Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Spica Cast

“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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  1. oh I just love you! After the first couple of sentences I was thinking, "what kind of lazy kids are they raising? They can't even get up to go to the bathroom? And daddy runs to catch their pee?" Then as I read on I laughed even harder, realizing the situation! OH, the joys of parenting. Hang in there!

  2. Thanks, Raeanne! We are raising lazy boys, though. The other two pee in the backyard because it's too much trouble to come into the house. Something I fully encourage and their mom does not like one bit. I think that might be a guy thing.

  3. So sorry to hear about your son's spica cast. He sounds like a trooper. You may be interested in what other spica cast care givers are saying about the CastCooler. You can Google "CastCooler Spica cast" and find that.

    Also, check out the Spica Cast Care tips on the site.



  4. Rick,
    You have great timing. I ordered a CastCooler from Amazon yesterday. Should have it in a few days. Thanks for the tips! Stay tuned for this week's post on Wednesday night to learn all about my homemade air circulation prototypes before we discovered your product online.

  5. Smidge,
    Hey, I love reading your accounts of caring for your three-year-old in his spica cast. Guess what, my son was once a three-year-old in a spica cast too, but now he is 18, applying to college, and writing his common app essay on resourcefulness and persistence.... the opening paragraph is, you guessed it, about that spica cast. My husband named my son's urinal the "Flying Burrito Brother" after the 60's rock band, and even that is making the cut for the essay. So is his memory of flipping off the couch and mastering the army crawl as he dragged his stiff legs behind him throughout the house. So, keep those accounts of these stressful days handy for future essay material. And by the way, my two boys always peed in the yard, sometimes even in the front, I'm sorry to say. They are both nice young men now.

  6. This brightened my day. My almost 3-yr-old is on day 5 of spica and we're struggling. It already smells and he's already complaining about his skin. Thanks for the laugh.

    1. Sorry to hear about you little one being in a SPICA cast. Once the pain goes away (which should be soon) it will get much easier! Glad I could brighten your day a little. I really did cut the blower motor off an AeroBed, and I taped a vacuum cleaner hose and crevice tool to it. It was easy to stick up into or down into the cast and blow him out. It cooled him off and kept the stink manageable. I would HIGHLY recommend it!!! Good luck! If you email me your information I would love to send you a copy of my children's book to help you pass some of the time!

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