It has been four weeks since we took Calvin to the emergency room, and three weeks since he had surgery to install three stainless steel screws into his femur which had been broken during a fall at school. He has spent the better part of every day since in bed recovering. It's a good thing my husband is gainfully employed so I can stay home all day taking care of our son. A little over a week ago, with help from me to hold his hands on a walker, Calvin began taking a few baby steps each day from his bedroom to ours. It's a bit of a struggle; he can't go far—just partway across the carpeted room. Sometimes his little legs quiver. Is he in pain? Are his muscles fatigued? Both? Since he can't tell me, I can't be sure, and that just about kills me.
When I think about how long it took Calvin to get to the point where he could walk safely and somewhat independently (was it ten, twelve, fourteen years?) without a safety harness or a hand to hold, I could cry. He and I have worked so goddamn hard to get where he got before the fall, and it's painful to think it was lost—at least temporarily—in a matter of seconds.
Last Friday, we brought Calvin back to see the orthopedic surgeon. They took more x-rays and the surgeon removed the dressing protecting Calvin's incision. The surgeon said Calvin's hip—the incision, femoral head, femur and three stainless steel cannulated screws—looked "good." We went home and gave Calvin his first bath and shampoo in twenty-four days.
Thankfully, it seems our boy is on the mend, though he is still walking very tentatively and not for any significant distance, and he can't do stairs for another two weeks, which means I have to scooch downstairs with him on our bums and carry his ninety-two pounds upstairs. What I worry about as much as anything is that Calvin will suffer the kind of hidden and chronic pain—like headaches or arthritis—that isn't bad enough to cause him to limp or bring him to tears, but exists nonetheless. We can never know, for instance, if those steel screws will at some point cause him bone pain or if they'll irritate the surrounding tissue. It's miserable knowing my baby can't tell us when he's hurting, can't get relief for what ails him. It's the trouble with mothering him, which—though I've struggled at times in my life—may be the hardest thing I've ever done.
On Wednesday morning, my son was wheeled into the operating room of our local hospital. Michael donned a bunny suit, cap and booties to accompany him until the anesthesiologist put Calvin under. Standing in the hospital room alone, looking out into the woods—a very similar view to the one we had when Calvin and I boarded in the labor and delivery ward for several weeks after Calvin was born—I felt a bit incredulous. Incredulous that my sweet little unassuming son was being drugged up, cut open, muscle splayed apart, femur drilled and fit with three stainless steel screws, all because of a regrettable accident at school the previous week. I was living one of my worst nightmares as the parent of a child who, despite his inner and outer loveliness, has already been the source of so much angst and grief.
The surgery lasted far longer than we expected, and therefore was a bit of a nail-biter. Michael and I sat in silence, my mind racing to all kinds of places that no parent wants their thoughts to go. But the good news is that the surgery seemed to go well, and it was lengthy because the surgeon had, in his own words, obsessed about the placement of screws in Calvin's wonky anatomy. He told us that Calvin could put weight on his leg whenever he's up to it! We were astonished, having been told earlier that Calvin would likely be confined to his bed and wheelchair for up to six weeks. More good news came later that day when we realized we didn't have to spend the night in the hospital, a place we don't relish for a number of reasons that could fill a blog post or more on their own.
To add insult to injury, that night Calvin had a seizure, which we had seen coming while in the hospital. Like all of his seizure of recent years, it stopped on its own, and we were able to thwart a second one by giving him extra THCA cannabis oil. We managed his hip pain with alternating doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen and with half a tablet of oxycodone when it seemed, by Calvin's moaning, that the others weren't sufficiently doing the job. Obviously, none of us got much sleep, but we rested better than if we'd been in the hospital.
Through all of the trauma since Calvin's fall ten days ago (seems like eons), many dears have shown their love, concern and support. We had dog walkers for Smellie, and received all kinds of goodies—cards, bottles of wine, flowers, cake, dinner, homemade negronis, stuffed animals, homemade cookies, bread, and other treats. And we got hundreds of loving messages from friends, acquaintances and strangers, and offers to bring food to the hospital. The outpouring of support has been incredible.
This morning, Michael and I got Calvin out of bed. With great help from both of us—Michael supporting Calvin's body from behind, and me in front holding his hands—our boy took three very shaky and tentative steps. A little smile crept across his face as if doing something novel or accomplishing something great. We sat him down on the soft carpet in our bedroom where he crawled a few yards, his left knee turned slightly inward. Once more, we got him into a stand, but he held his leg off the ground as if lame, so we scooped him up and put him back into bed, lavishing him with praise for having done such a good job. Hours later, I hoisted Calvin out of bed to change his diaper, then stood him up for a moment, bracing him. He didn't want to put his foot down and appeared not to be able to bear any weight on it, so I lifted him back into bed again where he remains and is resting.
If today is any indication, Calvin's road to recovery looks like it might be a long one after all. I worry he won't get back to walking as well as he did before the accident, which, though his gait was awkward, he could get around to a great extent by himself without falling or tripping on his turned-in feet. I worry he might be in pain without being able to tell us. I worry he'll regress in other ways. I worry about future accidents. As for going back to school next week, it doesn't look possible without a wheelchair, which would mean the staff would have to do a lot of transfers from chair to changing table and back again. There's plenty of other things to consider—the state of his incision and protecting it, his strength, his stamina, his safety, his ability to heal and rest, his happiness, the risk to him.
This incident has been disconcerting and stressful, and has given us a lot to ponder. But, it has also been a cause to celebrate our good fortune—for our healthcare, our community, our home, our family, our friends and neighbors, for each other.
Yes, the road to recovery might be a long one, but one thing is clear: none of us will be walking it alone.