If you happen to be connected with me on Facebook, you know by now that Labor Day weekend was a complicated and frustrating one. EV broke her arm, and I know a lot of people want to know what happened. I tried my best to stay positive despite the craziness, but the truth is, it was a pretty horrible experience. Honestly, one of the worst experiences of my life.
What really happened at the hospital, though, was that God was doing work in our family, and that is worth celebrating!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything… Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-4;12 NIV)
It is no surprise to me that this verse came up multiple times before any of this ever happened. God showed me that when Christians persevere in any kind of suffering, they are met with actual reward in the end. There is no doubt. For what we went through at the hospital, we will be rewarded eternally! That gave me so much strength when we were sitting and waiting in the hospital room. Afterwards, however, I learned another lesson: we are made perfect in perseverance. Now, I have just one more tool in life’s tool belt that I know how to use.
But I know there are other details about what went down that y’all want to know. I have no problem documenting them for you. Maybe some day I will come back to this post and it will remind me of the amazing work that was done.
On a Thursday morning, I was feeding EV some breakfast like any other day. I noticed that she was only using her left hand, and that she refused to lift her sippy cup with both hands. When I watched her and tested her a little bit, it was pretty clear: she wasn’t using her right arm. We’ve already learned it’s the more dominant one. I called and her pediatrician had an appointment available within the hour, so off we went!
I had no explanation for why she wasn’t using it. Nursemaid’s elbow, a common dislocation in toddlers, was ruled out. We went home to observe and see if it got better. Maybe it was a pinched nerve? Later that afternoon, we decided that we needed x-rays. I felt more confident this was the right choice when I noticed that she was visibly distressed anytime I tried to manipulate the arm. The x-rays were pretty awful. I wasn’t with her, but Jimmy was, and I could hear her screaming. You see, EV is at an age where being handled against her will is incredibly upsetting. She cries more getting her temperature taken than getting a shot. So, this is times a thousand when it comes to radiology.
The x-rays showed a minor fracture in her humerus, right below her shoulder. I never got the name of it, but I know it was in an L-shape. That’s why her elbow and hand were working just fine. Since our pediatrician’s office had closed, we were told to go to Emergency at the university children’s hospital. Once we were there, we waited quite a while. Little did we know that this was just the tip of the iceberg. University hospitals are notoriously slow. We saw about 20 different people within just a few hours. We answered the same set of probing questions multiple times. Again, this was just the tip of the iceberg.
We were told they needed to do blood work. The radiologist saw the x-ray and told us that recovery and treatment would be minimal. So, as long as we got the blood work done, we figured we could go home for the night. But, then, they told us there was a small chance we had to stay overnight. It was a little surprising, but because we couldn’t pinpoint an event, they had a lot of extra work to do.
We are devoted to this kid. We are devoted to God, and to doing the right thing. Though it was annoying, we were willing to stay overnight so we could speak to a social worker in the morning. So, that’s what we had to do. They just needed blood from EV before we were set up in a room.
This was the worst part of the whole experience. I didn’t know how difficult it was to draw blood from a little kid. Like I said, EV already had anxiety just being handled by strangers. When they couldn’t get a vein, they just let her scream and scream and scream until they found another spot to poke her and make her scream even more. She was sweaty, red, not to mention tired, and I almost fainted trying to help her because I’m 8 months pregnant.
I couldn’t comfort my kid. I could barely even stand upright. This went on for nearly 2 hours with little breaks in between. To top it off, they put an IV in her foot, so she couldn’t even walk. By the time they were done, EV just passed out from exhaustion.
The night was pretty miserable. Thankfully EV slept pretty well, but I can’t say the same for me or Jimmy. We maybe got 4 or 5 hours total. I was on a pull-out couch and Jimmy slept on a chair that didn’t recline. Then, they came for more blood. Apparently the 2 hours of screaming wasn’t enough to get what they needed.
