Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Spica Cast, Part II

My three-year-old smells horrible. The boy reeks. He smells so bad, he’s hard to love. We are a little over two weeks into our Spica cast adventure, and it’s getting hard to take. If you do not know what a Spica cast is, please stop reading this and go back and read the “Just a Smidge” October 19th post entitled, “The Spica Cast.” We’ll wait for you.

OK, so now we’re all on the same page.

Turns out, the Spica cast on a preschooler has a few hidden logistical issues. For starters, the only parts of him that are not in the cast are half a leg, some shoulders, arms and a head. That means that almost 80-90% of his skin is under the cast. Anyone who has ever worn a cast on any amount of their skin will attest to that being a major problem from the sweat/itch/stink “trifecta of fun” standpoint.

Now, for the mostly potty-trained preschool crowd, add wet diapers to the mix, and you’ve got yourself one smelly party.

During the day, pee is not an issue (as long as the parent running the urinal bottle has their head in the game). At night, however, the diaper occasionally gets peed in during a deep sleep. If all parties involved are sleeping, that diaper can stay wet and tucked inside that cast for hours.

Mind you, the diaper is doing its job. The people at Huggies® have got super-absorbency down to a science. There are no liquids getting into the cast. But keep that wet diaper tucked inside a hot, sweaty cast for a while, and the vapors tend to migrate up into the cast lining. The result is a three-year-old with such a pungent ammonia smell about him that if you get within three feet of him, your eyes water.

We, as his family, have the ability to get away from him if we need to. He is trapped, however, with his nose six inches from the top of the cast. If he comes through this with any sense of smell left at all, it will be a miracle.

During many of the daytime hours, my youngest son can be found lying on his stomach on top of his beanbag chair, sans diaper, proudly airing out his butt. It’s not dignified, but it is necessary. Besides, he’s three, so he could care less.

There’s one other reason I’m really glad he’s only three and doesn’t have a developed sense of dignity or shame. That would be the Summer's Eve® feminine deodorant spray. My wife has been scouring the internet, reading Spica cast tips from parents who have gone through this, and feminine deodorant spray was one of the suggestions to combat the stink.

I read the directions printed on the back of the flowery pink and white aerosol spray can: “Shake well; remove cap. Hold can 8-12 inches away from your lovely lady parts, and spray away.”

I’m so glad he probably won’t remember this.

After watching my wife spraying the exact opposite parts intended for use with said deodorant, and getting a whiff of the now flowery smelling ammonia cloud, I decided a more manly approach was required. Something with 110 volts. Something with some serious CFM. Something with spinning rotor blades and pressure differentials. We needed air flow, people. We didn’t need to cover up the smell, we needed to blow it away!

I set out into my garage to make a ventilator for the boy. We would be cooling him off and airing him out in no time.

Prototype Number 1 involved a 20” box fan, like the kind you use to ventilate a whole room. I fashioned a giant pyramid-shaped funnel out of cardboard and a half a roll of duct tape that necked the 20” square fan housing down to a 3” hole. My plan was to duct tape a vacuum cleaner hose to the hole, with the crevice tool attachment on the end of the hose. We could then stick the crevice tool down his cast, fire up the fan, and de-stink-ify our patient.

The only problem with the final product was that it was really big. It was lightweight and had a convenient handle, but the whole thing ended up being the size of a small filing cabinet. Just prior to attaching the hose, I happened to be in our bathroom and noticed -- perhaps for the first time in my whole life -- that my wife’s hairdryer had a “cool” button.

I charged downstairs and confronted her. “Your hairdryer has a cool button!”
“Yeah, so what?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“All hairdryers have a cool button. Why would I have told you that?”
“They do?”
“Yes, moron. How is the house-sized ventilator fan coming?”

Prototype Number 2 involved a $10 hairdryer, and the vacuum attachments I was going to use on Prototype Number 1. It was a lot easier to make, and only took me about 10 minutes to put together. I proudly displayed the new anti-stink solution to the family.

“What happened to the giant, inconvenient fan?”
“I ended up going a different direction. Say hello to the hand-held model.”

With the cool button locked down, I fired up the Conair® Cast Savior 2000 and felt the perfectly cool air rush out of the crevice tool and across my face. Oh, the joy. Oh the ventilating that would soon… wait a minute. The cool air was suddenly not so cool. In fact, it was warm and getting warmer. As it turns out, hairdryers were not meant to force air through three feet of flexible vacuum hose and a skinny nozzle. The motor couldn’t handle the pressure it was being asked to produce, and subsequently began heating up. Forcing hot air down an already warm cast seemed like a pretty bad idea. Starting an electrical fire near an immobile three-year-old didn’t sound like such a great idea either, so I was back to the drawing board.

“What’s wrong, honey? The ‘cool button’ not working out for you?”
“I just need to make some minor adjustments, that’s all.”

After my walk of shame back to the garage, the first adjustment I made was removing the hose from the hairdryer, and throwing the hairdryer in the garbage can. Now all I needed to do was figure out what to attach the hose to. Would my pride let me go back to the box fan? Would my wife ever let me live that down? Probably not, but it would be worth it if we could get rid of the ammonia smell… Suddenly, it hit me. The Aerobed®!

Of course! Why didn’t I think of this before? Our inflatable Aerobed® portable mattress has a big, beefy air blower on it. That thing is so powerful you can lie on the mattress while you’re filling it up. That baby will surely do the trick. I ran upstairs to the hall closet, yanked it off the shelf, brought it back to the garage, and pulled it out of its carrying case. All I have to do is take the motor and blower off the mattress and then… Oh, darn…

Can I really justify this? I could always go back to the box fan... But this would work so well. He really, really stinks. She’ll probably understand…

Ten minutes later I walked back into the house holding Prototype Number 3. The coffee can-sized black blower motor was skillfully attached to the vacuum hose with enough duct tape to adequately cover up the ragged edges of blue mattress vinyl that I had to cut with my razor blade knife to free the molded-on pump housing from the mattress itself. For good measure, I used enough silver tape to cover up the Aerobed® logo on the motor.

As I opened my mouth to tell the world of my triumph, my wife called to me from the kitchen. “Come here, honey. Look what I found online. It’s called the CastCooler®. You just wrap it around the cast, hook up your vacuum cleaner’s hose to it, turn on the vacuum, and it pulls fresh air into the cast and removes all the moisture and stink. I just bought one on Amazon for $39.99.”

“Wow. Sounds great, sweetheart. That should really do the trick.”
“Did you want to show me something?”
“No. I’m just going to head back to the garage.” I need to go get rid of a queen-sized blue tarp with the giant hole in it and order a new Aerobed®.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. What a hoot! Your husband is a genius. I went through those same hoops when inventing the CastCooler. Glad you fond us!

    You may be interested in the Spica Cast Care tips on the site. Just Google CastCooler Spica Cast" and you should find it.



  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Dear Mr. Hixpoi, or Ana - whatever you're going by at this moment,
      What a great deal for you that you were able to advertise your no-more-cat-urine-in-inappropriate-places miracle system on my website here. Especially since your product has absolutely nothing to do with this post. Congratulations on all your success!