01 April 2019

[Bess Tuggle] - Memoirs of Surviving Children: Tale of the Turtle Shell

I guess this is as good a time as any to tell the Tale of the Turtle Shell.

Thing 2, a.k.a. Crash Dummy, won himself a six-week, all inclusive, parent-paid trip to Newton General at the ripe old age of four.  Meals and Traction included!

At that tender age a parent or adult relative had to be with him all the time.  I spent an awful lot of time in that hospital room, but they were kind enough to give me my own bed.  I got spelled on occasion, but it was mostly my child and I in this little room.

We watched endless cartoons.  We played card games (War and Go Fish were the favorites), colored, read stories…  The nurses were –wonderful- to both of us.  Several would use their breaks to give me a break, come in and color (one nurse had a special coloring book just for them), talk, read.. just to give my pregnant rear time to waddle up and down the hall a few times.

Then, heaven help me, a friend sent him a gift he absolutely loved.  Flowers, a stuffed lion which was names “Wion” forever more, and The Lion King movie to go with it.  The Lion King was all the rage that year, and we watched it at least three d*#m times a day.

Finally came the wonderful day we’d been waiting for!  We were going to go home!  Thing 2 in a body cast, but we were going!

They let me waddle down to the OR with my child and watch most of the process though the window.  He was knocked out (anesthesia not a baseball bat), hung from some type of apparatus on an operating table that had a hole in the middle.  That’s when I was asked to leave.  I guess they didn’t want me to see the intricate process of wrapping a kid up in green gauze and plaster.

The body cast was bright green.  It started under his arms, went down to the ankle on his left leg, his knee on the right and a bar to keep them separated.  It came with appropriate holes for potty breaks.

Just leaving the hospital we learned we were going to have to make some serious adjustments.  He couldn’t bend at the waste, so there was no way he was going in his booster seat.  I ended up laying him down and seat belting him in as best I could.  

Once home came the realization that our house really wasn’t set up for an invalid.  Flight of stairs on front and back lug him up and down, his bed had to be dismantled so the mattress was on the floor, and I don’t believe there –is- such a thing as a toilet for a person in a body cast.  I tried once to hold him in front of the toilet so he could pee, but guess what – a four year old doesn’t have good aim on a good day.  Wobbling in a body cast made enough of a mess I didn’t want either of us to revisit.  

There were some accidents, but the doctor’s office gave me some great advice and helpful tips for dealing/coping with it. Actual trips to the doctor involved facing the stairs, trying to strap down 3 kids and putting Crash Dummy in a little red wagon to drag him across the parking lot while trying to keep up with the other two.

Wion was the victim of one of these accidents.  Not a problem.  He was washable. But did you know if you put a stuffed lion in the dryer, one with a full, fluffy mane, he comes out with an irreversible afro?  

Our living room turned into a play room with a beanbag chair in the middle for the wounded, surrounded by toys, coloring books, puzzles.. and The Lion King played on!  Thing 2 learned how to pull him off his mattress and into his control center all by himself.

The fun started when he learned what he could do on a linoleum floor in a body cast – and it didn’t take long.  He was stuck on his back, but he could use his arms and spin in circles in the kitchen.  FAST circles, the kind that leave you dizzy and your eyes bouncing back and forth for a while.  When his brothers’ joined in, they would grab him by an arm and give him a –good- spin.  Kitchen chairs were moved, the linoleum never fully recovered, but the giggles were worth every bit of it.  Go figure – they were all entertained and not arguing or fighting.

Thing 4 was born not long before the body cast came off.  Thing 2 didn’t have a clue.  He scooted into his beanbag chair and started watching cartoons.  That’s when I put the baby in his arms and he just –stared-.  He’d been waiting patiently for “his” baby (Thing 1 claimed Thing 3).  He took his favorite toy, Wion, and gave it to his baby.  His baby is a Marine now, but still has his Wion.

The body cast was –finally- removed after 8 weeks.  Just long enough for us to get a routine down, but it was OFF.  He had to learn to walk again, amongst other things, but came out strong enough to proceed to two more broken arms.

Life in the fast lane!!!



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