The woman who was drawing the blood couldn’t find a vein, so she called the lab and they told her they didn’t even need any more. That was a big, fat lie. After some hours of waiting, she was back again, upset just like we were, and she managed to get the blood they asked for. She looked at us and told us not to let them take any more. It wasn’t hard to tell that she cared about our daughter. The next time they asked for blood, we took her advice, but I’ll get to that later.
The saving grace was the social worker. I was nervous that, because all the doctors seemed to think we couldn’t possibly be telling the truth about not knowing when she broke her arm, the social worker would feel the same. But, she had us figured out right away. So, even she was surprised when she had to visit us a second time to ask more invasive questions, which she already knew would be pointless. We would never harm our child. Anyone could see it.
But, when a kid has an unexplained injury, especially one involving the strongest bone in the upper body, the hospitals have a legal obligation to perform all sorts of tests and scans before they report to DSS (Social Services). If they find out she has some rare bone disease, they wouldn’t need to report it. If we had a reasonable explanation for why she was injured, they wouldn’t need to report it. But we weren’t about to lie just to get out of there. We even found a video from Wednesday night, before I noticed it, and saw that she was favoring her left arm. If something abnormal came up, of course we’d want to know!
Other than blood work, they needed to do a full body x-ray to give to the child abuse team. I couldn’t even lift my head to watch it. Jimmy and other staff held her down as she screamed while they took 20 images. I saw her screaming, resisting skeleton on the computer. For the first time in her life, she yelled, “No! No!” It was heartbreaking. And it was no surprise that, other than the fracture, nothing was wrong with her.
Nothing was wrong. We were stuck at the hospital because nothing was wrong. It was maddening.
Like I said, though, I know God was doing something. I know that we could have been stuck in the children’s hospital like so many other parents for much worse reasons. It was confusing and exhausting, but I had no reason to fear for my daughter at all. I tried so hard to be positive, and there were times it was easy because EV was totally herself in between being poked and held down and examined. She was funny, and cuddly, and crazy about Curious George. She was talking a lot and playing with toy animals.
She even put two words together for the first time! She is remarkable.
At this point, we had been at the hospital for about 20 hours. We were tired, we wanted to go home, and we had no idea why we were still there. Then they asked for more blood and a CT scan.
Enough was enough. We refused to do anything until the leading doctors (not one of the 20,000 students, residents, and random medical staff) came and told us why they needed more. So, by the time we had been there nearly a full 24 hours, they all came to our room with our social worker, and told us that, basically, their hands were tied. They had to rule out a few things before reporting to DSS and discharging us. They wanted the blood even though results wouldn’t be available for 6-8 weeks, and they needed the scan to show if there were abnormalities. It was then that they all basically agreed they could see we weren’t abusive parents. They told us they would do what they could to get us out of there. The social worker stayed late to tell us that DSS wasn’t going to investigate no matter what the test results found, because it was clear what kind of parents we are.
So, we had to do the scans and try the blood work again. I wasn’t there, but the CT scan wasn’t a totally terrible experience for EV. And the blood work… didn’t happen. Again, they couldn’t get anything. There wasn’t much they could do to convince us that it was worth staying. We had to wait to hear that the results from the scan were normal, and after that, we were prepared to leave whether we were discharged or not.
I didn’t want to leave without discharge papers. It’s risky business. I prayed and prayed and prayed to Our Lord for strength and peace and MERCY! How could we put our daughter through more anxiety when we knew she’d be safer at home? I see now, though, that God was pulling all of the impatience and doubt out of me. He wanted me to be open to His plan no matter what it meant. He was refining me.
Her CT scan came back abnormal. The problem was that they didn’t know how abnormal. In order to find that out, we’d have to wait until morning (after already waiting 3-4 hours for just an answer) when the specialist came in. It might have been a “common variant” or it might have indicated something worse. And what if it was something worse? Of course we would stay. Of course we would do everything to make her well. They also mentioned that an IV overnight might help them get the blood they needed.
