We did it!
This morning, the cast came off and is now a distant memory with only a slight limp (and a smelly cast in a bag) to remember it by.
When the Little Man broke his leg 4 weeks ago, I honestly thought my world was coming to an end.
I can clearly remember sitting in the ER with my husband laughing almost uncontrollably as my eyes filled with tears. I knew I needed a lesson in “letting go, and letting God,” but had never expected for it to happen at 34 weeks pregnant.
Trying to regain control of my world and my sanity when the unthinkable (almost unbelievable) happens, through no fault of his own, my son breaks his leg, and we end up with a cast for 4 weeks.
Well, we’ve reached the end, and I can only say I came out the other side alive and a happier person for it.
If you ever find yourself going through the same experience, I have a few pointers and tips on how to help you make it through. Little facts I learned along the way that you might never have thought of until you’re in the situation, but pointers I wish I knew.
When it goes on. . .
If you find yourself with a child getting a cast, the typical application visit will look something like this:
1) An orthopedist will examine the ER x-rays and perform a brief physical to confirm the break, severity, and discuss a plan of action. (This will last 10-15 minutes)
2) The cast goes on by a cast technician and assistant. They’ll usually have a parent hold onto the child at the table or in your lap while they do the wrap. Most children’s hospitals will allow you to select a cast color or pattern.
If you’re a fun parent and know a cast is inevitable, think ahead about your color and order a cast tattoo! It’s a fun way to make it more exciting for your child and can probably even arrive around the time your cast goes on!
The whole process should only take about 15 minutes. They’re fast and comforting if they specialize in pediatrics!
3) You’ll go in for another x-ray to confirm the cast was set in place correctly.
4) If the doctor approves the x-ray, you go on your way! They almost never have to reset the cast due to the x-ray results.
Check for the rough spots!
If you find your child in a cast, make sure the moment they put it on they apply moleskin padding or gauze to any rough parts that come in contact with the skin; especially if it’s a part that will have a lot of friction. For example, the upper part of the cast that comes in contact with the thigh or bottom, or the part that comes in contact with the elbow or under arm.
Within 4 days, we were back at the hospital because this worried mom already saw signs of skin irritation and redness. If I’d known to ask for the gauze first, we would have avoided an unnecessary traumatizing trip back for this simple fix!
Although they tell you to avoid getting the cast wet like it’s the plague, it’s going to happen! We limited the number of sponge baths we gave him down to 1 a week, used a plastic bag as protection, and he’d still wind up with cast dampness. There’s no way to avoid it.
You can try a blow drier on the cool setting (if your child will allow you to get it near them!). But we found that air drying was the best method. We simply left his pants off and let him run around in a diaper until we felt most of the moisture had gone away. Whatever you do, DON’T use baby or talcum powder in or near the cast! It doesn’t soak up the moisture; it’ll only cause irritation and make it more itchy.
Another unpleasant result from the leg cast was the smelliness due to sweat and urination. We never thought a cast “symptom” would be bed-wetting, but it was!
Because the cast went up to his upper thigh, we often found with his nighttime movement, the cast would pull his diaper away from his skin and cause leaking. Almost every other night he’d wake up in a puddle or we’d discover he’d leaked through his pants the next morning.
We slowly learned to check his bed before we went to bed and change his diaper if it was slightly full or even just lay a towel down if we noticed dampness. This would help with his nighttime wakings, but often there wasn’t anything we could do.
If his cast was wet the next morning, again, we simply let it air dry, but no matter how hard we tried, the cast was going to end up smelling like urine (and the doctor confirmed it was common.).
A lovely bonus to add to all the other “fun” aspects of having a cast!
A New Weapon
If you end up with a leg cast, don’t be surprised if your toddler begins to realize it can be a fun toy to swing or hit with.
Banging sounds coming from his bed railing or wall was a frequent noise at bedtime, and small dents and paint scraps began to appear where he’d swing his leg before falling asleep.
Never underestimate the power of a toddler in a cast! They quickly realize they feel no pain and find it to be a new and exciting toy!
Over the last 4 weeks, my husband and I have had several almost broken noses, bruising, and I personally had a busted, bloody lip for 3 days as our son learned that swinging his 6 pound cast around was a new feeling! Eventually we learned to start covering our faces and using our strength to keep his leg down if we had to lay near him while he innocently experimented with the feeling.
When it comes off. . .
This appointment is very similar to the first appointment only everything happens backwards.
1) The cast technician removes the cast using a cast saw. Don’t panic at the thought of a power tool near your child’s skin like I did!
They place ear muffs on the child to help protect from the noise; although it’s not very loud if you’re not wearing them.
The cast saw has a plastic safety that prevents the tech from cutting too deep, and they only cut the hard part of the cast which stops about 1/4″ away from the top and bottom.
Then they use gauze scissors to cut the remaining pieces off, and then, in two sections it simply pops off!
This is where I thought my son would flip out, but he was so fascinated by what they were doing, he barely moved once the sound of the saw started. Afterwards I realized he didn’t even have the ear muffs over his ears! (But I hear this isn’t typical! Don’t be surprised if you’re having to hold your child down as they’re freaking out. Sorry if this is you!)
Again, this took maybe 5-8 minutes.
In our case, she found a redness and borderline blistering on his heel, so she asked us to not let him walk until he’d been seen by the doctor.
3) You’ll have 1 more x-ray to determine if the break has healed.
4) The doctor will examine the x-rays, followed by a
visual exam to see any irregularities or skin issues.
We were warned to avoid the urge to scrub his legs with a loofa or brush to get off the dead skin. The skin is extra sensitive and will only cause more irritation that way. Any type of lotion or moisturizer would be fine to use and helpful as itching is expected.
The doctor will also try to get the child moving the limb to help them begin the process of reusing the muscles, and discuss what’s expected going forward.
As long as everything healed properly, and there are no follow-up concerns. . .you’re done!
With our morning appointment, we were in and out within 45 minutes!
After Effects of a Leg Cast
We were told it would take about 5 weeks for him to back to 100% normalcy. There’d be a 2 week period where he might walk as if he were still in a cast and adjusting to using his muscles again.
Knee-buckling, frequent falls, not bending his knee, throwing his leg around are all normal.
After a few weeks, he’d probably still slightly walk with a limp as he’s trying to rebuild his hip muscles.
But overall, toddlers are pretty resilient! He was almost walking on his own as we left the hospital, and only held our hand to help keep his balance.
And by the time we reached our car, it was like the whole thing never happened . . .