Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why I am the trampoline police

WARNING: Sort of got carried away in this yarn. It is long so settle back and enjoy. There is some pain and big lessons. I was inspired in my diatribe by several blogs yesterday.

The first made me cry, because it is so beautiful. Scribbit runs a Write-Away competition every month, and the February winner (under the "Love" theme) was Roses are Red, Violets are Violets - Lime Popsicle.

The second was the ongoing hassle a newly found blogger has had of late over her daughter's medical condition. Another warning - it is liable to make you very angry at how doctors treat mothers and children. Three Ring Circus - and her update on the "ugly" going on in her life.

The third was my sister recounting the battle they had with her son's health when, as a baby he went through a few medical dramas. I lived through it and I still cry every time - but there is a happy ending, folks! The Dash story - Our King of Hearts Part One, Part Two, The Postscript.

Finally, a favourite blogger of mine has a son aged 3 who recently broke his arm. She too has had medical authority insensitivity - but she doesn't take it lying down! Oh The Joys - Telling it fairly straight on broken arms

This all culminated in me pouring it all out - first to V last night, reliving how anguishing it is to be the mother of a hurting child, and now here.

Do you know what the first two-syllable word my daughter learned was?


Quite a logical outcome, really, considering the amount of times it came out of her mother's mouth.

"Careful" as she banged blocks together. "Careful" as she went up and down stairs. "Careful" as she got things out of cupboards. And of course "careful, careful, careful" if she noticed a trampoline.

I was 8 when we got our trampoline. A Christmas gift for the three of us - hooray!! There were a few rules, of course. (Where do you think I learned the "careful" routine?)

We had to have spotters - no-one was to be out at the trampoline jumping alone. We were to jump in the middle of the trampoline. And only one at a time. Let me repeat that: only one at a time.

Christmas is a hot and busy time of the year. There is lots of mustering, swimming and branding* - our Dad used to joke (his version of a joke) that we went to school for a rest - holidays were for working.

We would start early (it gets hot very quickly in the mornings) and finish when the sun retired - every single day (except for Sundays, but that is a different yarn). That equated to about 10 - 12 hours in the Queensland Summer sunshine.

We also had a nightly ritual. Our whole family did the washing up together - that way we could carry the argument from the dinner table to the sink without pausing. Being a grown-up and mother now, I can see this ritual as being very sensible indeed.

One evening (8th January, 1978 to be exact) my sister and I got a special reprieve from the washing up, as we had put in some big days and had a very big day mustering steers the next day. Dad needed his jillaroos to be in top form for it.

My sister and I looked at each other, suddenly awakened by the possibilities. The temptation was immense. We snuck outside to the coveted trampoline.

We were good. For a few minutes we were good, silently getting great joy in the sudden freedom of being let off washing up and being slightly naughty playing on the tramp.

And then we got cocky. We figured, if the parents didn't know we were having a little jump for joy, then they wouldn't really know if we broke the rules would they?

So we hopped on together and oh, what fun it is to jump two at a time. The necessity for quiet and the sheer illicitness of it probably made it threefold fun. Around and around we bounced, putting in our little "trick" kneels and sits and making the other bounce really high with a sudden stop.

And then? Well, then there was this one "sit" where I sat on my bottom, legs outstretched but funnily enough the bottom part of my leg bounced up. Just the bottom half of my left leg. Do you know the physics and anatomical deviations involved in such a manoeuvre?

My sister begged me to stop screaming. "Mum and Dad will hear us" she whispered, but oh, my leg, my leg!

Well, of course Mum and Dad heard us. They came outside and figured I must have twisted the knee - it was immobilised and packed with ice and both of us were in bed right then. Maybe it would be right in the morning.

Well, it actually wasn't right in the morning, and a very chastened big sister had to look forward to doing the work of two while I had the delight of going in to see the doctor. The verdict: broken, very neatly just below the knee. I was very lucky - I was lucky I was slightly knock-kneed, so the kneecap had slid rather than snapped.

If you ever want a child cured of wanting to jump two at a time on the trampoline, put them in a hip to toe cast for three of the hottest months of the year. I can tell you, it really works.

Obviously, I did not want history to repeat itself. We were offered a free trampoline, but no way was I having such evil in my yard. We often went to visit friends with trampolines, but 'Salina's mum was no fun because she would patrol the nasty contraption and tell them tales of woe. Other children's mother's thought I was a little touched by my zealousness.