So we had to stay another night. We wanted them to do what they needed to, but not at the expense of EV’s wellbeing. The pendulum was swinging, and taking their medical suggestion was about to become the problem and not the solution. The IV kept waking her, and it was hard enough to sleep as it was.
My Braxton Hicks contractions were getting intense. I had no appetite. My head was throbbing. I had another baby to think about. I called a prayer line at 2:30am, because I needed someone to listen. I just needed someone to call out to God with me at that time. I was thankful for the person on the other end of the phone, because she knew just what to pray for. It was hard to get through the night, but we did, albeit with barely 3 hours of sleep for either of us.
Thankfully we had friends visiting in the morning. Advocates, really. Family, basically. It was something to look forward to, because we were fending for ourselves at that point. Not really, because people were praying the whole time and God was helping us. But, just to tell some people who love you about your hardships makes a difference. It lifts a burden.
Before they arrived, I went down to retrieve breakfast. It was disappointing, the hospital food. Breakfast was supposed to be good, with fresh breakfast sandwiches and pancakes, but it was the weekend, so none of that was available. I tried calling Jimmy to let him know the options but he didn’t answer. So, I grabbed a few things and went back up to the seventh floor.
The moment I walked in the room, I knew something was wrong. Jimmy, the man who had been my rock this whole time, was teetering on the edge of an emotional breakdown. EV was snuggled up close to him with a pacifier in her mouth, just quiet as could be.
“What happened?” I asked, probably 3 times.
They came to get more blood. They promised, again, they wouldn’t stick her if they couldn’t find a good vein. And again, they tried anyway. I say “they” even though it was one woman, because it just felt like the whole hospital was looming over us. It was this big force that was run by a bunch of people who communally cared more about solving the mystery of EV’s broken arm through tests and scans than they did about how it was affecting us as human beings.
I couldn’t be there for my family when they laid the straw that broke the camel’s back. Jimmy and I broke down in tears. We grieved together, over this loss of control over our daughter’s safety. Finally it hit us that we couldn’t always protect her from the world. We were done, physically and emotionally. It was our lowest point.
After that, our friends and my brother came. It was a relief, especially for EV. She had been used to seeing strangers stroll in and out of that tiny hospital room, so when familiar, FUN faces walked in, she was elated! And as we told them our story, they aided us with words of encouragement, empathy, and resolve. I knew that God would be with us when we walked out that door, no matter what circumstance it happened under, but it was nice to know that we had others who would go with us too.
Because of our insistence, we spoke with a social worker, and we were not quiet about our intent to get out! We wanted to do it the right way, though. Especially me. I’d leave without discharge if I had to, but I didn’t want to ignore the rules. God placed them there for a reason. He placed them there for me! The social worker did her best to get us with our doctor.
So, some hours later, the doctor came. She explained that the “abnormality” on the CT scan was something that some people are born with, common, and not a concern at all. She ordered the remaining blood work to be done in one week.
She said they were already working on our discharge paperwork.
Hallelujah! I was praising God so much! I was thanking every nurse and doctor that walked into the room! We were so ready to be out of there, and God worked it out so we could do it right! He is faithful, truly. He walked us through, and now our perseverance and faith are stronger. Our understanding of the world is greater.
They finally took the IV out of EV’s foot, and we took her straight to the atrium, where she finally had a chance to run around and play. She took to that place like a fish to water! All the awful things we went through for her sake were well matched with joy and love and strength because of her. It is so worth every hard thing to be a parent. Just a smile or a hug or a laugh from my kid is more satisfying than I can describe! And watching her play was such a blessing.
By 11am, we were driving away from the hospital. Seeing the sunlight, feeling the humid air, and just knowing we were going home to our own beds was such an amazing feeling! We came home and there was yesterday’s spaghetti (brought to us by another wonderful friend) waiting for us. It was so glorious to eat something home cooked, even if it was microwaved leftovers! Once we finished our lunch, the three of us took a 3-hour nap together. It almost makes me cry to think of it. We needed it so much, and there’s just nothing in the world that brings people close like sleeping next to each other. It almost felt symbolic.
