Real Mom Stories: A Toddler’s First Trip to the ER

Last year, when Sara was very pregnant with her son, her 2-year-old daughter, Michaela, broke her leg.

Her husband used to bounce their toddler on a yoga ball.  They had done it a million times before and it was always very controlled.  Somehow, this time, Michaela slipped off the back of the ball and quickly grabbed her leg and started crying.

“We were very concerned, but it was strange because it didn’t look like anything bad had happened.  We knew her leg was hurting, but it was hard to tell how badly, because it was also bedtime and we knew she was tired.  We couldn’t tell how much was pain and how much was just crying from being exhausted,” Sara recalled.

Michaela cried a lot, but was very cooperative for a toddler.  Once she finally calmed down, she pitifully sat on the couch.  She wouldn’t put any weight on her leg.  “Our little energetic child who loved to run and jump wouldn’t even stand up,” Sara said.  It was hard on them to see her so sad.

They called their doctor right away to find out what to look for to see what kind of injury this was. Since there was no obvious injury (no swelling or bone sticking out), and Michaela was calm, they decided to put her to bed and see the doctor in the morning.

In the morning, she still wouldn’t put any weight on her leg.  The doctor advised them to watch it for a couple of days.  If she still wasn’t putting weight on it, they should call back.  The next day, she still wasn’t putting any weight on her leg, so they called back and were advised to go to the Emergency Room.

The ER staff made Michaela feel as comfortable as possible. And they had juice boxes.

They went to their local Children’s Hospital branch campus (hopefully to have a shorter wait than the main campus, although they were still there for about four hours).  Check-in and her initial exam happened fairly quickly, then they were sent back to the waiting room.

The atmosphere was very friendly, with TV, books, and toys. They also brought plenty of things with them to keep Michaela busy.  “We did our best to keep her in good spirits and make it ‘fun,'” Sara said. “It was exhausting, but she was absolutely delightful the whole time.”

While in the waiting room, Michaela put a little bit of weight on her leg for the first time since the injury. For a brief moment, they wondered, “Are we wasting our time?”

They were finally brought back in from the waiting room, and the staff took Michaela in for an X-ray. They waited in the exam room for what seemed like forever, until the doctors finally came in with the results. They were very friendly and caring, and very willing to answer any of their questions. The doctors showed them her X-ray with a fracture in her tibia, and explained that it is one of the most common breaks in toddlers.

“I was actually fairly relieved to hear this,” Sara said, “because after so much time to think, every other possibility had gone through my mind, and this seemed to me like the easiest to deal with.  I was very thankful it was fixable without surgery or any other traumatic event.”  The doctor put a brace on Michaela’s leg, and they would go back a few days later for a cast.

Once home, Michaela still didn’t want to walk, even with the brace.  Sara was about eight months pregnant, so she actually got a little bit of a break, not having to chase Michaela around quite as much.  That changed after she got her cast: Michaela quickly learned she could function just fine with it.  “She was running around the house before we knew it and we even caught her trying to jump off of the bottom few steps,” Sara remembered, not-so-fondly.

When the cast came off, it only took Michaela part of the day to feel comfortable walking again. She limped out of habit for the first couple days, but really jumped right back into normal activity without fear or anxiety from the injury.

Michaela with her cast

Michaela with her cast

Sara’s advice to parents who find themselves having to make an ER trip:

“Children are amazingly resilient.  If you are heading to the ER, take plenty of toys, activities, and snacks with you and plan to be there a while.  Try to make it as ‘fun’ as possible as you wait- it’s an exhausting experience, but the better you can make it for your child, the better it will be for you as well.

“Parents should also know that casts have come a long way since we were little!  I feared having to put plastic bags over our daughter’s leg for baths, but THE CASTS ARE NOW WATERPROOF!!!!  They actually told us to give her a bath every day and get the cast wet to wash out the dead skin.  It was amazing!”

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