8th April, 2005. The first Friday of term two, grade one, 'Salina and I had a playdate with her best friend from childcare. There was to be afternoon tea with playtime for the girls and chat time for the other mother and I.

There was a trampoline. Three times I went to the edge of the veranda and verbally hauled the girls off when my sacred rule was broken. Three times they sheepishly did as told - but the temptation is very great, and the eagle eyes of mothers distracted by chitchat only so powerful.

"Don't worry so much" said the other mother. Just before I raised myself to pull them off for good (the last warning had been issued). They could darn well jump on the ground if they couldn't listen to Grumpy Jeanie's reasoning.

Unfortunately, just one second too late. Just in time, really, to see the girls practicing the "super-bounce" - where one suddenly stops and the other bounces really high - or in this case, high and wide. Just in time to see my daughter catapulted through the air. Just in time to watch as she and the ground came together in slow motion. Just in time to see her arm outstretched to reach the dirt, just in time to hear her scream, just in time to see her stand with one arm now several inches shorter than the other and of jelled consistency.

I drove her to the hospital in hysterics. I cursed every red light, every bump, every slow driver. I cursed myself mostly, for giving warning after warning after warning rather than just being the mean bitch I should have been in the first place. I cursed fate and the genetic heirloom I had given her in trampoline injuries. I cursed every mother who had told me to stop worrying and who were not now driving their inconsolable child to emergency.

One good thing about having your child so obviously distraught and injured is you go straight to the top of the queue - or at least, it worked that time.

She was immediately hooked up to some super strong pain relief and taken "out the back". By sight, anyone even without medical training could tell that her arm was very broken - and the x-ray confirmed it.

Do you know what a supracondylar fracture is? (Warning - that link is to a PDF file with lots of detail). It is the most common arm injury to children aged 3-8.

There are 3 types - one where you can't really tell without an x-ray and, with a little support, should be fixed in about 3 weeks. The second is a greenstick fracture. The third - well, here is an x-ray on the web of what the third type is like (scroll down slightly).

She would need immediate surgery (well, immediate after her afternoon tea had digested - I was informed why you cannot eat before surgery and agreed it was best to wait) and the only person available to operate was no doubt a very fine registrar - he just wound me up the wrong way immediately.

She needed immediate surgery as she had snapped her humerus right next to her "funny bone" - that is the major intersection of all the arm nerves. If they didn't, chances were she would end up with permanent nerve damage. I was not told this in a "there, there, don't worry so much" tone - it was blunt and it was stark and it was one very distinct moment in solo parenting that I truly wished there was another to share the burden, the choices, the consoling.

Thank goodness I have great friends. I let one know who let the network know. As my daughter was wheeled in to theatre at 11 that evening, an old friend of mine arrived to sit with me - I thank him and his wife so much that he could be my "Dial-a-Dad" for that little experience.

For the next two weeks, she did not stir from our house. She was on morphine for the first 12 hours, and strong pain relief for the next week. I had weaned her off panadol by about the third week.

For the next month, her visits to school were short and in my company only, as the slightest jostle would send her over the edge. We basically home-schooled with books collected and dropped off every couple of days.

For the next three months, we visited the outpatients at the hospital, seeing a different arm specialist each time, amassing a file in x-rays and five minute "she should be fine" nods at me as I asked anxiously about future movement and possible nerve damage.

Her arm was supported in a "backslab" with bandaging and a sling. I was warned her elbow could not be immobilised as that would cause more damage than good - towards the end of the drama, she envied others fibreglass casts so much - we couldn't even find cool colours!

She could not wear dresses or shirts during that time - I was informed that fashion and school uniforms were trumped by a necessity not to move her arm too much. However, I got good at creating clothing from sarongs tied in intricate ways to cover her modesty.

Finally, she was free to take off the sling and get the wires out. There is another story for another day regarding dressings and bandaids but we got over the trauma eventually.

Her hand was atrophied in a curled claw at first, but on the advice of a specialist we chose a "wait and see" approach. He also advised "window washing" over a physio to stretch it out. It took months for her tingling to subside in her hand, but today there is thankfully no effects.

So please - remember, be careful, careful, careful around trampolines - and please, only one at a time.

And if 'Salina ever has a daughter, I am taking all the trampolines in the kingdom and burning them!

