Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Break

Last Saturday, under a clear blue March sky, Mihiretu, hopping with his sisters on the trampoline, fell in just the wrong way. Ben and I, both in the yard, me sweeping, Ben picking up debris, heard his bones break. It sounded like a small dry branch snapped for kindling. In fact, it was Mihiretu’s tibia and fibula, breaking clean through. As a friend said later, way to go big or go home.

When Ben picked him up, it looked as if he had grown an extra knee half way up his calf. A knee that, queasily, moved, shifted as if there was something alive under there.

We spent five hours in the emergency room. Because Mihiretu had eaten Cheetos right before his injury (and let me clarify here, lest you think ill of me, Trader Joe’s Cheetos – somehow they must be healthier, right?), because he had food in his stomach, no matter how non-fortifying, he could not have anesthesia for the setting of his leg. He was allowed a shot of morphine (at the sight of the needle he squeaked, so plaintively, “Save me, save me, save me”, gripping Ben with desperate claws). A shot of morphine doesn’t really do the trick when you’re manipulating broken bones, particularly a child’s. He howled, begged, “Be done, be done, be done”.

The before X-ray was completely terrifying, bones splintered and at odd angles. The after X-ray was, confusingly, not that much different. The orthopedist seemed proud of himself but we left the hospital texting our magical friend and pediatrician, Nelson, for a referral for a second opinion.

Today we went to Children’s Hospital Oakland. Mihiretu went under general anesthesia with a rock star of a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and emerged with a much straighter leg and a bright orange cast.

It’s been a long few days. The pain up until now has been considerable, what with those bones rubbing together so Ben and I have been taking two hour shifts at night. I haven’t left the house beyond leg-related appointments and walking the girls to school. It requires both of us to take our Ethiopian prince to the toilet, Ben carrying him like a bride and me holding his feet (“Hold my feet, Mama, hold my feet!”), trailing like a bridesmaid.

But. Within this bundle of extra work and worry, there is a little gem. He’s vulnerable right now, my Mihiretu. We keep joking about how it’s like having a newborn and today it struck me that this is our newborn time with him. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t know him when he was small, defenseless and all sugar. By the time he came to us, at two and a half, he was all motion, noise and sass. They say that adopted kids often need to return to stages they missed with their adoptive parents, to get “re-parented” in the lingo. It seems like maybe that’s what we’re doing right now. He sleeps (when he sleeps) with his arms twined around our necks. He lays on the couch during the day, watching “Beyblades” on the IPad and snuggling into me as I read my novel. Our house has the quiet, purposeful, satisfied feeling it did when the girls were babes. This boy, who will be in a wheelchair for the next four weeks until he graduates to a walking cast (redefining “hell on wheels”), is finally being forced to stay still so we can love him.

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