We all make the off-hand comments about things that weigh us down – typically the comment has some connotation about being back-breaking. Whether it’s “you’re gonna break my back” when the kids want us to pick them up or the kids’ mantra “step on a crack, break your momma’s back”. The saying “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt” starts to resonate. Fun and games aside, Rady’s Children’s Hospital has an amazing trauma team.
Well after our recent experience, I’m not sure I’ll be using any of those little diddies… because in reality, a broken back is no laughing matter. Mini-me doesn’t write much about Bubba, but she is the lil sis. Bubba is three years older and complete polar opposite of Mini-me. He’s a brainiac, chatter-box – sometimes to the point of being more of a drama king than girls his age.
Bubba is active in Boy Scouts – he’s an assistant patrol leader and enjoys planning and participating in the events the troop puts together. This makes me happy, because if it weren’t for BSA – I think Bubba would never go outside. And every year, the boys plan and execute a canoe trip on the Colorado River. This is the highlight of Bubba’s year. But there is quite a bit of pre-river planning and preparation. The boys must plan a menu, recondition the aging canoes, pack their things and load up the trailer with the gear.
The week before the trip is frenetic with activities – and this is where the story begins. Every year, the boys have to recondition the canoes – they have to patch any leaks, repair any damage to the braces and seats and make sure that the canoe is water-worthy. Usually this is done at one leader’s home – where they spend an afternoon fixing up the boats. This year it fell on a Wednesday. Gramps took Bubba and “managed” the work (Gramps can’t help too terribly much but enjoys the camaraderie of the boys).
When the patching and repairs were completed, the canoes were loaded on to the trailer. Bubba – being who he is – decided to climb up on the trailer and assist in the securing. As he climbed up the back side of the trailer to get to the canoe toward the top of the rack, another boy mounted the opposite side. I want you to imagine all of those silly cartoons where the antagonist jumps on the teeter-totter and launches the protagonist in the air – well that’s what I imagine happened to Bubba based on the stories I’ve heard.
He went sailing. Add a comically-placed rope that got wrapped around Bubba’s foot and it’s got ACME written all over it – but this is no laughing matter. If it hadn’t been for that rope, I’m not sure what would’ve happen to him. He hit his neck on the bumper of the trailer and the crown of his head on the ground. I’m told that a few of the adults administered first aid, but since I wasn’t there I don’t have a good idea of everything that happened. He didn’t lose consciousness but he was a little dazed.
I’m fairly certain that he had a concussion, since he was staying at Gramps and Gma’s – we aren’t certain. Bubba complained to the school nurse and Aunty A of a headache all day Thursday. Aunty A decide to take him to the chiropractor to see if she could relieve some of the discomfort. She took some xrays and diagnosed him with fractures at C4,5,6. At this point, I finally got a call. I called the doctor and we were told to head directly to Rady’s ER.
We walked into the ER and checked in with the triage nurse. When she asked why were there, I explained the story and she looked at me dumbfounded. “Are you telling me that your son has a broken back?” The trauma team was immediately activated. A whirlwind of people and activity whooshed around us as we were wheeled into the trauma unit. Within minutes, Bubba’s head was immobilized, initial xrays were taken and an exam was done. We had four nurses, a trauma surgeon, a trio of EMTs, a social worker and some others all working to see what was the true injury.
After 20 minutes, we were told that the xrays were inconclusive and we were off to Imaging for a CT scan. When we got back to the trauma unit, an orthopedic surgeon came in to see Bubba. He went through another physical exam and the trauma surgeon joined him. The C-collar was removed and the injury was explained. Bubba had a compression fracture at T8 – thoracic vertebra 8. The potential injury was life-changing. Paraplegia, nerve damage, loss of ability to go to the bathroom to name a few. We were very lucky – Bubba literally walked away from it.
Bubba is struggling now with what the injury means – he is a high school boy with all the high school drama. He can’t carry his backpack – we’ve bought a rolling one. He can’t rough-house, run or play – something he and mini-me were scolded for doing over the long weekend. He doesn’t want to wear the soft neck brace that the orthopedist recommended – because it looks lame. Each time a complaint is uttered over a trivial thing, I thank the powers above that he wasn’t hurt more seriously. I’m glad we took him in because I don’t think I could forgive anyone if he had gone on the river trip and gotten hurt more seriously.
I offer this word of advice - when in doubt, get it checked out. Headaches, sluggishness and disorientation are not symptoms to be taken lightly. A “nasty fall” might be hiding something more.