Dean's arm

Here's Dean's big news of the day.

And now, the back story.

Last Thursday, Kent and Dean were both at the top of our slide in the back yard. Kent had mentioned that he wanted to slide down with Dean on his lap, something I've helped them do in the past, but I told him he just needed to wait his turn this time. Kent was mad at me for that, and then he got frustrated that Dean wasn't sliding down right away, so he started to nudge him. I was sitting several feet away, watching what was happening, and I called out to Kent not to push Dean because he might fall. Kent looked right at me, nudged Dean again, and Dean lost his balance, toppled over the side of the slide, and fell flat on the ground below.

Maybe the back story should start earlier. 15 months ago, Kent got a baby brother. He didn't know what to do with him, or with us when we weren't paying attention to him. When Dean started to sit up, Kent started getting aggressive, pushing him over, hitting him on the head with things... he never seems to want to hurt Dean, at least not in a "I hate this baby" kind of way, but maybe in a "I want Mom and Dad to notice me" kind of way. He's had a lot of trouble controlling his impulses to hurt him. A lot of trouble. My reactions probably don't help, because I'm really inconsistent: some days, I can handle it calmly and try to give Kent the benefit of the doubt and teach him, whereas other days, I totally lose it and scream at him because I'm just so sick of him hurting his brother. I went through a period of several months when I felt like I couldn't even leave the two of them alone together, because if I even went to the bathroom while Kent was watching TV and Dean was in the room with him, Dean would suddenly be on his back crying and Kent would be telling me very calmly that he had just pushed Dean over. If last Thursday had been the first, or one of only a few, times that Kent had hurt Dean, I'm sure I would have handled it differently, but after I watched Dean fall three feet to the ground, I immediately leapt up and screamed at Kent to get in the house while I scooped up Dean and tried to figure out what might have happened to him or what he fell on (his head, his back, his arm... it was all a blur).

I worried first that he might have a concussion, but he didn't have any of the traditional symptoms and woke up about every hour that night, so I stopped worrying about that pretty quickly. The next morning, while I was in a near stupor from lack of sleep, Jack noticed that Dean was very reluctant to use his right arm, not wanting to put any weight on it when he was sitting, even though he was still using his hand to grab things. I was flying to North Carolina that morning for a wedding on Saturday, so in the twenty minutes before I was going to leave for the airport, I was trying to figure out whether I should even go, or whether I just needed to skip the whole trip and take Dean to the doctor. Jack tried to reassure me that Dean's injury didn't seem too bad, and that I could take him to the ER once I got to North Carolina if he still seemed to need it, so I got on the plane with Dean. Jack and Kent were staying home for the weekend, and I was honestly relieved to have some time away from Kent so that I could cool down and get some perspective on him.

Dean and I had our merry little jaunt to Winston-Salem for my cousin Beth's wedding, and the trip would have been marvelous if Dean hadn't been so fussy and sad. I thought it was mostly the travel and all the new people, though I kept thinking something must be wrong with his joints or something. I thought if he had a broken bone, it would have been much more obvious, so that couldn't have been it. He was also feverish on Saturday and Sunday, so I was giving him Tylenol and praying he wasn't getting yet another ear infection.

Babies and pre-verbal toddlers are such a mystery, really. There's so much I know about Dean, so much I can tell from his moods, gestures, signs, and syllables, but there's so much I don't know that I'm really yearning to find out. I felt like I was getting to know Kent in a totally different way when his language exploded and he was suddenly labeling everything, and I want that with Dean. It would have been particularly helpful this weekend, but that's not who he is yet, so we deal with who he is in this moment.

Dean and I got home late Sunday night, and his fever seemed much better. I stopped giving him Tylenol. I was still wondering about his arm, but I wanted to wait another day to get acclimated to being back home. Monday and Tuesday passed with him acting okay, but not great. He didn't want to use that arm very much, but again, I was mostly thinking that he'd be in a lot more pain, and I'd be able to see something obviously wrong with his body, if it were broken. This morning, though, he was very upset and was pulling at his ears a lot, so I figured if I was going to take him to the doctor, I might as well do it today and get his ears and arm looked at all at once.

