30 April 2012, by Tan Yi Lin
This is a continuation from my previous entry on how Coco ended up with an arm cast.
So, other than waiting anxiously for the next follow-up appointment, what do we actually do with a tiny human arm encased in plaster?
Dan and I have never had the misfortune of breaking a limb. Throughout their 30-over years of being parents, my own parents have also never had to handle any incidents of broken children. And now we have an 8-month old baby with a thickly bandaged arm, looking not unlike a little fiddler crab trying to balance with one oversized claw.
To the relief of hapless parents and heartbroken grandparents, KKH provided us with a brochure detailing general information and advice on caring for a child’s limb in plaster cast.
Here’s a brief summary of the DOs and DON’Ts when handling little plaster people:
1. DO keep the cast dry to prevent risk of skin irritation.
Cover the cast completely with a plastic bag when in the shower. For Coco, the transparent food bags (the kind you detach from the roll, usually found at the fruit and vegetable sections at a supermarket) proved to be the perfect size.
2. DO raise the plastered limb by placing pillows under the affected limb.
3. DO encourage your child to exercise his fingers (or toes) to prevent swelling and improve blood circulation, but minimise unnecessary movement as it can cause excessive sweating, making the child prone to itchiness.
4. Do the following if your child experiences a severe itch:
– Keep him in cool environment as itch/odour is caused by accumulated sweat.
– Use a hairdyer on COLD setting or a fan to evaporate the accumulated sweat. DO NOT insert anything into the cast to scratch.
– Approach your doctor for anti-itch medicines, to be used only when necessary.
5. DO NOT attempt to trim or reshape the cast.
6. DO NOT attempt to remove any bandages from your cast until your appointment date.
7. DO contact the hospital immediately for:
– Loose, cracked or broken cast
– Numb, cold or discoloured (blue) toes/fingers of the affected limb
– “Pins and needles” sensation or numbness of the limb.
– Pain or burning sensation of the limb.
– Stained or smelly cast.
– Severe or persistent itching.
With an infant who can’t talk yet (well, not in English or any specific language anyway), it would be near impossible to tell whether Coco was being plagued by “pins and needles” or numbness or burning sensations.
But by Monday afternoon, she was gingerly regaining confidence in moving her arm.
By Tuesday, she was happily and recklessly BANGING her cast on just about any surface — her high chair, pieces of furniture and our faces. She was also back to performing body rolls on the bed before dropping off to sleep.
By Wednesday, her cast had become so loose from all that banging around that it slipped down right over her hand, covering all the fingers on her right hand. By then, we were also tired of having a grubby cast, damp and smelly from sweat and saliva, being shoved into our faces and broke one of the hospital’s “DO NOT” rules:
WE REMOVED HER CAST before the doctor’s appointment, which was scheduled for Friday.
We did it because she seemed to have regained full mobility of her arm and was actively using her right hand without any sign of pain. She was active, cheerful and in good spirits. It seemed logical to assume that she had recovered from her injury and to remove the cast before it caused other problems, such as skin irritation and itching. It didn’t make sense to stake out at the A&E for another two hours with a fidgety baby, just to have someone else do it for us.
Everybody was relieved to have her arm out of the cast. The relief was probably greater for us than for her. Our baby was back to normal.
Back at KKH on Friday, for our third appointment in less than a week, a fellow parent in the waiting lounge commented that Coco seemed to be in a good mood despite having yet to be given the all-clear by the doctor. She later demonstrated her healing powers to the doctor by:
Yawning loudly as he bent and prodded at her arm.
Grabbing at his files and papers with her right hand.
Helping herself to a Barney sticker and a Hello Kitty sticker when offered — and promptly tried to eat them.
Eating a good part of the bun from my Fillet O’Fish and using her right arm to vigorously wipe the table at MacDonald’s with the uneaten portion. When Dan forcibly pried the germ-filled bun bits out of her iron grip, she screamed her lungs out despite the fact that she was holding MORE bread in her left hand.
(At this point, I sarcastically congratulated Dan on his daughter having evidently learnt how to throw a tantrum in public. OH.MY.GOD.)
And so ends the traumatic experience of the pulled elbow episode.
We’ll save the hand-holding for when Coco’s steady enough to walk on her own. Until then, we’re mindful of supporting our tiny explorer using only the correct grip — hands firmly around her torso — on her countless walking expeditions around her rapidly expanding world.