* I know - I keep linking to my sister's blog - but she gives the best pictures of what branding is all about as a kid on a country property.


Alison said...

That first line cracked me up! "Careful" is the most common word in our house.
Two very painful stories there, Jeanie. Isn't it a shame that we can't always learn the lessons for our children?

therapydoc said...

What a story.

They make them small, now, these little two foot wide by a foot high jobs that are probably less dangerous.

Scribbit said...

After two kids with broken arms this past year I'm starting to say "Be Careful!" much more frequently.

OhTheJoys said...

Thank you for telling it like it is. I'd much rather understand the reality and prepare myself for the long haul.


BB said...

Dear Trampoline Police, I would like you to know that (almost 30 years - read THAT and weep) after the Great Trampoline Disaster of Granite Glen, your accomplice and convicted party is still VERY SORRY! Those knitting needles to itch the heat-induced itches were just not long enough, were they? Rest easy in the knowledge that you will never find a trampoline at GG - deadly snakes and ugly reptiles, yes. Trampolines, no.

Debby said...

Medical insensitivity...once my oldest daughter broke her arm. We rushed her to the ER where they took her temperature and sent her out to the waiting room to wait her turn, telling us it would be awhile. I was pretty stressed. My daughter said, "Mom, I can't sit up any more. I'm going to puke." So I strode back and said, "Listen, I know that you're busy, but this child has a broken arm and she is so nauseous she can't sit up. And the snotty nurse said, "You don't know that her arm is broken..." Her arm was S shaped between her wrist and elbow. It was desperately bad. I looked at her and said, "By God, if her arm is not broken, I'll kiss your ASS!" And I glared my mom glare. At that point, she came out to pull the blanket we had wrapped around her shoulders. There was an audible gasp, and they brought a gurney out for her straightaway. I know there are good folk in the medical profession, but it seems as if when I need them, they're on lunch break, leaving the snotbags in charge.

jeanie said...

a - we try awfully hard to pass the "previously learned in your mother's lifetine" lessons on to our children, but obviously first hand is the only experience that gets through in some instances.

therapydoc - ah, yes that is true - although a lot of the fun of trampolines is that which makes them dangerous!

scribbit - okay, two kids with broken arms in the past year really trumps my historical files! How did you survive?

oh, the joys - I am really with you - knowledge is power.

bush babe - although it was a handy and powerful tool to hold over you for the (ahem) 20 years since that story, I searched around while writing that and could find no more shards of blame to aim your way. Must be over it, huh?

Debby - ooh, I think there is a quota intake of snotty nurses just so other medicos can seem so much more proficient and caring. But I agree - why are they all rostered on at the wrong time?

Jen at Semantically driven said...

Ow, my leg and my arm both hurt during that story. I'm a one person on the trampoline at a time police too.

Anonymous said...

After falling off a trampoline and winding myself quite badly, I am also the trampoline police. One at a time, be careful, my kids have heard all that too. And I WILL. NOT buy a tramp for my kids. And other Mothers look at me like I am over-reacting too. Guess they have never come off second best.......

mommamia said...

I am a mean mother too and a proud member of the trampoline police. When my sister was a junior in college she and her friends decided it would be fun to jump on a trampoline at a party. She hit the metal edge with her face and mouth. She ended up having to drop out of school for one semester to have all the damage repaired.

There are other things they can play on.

Tracey said...

We are trampoline police too, and have never bought one for our kids. It helped to have our stand backed up by another mum where we used to live - she was a doctor, as was her husband. They had the money for a few expensive pieces of play equipment at their house, but no way was she getting a trampoline because of her experience in casualty and paediatric wards!!

I am anxious whenever we are anywhere that has one. After hearing your first hand story (stories!), I'll be even more bossy about it!

We are also the 'you must wear shoes when riding a bike' police.. and my husband even hates the kids wandering around outside in bare feet. The times they have stubbed their toes he gets so angry because he feels it could have been prevented.

Anonymous said...

Hey - one kid gets a supracondylar fracture of the humerus and they all want one
(technically Miss K's fracture is a transverse supracondylar fracture with only minimal displacement and joint effusion).

We have a trampoline with a bit net enclosure. I'm OK with it, but there are *rules*. I'm glaring at the flying fox contraption in the school playground though (evil contraption has claimed the arms of at least 4 kids I know).