The great thing was, it was a three-day weekend! We went in on a Thursday night and came out mid-Saturday, and we still had two entire days to spend together. So, we took it easy on Sunday and just did morning church. Then, on Monday, we took EV to the aquarium. You can see Jimmy’s video about the crazy week and some footage of the aquarium here. She LOVES the aquarium, so it was a great way to make it up to her. After the aquarium, we got dessert at Kaminsky’s. It was a great day for our girl!
On Tuesday, I followed up with EV’s pediatrician. I love this doctor. He is a Christian, and he has always been very respectful of my choices as a parent while still making sure he’s telling me what he thinks I need to know. When I told him all about what happened, he was very shocked at my story. However, he explained that there was a reason for each thing they did, which was affirming to me since we tried so hard to do what they asked. And then I told him, because I can speak this way with someone who is a brother in Jesus, that I knew God wanted to teach me something, and that I finally understood that I couldn’t control what happens to my children.
He then told me an amazing story. To be brief, when his son was 3-years-old, he was hit by a car and nearly died. He and his family were there when it happened, so he understands what it means to be questioned as a parent for neglect. Like me, there wasn’t anything more he could have done to prevent it. In my case, I just can’t keep a toddler from being a toddler. In his, he just couldn’t correct the problem fast enough. For 2 months, he and his wife alternated spending nights in the hospital. He didn’t have decades of experience or reputation as a doctor, so it was delicate and controversial for him and his job. But, his son recovered miraculously, like nothing ever happened. God healed him, and through that, EV’s pediatrician is the person who gets called when children are on the edge of death, and two people have given their lives to Jesus because of it.
So, even though my experience might not be as meaningful, I know that God is using and will continue to use it for His good. And for my family’s good too.
EV has been in and out of the sling, and she’s using her arm almost completely normally now. She still favors her left a bit, but it doesn’t bother her at all. We haven’t needed to use any medication, and other than being a little careful with her right arm and keeping her from climbing too much, life is back as it should be!
We prayed about the other follow ups, and they went really well. The x-ray showed that she is healing very well, and it suggested that the wound was older than we thought it was. We are guessing it was the fall off the couch that did it, but because she was teething (and that was an obvious discomfort for her), we just didn’t notice. But, then again, it could have been something else. A lot of people saw her between the Monday fall and Thursday, when I noticed it, and no one said anything. We were most cautious about the blood work, but I was assured that the women in pediatric labs were the best. They had to try twice, but the second time, her blood came right out and they got what they needed.
THANK YOU JESUS! It was finally over! We may have one more x-ray to do, but I’m waiting to hear back on that. And I’m not worried. I have ZERO reason to worry about anything. That’s one of God’s major lessons in all this. I know now, through our experience, that I can trust God in all things. Even when things look bleak, I have Him with me, and I have reward waiting at the end. I am weak, but He is sufficient to fill in the blanks. He provides help, and when we have finished walking through each of our trials, we will have something tangible and everlasting. That’s a promise!
So, that’s my long story, and I hope it is a blessing to you! Truly, if it is, that makes it worth it.
Edited to add: I wanted to tell the story about Barbara. Since this experience was all such a blur, I didn’t know where to put this, but I will say that it was probably right in the middle somewhere. Barbara was our cleaning lady, a black woman with a gullah accent, who came in while I was on the edge of breaking down. Again, I don’t know when, since it was hard for me to keep myself together at all. She saw the three of us, and told me not to cry. She said God had it all worked out, everything was in His hands. Barbara has two children, and both of them were shot before age 15. Her son, who should have died, is only partially paralyzed on one side of his body. She said he was shot in the head, but all he can’t do now is tie his left shoe. Her daughter was put in a wheelchair, but she should have died too. Two separate occasions. She said something I will always remember when I have a child in the hospital, “The doctors have their plans, but God has a different plan.” I pray for Barbara, and her children, and the people in the rooms she cleans. It was so meaningful, and just more confirmation that God really is in control of it all.