Our appointment was at 11:30, right after I picked up Kent from school, so I had brought some granola bars with us because I figured lunch would be a while away. The doctor confirmed that both ears were infected, then sent us to radiology to have Dean's arm x-rayed. Kent and I watched through the glass as a stranger-averse and screaming Dean got x-rays, with one tech holding him while another took the pictures. I explained to Kent what was happening, and his curiosity about the whole thing was satisfied when they were able to show him one of the pictures on their computer. He's very into skeletons, so he thought it was interesting. Dean also needed to have blood drawn to check his hemoglobin, which I would have done at his 15-month checkup last week except that I needed to leave to pick up Kent and figured I'd just come back another day. So as long as I was in that part of the clinic, I just had them do his bloodwork, too. On the other arm, of course. Kent sat quietly on a little stool while they stuck a needle in (yes, screaming) Dean's arm to get a blood sample. Then we headed back to the ped's office to await the radiology results and talk to our doctor about the next step. She was at a meeting, but she and the nurse texted back and forth for a few minutes (I think it's funny that even doctors pull out their phones to text during a meeting), and in the meantime the nurse told me that Dean did have a fractured radius and ulna (the two bones of the forearm) and would need to see an orthopedist.

After the doctor came back, I asked if I could talk to her without Kent in the room, so she had one of her nurses ask him to come play with her. I spilled my guts about how frustrated and upset I've been about Kent's aggression toward Dean, how it seems almost constant, and how broken bones take it to a whole new level in my mind. Of course, Kent didn't actually break Dean's bones, but he was careless and refusing to listen to my warnings, and because of that, something really serious happened to Dean. It terrifies me that Dean could have just as easily gotten a brain or spinal injury if he had fallen in a different way. So our doctor (who I'm coming to love more and more) had a stern talk with Kent about how he needs to treat Dean, how someday they're going to run around together and have a wonderful time, but that Dean is so much smaller than Kent right now that Kent really needs to be careful with him. All the months of Jack and me telling him this have not stuck, obviously, so I'm desperately hoping that an authority figure might drive the point home, or that he'll just age out of it. Soon.

When we saw the doctor again, it was after 1:00, and I knew I needed some food and some co-parenting assistance, so I called Jack and told him he needed to leave work and meet us there. He took Dean home to wait for our appointment time at the orthopedic clinic, and Kent and I went to find some lunch. It was the first time in a week that I had been alone with Kent, and I really wanted to feel like I was connecting with him. He clams up any time I ask about school (totally age-appropriate), so attempts to discuss school fell flat, but I asked him about what our doctor had said to him and asked how he felt. He reiterated what she said to him, but I'm still not sure how much is sinking in. Sigh. Anyway, we enjoyed a lot of good pizza and happened to see a preview for Cars 2, which we didn't even know about, so it was a fairly light few moments in the middle of a crazy day.

Kent announced that all that pizza was making him feel tired, so I thought there was a good chance he'd want to take a nap, Jack would stay home with him, and I'd be taking Dean to ortho alone. I had posted quickly on Facebook about what was happening, and my friend Jennifer responded that she'd be glad to help if I wanted to call her, so I called her almost the moment that Kent fell asleep and asked if she'd be able to meet me at the clinic at 3 just so I'd have someone there with me. I opened the conversation by saying, "So you remember a few minutes ago when you said I should call you if I needed anything?" and she said jokingly, "Boy, you just jumped right on that one, didn't you?"

Jennifer earned the Most Dedicated Friend award today.

I got home with an asleep Kent, just in time to swap children with my husband and take Dean to get his cast. Jennifer met us at the clinic, and between filling out paperwork, paying our copay, and waiting back in the doctor's waiting area, it was an hour before we saw the orthopedist. Our pediatrician had said she wasn't sure if they'd need to do any anesthesia on Dean, so we shouldn't feed him anything just to be on the safe side, but this is a kid who eats a meal or snack about every two hours, often nursing in between, so going several hours without eating or nursing was starting to wear on him (besides the obvious physical discomfort he had already been in for several days). I paced around the office, holding him and singing to him to keep him happy, for probably 30 minutes, while everyone who had gotten there before us went back for their consultations on various broken bones. Nobody else had a screaming child.

