy. Resilient, adaptable and cheerful despite everything. Asking her about the hospital trip, she raves about being able to have breakfast in bed, not how scared she was or how traumatic it was. About the interesting people she met and the various injuries she saw. I’m definitely the more traumatised of the two, that’s for sure. I wish I was half as brave. We still had two days left in Hermanus after being released and Soph took full advantage, or as best as she could, of those two days – collecting shells, ‘adventuring’ and learning to use her left hand – even building a puzzle.

So, where are we at now? She has an appointment with another Orthopaedic Surgeon on Thursday, with new x-rays to check the positioning and circulation and then we’ll find out what the next month holds and when the surgery will be to remove the wires. Once the wires are out her arm needs to straighten on its own, but we’ll still need to discuss the treatment plan. Until then, there’s no school, no ballet, Playball – nothing that can jar her at all and lessen the possibilities of her being bumped in the busy school corridors. This is one of those moments I’m incredibly grateful I work from home. Please continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers, although she’s been a real trooper, she gets easily frustrated not being able to use her right hand, not being able to open a can of Play-Doh alone or eat her cereal un-aided. And clothes! She has nothing that fits over her cast! The cast is also joined so can’t go into a sleeve and her sling stays on 24/7. I think we need some bigger, warm tops and lots of ideas of how to entertain her for so long at home!

Praying this season passes quickly with little to no pain and that the next surgery and healing is just as successful. Thank you again to everyone who has rallied around her, around us, we are eternally grateful. Also, we’re very happy for some holiday options to redo this trip!

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