Wednesday, August 28, 2013
When are no hands better than two hands?
Eli and I sat in the casting clinic at Primary Children's Medical Center for about an hour this morning. We watched kids come in with casts on their arms and legs, and worried looks on their faces. "Will it hurt?" they asked. The parents assured them that it might feel a little weird, but it wouldn't hurt. "And besides," more than one said, "when you're done, you'll be able to run and jump and everything." When they returned to the waiting room, plenty of parents had big smiles on their faces, but all of the kids looked stiff and uncomfortable. No one ran down the hall or jumped. "Darn it," I thought, "I forgot about this part."
I shouldn't have forgotten. Eli got out of his last cast only six weeks ago. He's been in nine freaking casts, for goodness' sake. Add to that the three the other kids have been in over the course of their lives (including TWO spica casts for Isaac) and I have plenty of cast experience as a parent. But I had been so focused on today, the day marked in red on the calendar as the end of the casting ordeal, that I had forgotten that, for Eli at least, today wasn't going to be any fun at all.
We finally got taken back to a room, and the medical assistant took off the outer layer. Eli screamed. Then she left and I soaked the bandages again. They've been smelling really funky for a few weeks, but I figured that was mainly because we'd gotten them a little wet a few times. When she came back to take off the inner layer, Eli screamed more, and within seconds, a putrid smell filled the room.
I am not a barfer or a gagger (30 years and counting!), but that smell was so horrible, I needed fresh air. But I couldn't act distressed, because Eli was in such a state. He's been a little bit upset when he's banged his left hand funny over the last few days, but he had a pin in one of the fingers, and I chalked it up to that. But unfortunately, the skin graft on that hand didn't take, and there was a whole bunch of nasty, dead skin covering his fingers.
The poor kid cried all the way home. He usually sucks his thumb to soothe himself, but there was no way he was going to put his fingers near his mouth. I plopped him and Rose in the tub when we got home, and he refused to put his hands in the water. Finally, I had to take them both out, put Rose down for a nap, and then hold his hands under the water to get them bathed like I was told I should. I took him down for lunch, and he wouldn't even try to touch the food. I should have remembered it would be like this-- for the next three or four days he's going to need me to do everything-- hold his bottle, feed him, and play defense with Rose. He sees a hand therapist next week to look at the grafts and see if they want to put him in a splint.
Today's experience reminds me a lot of what we went through on the day Eli joined our family back in March. I was so excited. It was a day I'd anticipated for almost a year. But it was tragic for Eli. He was so confused and unsettled and sad, and it was several more days before we saw glimpses of who our little guy really is. We also had our visit with our social worker this morning for our six-month post-placement interview. She remarked that things seemed to be going better than they were at the one-month visit, and while that's definitely true, I also feel like this is a similar sort of experience. Getting surgery on Eli's hands was absolutely the right thing to do, and the long-term consequences will be fantastic, but taking off the bandages was also painful. In much the same way, expanding our family has been and will continue to be one of the defining choices we made as a family, but I still feel like we're in the weeds of the experience.
Another thing I remember, when pressed to remember the hard things, is that it always takes a few more days than I'd like (or a few more months, in Isaac's case) for the kids to make a full recovery and begin using the part that has been casted. I think that's also true of our family-- I'd like everything to be easy NOW, not in six months or a year. But just like Eli's foot is now awesome, and Isaac's leg and Bryce's arm look like nothing ever happened to them, his hands will one day be great too, and so will our family life with six kids. Or at least I'll keep telling myself that it will.