[Are you tired yet?]

Once we saw the orthopedist, things went very quickly, and Jennifer helped carry our stuff and asked a couple of questions here and there that I hadn't thought to ask. The ortho doctor showed me the breaks on Dean's x-ray, talked to me about the cast and how we'd need to follow up with him, and then sent me straight to a nurse who'd do the cast. He was great, as was his entire staff. The nurse who put on Dean's cast was so empathetic to him, and another nurse came in to help hold his arm. They offered him a lollipop, which I was more than happy to give him even though I'd never given him one before, so he ate the lollipop, cried in between licks, and thereby drooled green sticky goop on himself and me. I also got cast goop dripped on my arm, which I'm pretty sure is going to stay there until that skin eventually sloughs off. I was in great shape by this point, let me tell you. But it was almost over (it only took about ten minutes for her to put the cast on him), and I knew he could nurse as soon as she were done and then we could get back to our lives.

So yes, they finished his cast, Jennifer sat with me and chatted about all kinds of funny things while Dean nursed, and then we did return to our lives. And I'm just going to say right now that Dean is a superstar. He is powering through everything, delighting in banging his cast on the table at dinner and already figuring out how to transfer food from his right hand to his left to get it into his mouth.

Did you notice that the cast matches his eyes? That was no accident. A mom has to focus on something like that to get through the day.

I have no idea how he'll sleep with this thing on his arm — my guess is badly — but he seems so much happier in general that we all finally clued in to what was wrong with him. He seems to actually like his cast, or at least he's relieved that his arm doesn't hurt any more. We also have antibiotics to fight his ear infection (#6, for those keeping score at home), so he's well on the way to recovery.

I am trying SO. HARD. Not to stay mad at Kent. I know things like this happen with siblings, but that doesn't make it any easier for me to figure out how to teach Kent to do better. I don't want every step of this cast episode to turn into a guilt trip. He didn't hurt him on purpose. But he did hurt him. Anyway, I hope we'll get through this with Kent having learned something. Or maybe it'll be like Danny Kaye's character in White Christmas, where Dean will just have to grab his arm and wince every time he wants something from Kent.

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Oh, Erica. (and Dean, Kent & Jack!) This sounds so hard. What a stressful experience for your family right now. Sending hugs.
hey, that was Lauren. :-)
Erica, you poor girl! What a day you had to endure, but Dean does seem to be happy with the cast. You must be so frustrated, but maybe some of this will sink in for Kent. I hope you get this problem worked out with him. You do so well with your children, and you will survive this too.
Thinking of you!
This will eventually become a family tale oft retold. One of my sisters at about the same age fell of a toilet (aggressive potty training) and broke a collar bone. Kids heal fast. Most families go through something similar. Don't beat yourself up - your handling was entirely appropriate.
I'm sorry to hear you all went through all of this! I just wanted to tell you I can totally relate to the aggressive older sibling. We have the same struggles over here. I do just what you were saying too. Sometimes i handle it well and sometimes I just lose it. I try to remind myself to notice when she is being sweet too. That helps balance it for me. I don't have any advice. I just wanted you to know I'm right there with you. I'm hoping it is just adjusting to our new life and an unpleasant but normal part of a sibling relationship. I love the doctor talk. I think I'll have to try that too! I'm glad you got it all taken care of!
What a great Dean smile in that first picture!
Erica, I am so sorry to hear that you had to face all of this, thank goodness for awesome husbands and great friends.Someday this will be one of those crazy family stories told at family gatherings. I am glad Dean is having fun with his cast, he looks just adorable! I hope his poor ears heal up quick!
Awww, poor guy. I would've never guessed anything was wrong with his arm on Sunday. He's adorable and earns a prize for being such a trooper. And you too, you're awesome.
We deal with sibling aggression the other way - Trav dislikes having an older brother. I'll let you know when they hold hands and skip through fields of wildflowers but don't hold your breath.
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