Saturday, 3 March 2012

Night at the A&E

Addenbrooke's Hospital A&E featured heavily today.

First, a colleague managed to fall over and break their arm/collarbone1 at work. Then another colleague got a call from his other half that his son may have broken their arm falling off a climbing frame. As are their wont, these things tend to come in threes... those of us with kids watched our phones a little nervously2 as they went off to the hospital.

But no calls. texts occurred and by the end of the day, I climbed gratefully into the backseat of our car... to an inconsolable Plate. She'd been crying pretty much non-stop for about an hour and FBB was close to tearing his hair out. Apparently, she'd been playing with Granddad A - standing on his shoes while he walked her around the house - and laughing like a drain when suddenly she just burst out crying. No one could figure out why. Poor bubs! I soothed her with some milk and noticed that she wasn't using her right arm much. And every time I touched it, she seemed to cry harder. Elementary. She'd hurt her arm. So we dashed home, I took her little fleece off as she was exceptionally warm and we gave her a shot of Neurofen. While we waited for it to take effect, we thought we better give the medical people a call.

These were the questions we were asked: Is the back of her neck warm? Yes. Is her arm warm? Yes. Is it pale or bruised looking? No. Is her hand swelled up? A little. Hmmm. Take her to A&E and  get her x-rayed. Yikes!

But by this time, she had stopped crying, was laughing and was using her arm like a baseball player - throwing things, waving it around, clapping! Obviously the Neurofen had taken care of the pain. The question was, would it come back after the painkiller wore off? We scratched our heads and debated whether or not to still go to A&E. We decided that dinner would help with the decision-making3. As we ruminated, FBB said 'I know what'll happen - if we decide not to go, she'll wake up tomorrow and find that her arm doesn't work.' We decided to go to A&E. 

As FBB was more than a little rattled, I suggested we give Granddad A a call. Thankfully, the old man volunteered to come with, because FBB had completely forgotten how to get to Addenbrooke's. He drove, we chewed our nails. Plate chattered away to herself delightedly in the back then fell asleep just as we got there.

At A&E4, the first sign that greeted us said "Waiting times: 2.5 hours for doctor, 2 hours for nurse practitioner, GP: n/a". Sigh. We thought we might be in for a long haul, so we had packed the nappy bag with a flask of sweet tea and chocolate biscuits. Yay for us.

The children's waiting area was actually quite calming. It was blue and white, with little chairs, some toys, drawings by patients, TV showing a film and a huge blackboard that just about every child seemed to have discovered. It was very warm so Plate was stripped down to just leggings. And she carried on being her usual Explorer Dora self - investigating everything and picking up heavy objects and giving them to Granddad A. With one arm. Her injured arm. We reckon she was fixed. But we had already driven 45 minutes and had waited for an hour. We might as well get seen. First stop: triage nurse.

When we told her what had happened, she explained that they see this all the time. It's called a pulled elbow. Apparently young children have very soft ligaments holding their joints together, so it's quite easy to pop the radius (in your forearm) out of the elbow, just by lifting them by their arms. It usually happens when you wrench a child by the arm to stop them falling. In Plate's case, she'd lurched forward faster than Granddad A could catch her. It's very easy to manipulate the bone back into the joint - just by taking clothes off or on. It'll hurt a bit but once it's in, it's perfectly fine again. So we had unwittingly fixed her just by being sensible! Still, she should get checked over by the doc or nurse practitioner to make sure.

By the second showing of Shrek the Third - and three other patients later - we finally got seen. Fortunately, Plate's sunny temperament and smile had made waiting much more bearable. Bless! The nurse-practitioner blew bubbles at her, and watched her reach out for them, support herself against me and generally use her arm comfortably. She was pronounced unhurt and we were given a what to do if this happens again list (see above). However, should the above actions not have the desired effect, we were to take her to the nearest hospital with x-ray facilities5.

With lighter hearts and relieved shoulders, we headed home. Plate finally fell asleep in the car and we ghosted home to bed.

Well, not me. Now I'm going to bed.

1. I don't know which one it was exactly as the message that came from his wife was somewhat confusing.

2. Sorry G-Man, throwing the stuffed bunny off the desk did not work this time.

3. Instant noodles, boiled up with mushrooms, green beans and sliced Pepparami. Drained and tossed in Philadelphia. Mm-mm!

4. As you go through the swooshy doors, there are washbasins for visitors to wash their hands before entering A&E proper with a stentorian voice exhorting everyone to do so on a loop. Annoyingly, someone had managed to rip open the hand towel dispenser and the towels were slowly coating the area as they were being blown off with every swoosh of the doors. Tsk tsk. Of course, we fixed it. We're Holmeses!

5. Campaign for a full A&E in Ely anyone? It's ridiculous to have to drive so far!

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