“Daddy, I need to pee.”
“OK, buddy, hang on. I’ll be right there.”
My fully potty trained, three-year-old son is lounging on his back in the corner of the living room in a borrowed bean bag chair. He cannot be bothered to get up. I grab the plastic urinal bottle out of the “potty bucket,” and get down on my knees in front of him. I undo the protective outer size-6 diaper, and pull the inner size-4 diaper from its tucked-in position. I slide the plastic urinal between the bean bag and the wooden dowel, get it into position, and tell him to go for it.
Suddenly, everything is going wrong. Pee is spraying everywhere. I frantically try to reposition the bottle, but the pee just keeps going everywhere except where it is supposed to. What is happening? Why is this not working? Why am I an idiot? I left the cap on the urinal bottle. I think we’re going to have to keep this bean bag chair.
Such is life with a groggy dad and three-year-old in a Spica cast.
Son Number Three broke his femur last weekend, and we are in the middle of week two of the Spica cast. In case you are like me and had never heard of a Spica cast before, allow me to explain. SPICA stands for Sadistic Physician’s Inconvenient Children’s Apparatus. At least, I think that’s what it stands for. They didn’t actually tell us.
Since they cannot do orthopedic surgery on small children, apparently, the only way to mend a broken thigh bone in a three-year-old is to put him in the cast equivalent of a lower-body straight jacket. He is armor-plated and immobile from his chest all the way down to his toes on the bad leg, and to mid-thigh on the good leg, with a nifty wooden dowel spreader bar attached at an angle between the two legs to keep them apart and rigid.
Our once highly mobile little boy is now basically luggage. He stays where we put him until it’s time to pick him up and move him again. Unlike a suitcase, however, his seemingly super-convenient wooden handle is strictly off limits for lifting. Plus, he yells when he gets bored. My Samsonite never does that.
Our orthopedic surgeon told us, about the cast, “If we ever come up with a better way to do this, we will. But as of right now, this is as good as it gets.”
As we were getting the tutorial on how to kinda sorta stuff a diaper up in and around the poop and pee access hatch, and then kinda sorta keep it in place with a bigger diaper around the outside of the cast, and then just sorta try to keep everything as clean as possible for the next 4 to 5 weeks, I thought to myself, “We put a man on the moon, but this is the best we as a country have to offer in the area of preschooler bone mending? I don’t think we’ve really fully applied ourselves, here.”
I guess I could put my engineering brain to work and try to come up with something more convenient, but it will have to wait. As the urinal bottle incident attests, I am not getting a whole lot of sleep lately. Just when my wife and I thought we were done with the sleepless nights of infant care and feeding, we’re suddenly back to sleeping in shifts. And the sleep we are getting is the non-satisfying light sleep that new parents and soldiers know all too well. Deep sleep never comes when your brain is busy listening for something all night.
We should be back to normal sleep in a few days. His pain level seems to be dropping off steadily, and he’s becoming his old cheery self during the days, albeit a little more hyper at times. We can’t fault him for that, though. When you cage a wild monkey, you’d better expect to hear the bars rattle.
On the first night that we were back from the hospital, I told him I was going to carry him up to his room, to which he replied, “Daddy, I don’t want to wear my cast to bed.”
He has since grasped the concept a little better, and has accepted his new reality a lot better than we thought he would. He even has a pretty good handle on the maintenance issues. His grandma and grandpa are here helping out, and the other night he announced that he had accidentally pooped in his diaper, instead of waiting for the bed pan. His grandma was the only one in the room when he made the announcement, and he looked at her concerned expression and asked, “Grandma, do you know how to do this?” When she hesitated, he said, “Go get Mommy, please.”
We can’t really leave him in the care of anyone not prepared to handle the Spica cast, which is pretty much everyone else, so his social calendar has been put on hold. He is playing hooky from preschool for the next month, and my wife’s daily gym visits have stopped abruptly. The good news on both those counts is that he is no doubt being read to more now than ever before, and his cast weighs as much as he does, so my wife is probably getting a better weightlifting workout at home.
You have to look on the bright side of things in this life. Our precious little baby boy is hurting, but we’ve received more casseroles and cookies in the last week than you can shake a stick at. Some clouds have a delicious, buttery, oven-baked lining.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen
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