butterfly injury 3
DadVenturesHealth and Wellness

The Butterfly Effect

The air was hot and humid. Another balmy spring day in a coastal community being plagued by the alleged global warming debacle. The kids were mesmerized by the annual transition of our local caterpillars sprouting their wings and seeing the monarch butterfly speckled across my windshield…

Ok, maybe not so much the windshield effect, but they definitely love seeing the butterflies cruising around. Today was no different. Lily decided to strap on her roller skates and head to the park with Jen. Josh and I had entered into a heated game of Rocket League online and were firmly planted on the couch.

Roller Skates

Aside from giving a toddler a whole grape, the deadliest thing a parent can do is give children roller skates. A wheeled device at the mercy of gravity with no brakes. Strapped onto a child that is still figuring out how their motor functions control such non-essential things as balance. As a parent, watching your kids face plant the driveway isn’t nearly as much fun as it is watching someone else’s kids do it.

Roller skates make a great gift… for other peoples kids. Unfortunately, the universe hates me and I am either too lazy or much too generation X to intervene when I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned.

With the skates laced up, Lily and Jen headed out the door.

Eager Anticipation

I always like watching our kids get excited. It is a catch 22 though for me sometimes. I have always had a unique ability to anticipate risk so when I see potential failure it makes me feel worse when things go south. I do my best to intervene and educate but you can only tell kids “be careful” so many times.

My son and I sat on couch waiting for the next round of our game to load. The silence was interrupted by a faint scream. A few moments passed and Jen came charging through the door in a panic. I already knew what happened before the words came out of her mouth.

Adding Insult to Injury

Lily came rolling into the garage holding her right arm. Tears streaming down her face as she showed me her wrist. I could see the swelling and didn’t need an Xray to tell what was going on. I had seen enough broken bones to know where we were heading next. The next question was much more obvious and likely more rhetorical than inquisitive but I still had to ask… “what happened?”

She was skating down the sidewalk, minding her own business… This is pretty much how every good injury story starts. I dare you to ask any ER doc the most common cause of physical trauma and I guarantee the cause is “minding my own business.”

Apparently, she was skating down the sidewalk when some asshole butterfly came out of left field and attacked her. Like a tiny springtime bully that winged bastard swooped in without hesitation. Darting left and right, the butterfly strafed the front causing her to stumble and fall forward. She went down like that infamous sack of potatoes everyone references but no one has actually seen… unless they worked food service or grocery at some point in their lives.

She reached out to protect from slamming her face into the ground. The most common injury in my medical practice followed shortly behind. The buckle fracture of the distal radius.

butterfly injury 2

Profiling Like a Professional

In my medical world, there are really only two ways to have the infamous “foosh” injury in a child. The Fall On Out Stretched Hand is most commonly associate with the infamous monkey bars, followed only slightly less known by the roller skate. Not to be confused with entering a land war in Asia or betting against a Sicilian when death is on the line… but I digress (anybody want a peanut?).

I could see the pain in her face masked only by the embarrassment of knowing she got her ass handed to her by a butterfly. The universes version of Sloth from the goonies; no one expects him to be aggressive but there he is charging in with heroic malcontent in his eyes. She wheeled into the garage and sat down cradling her right wrist. I looked up at my wife and asked what every father is thinking every time their child is hurt… “WTF?” Fully aware I already knew what had transpired. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math here. Mom and Daughter left with new skates, a few minutes later Mom and Daughter return both hysterical and one in tears. No need to consult a detective here. The odds are overwhelmingly in my favor.

Relief In Sight

I reached into my magic bag of tricks and managed to immediately find my SAM Splint and an ace bandage. These are a couple of things every parent should have on hand and know exactly how to use. Lets face it, injuries rarely occur at convenient locations with ready access to medical services. It is nice knowing how to stabilize and secure your kids injury so you can make the trip to the nearest hospital or urgent care.

I made quick work of wrapping and stabilizing her wrist to the point that she was ready to call it day and show off my wrap job to her friends at school in the morning. However, the physician part of my brain took over and decided I should probably get a second opinion since this was my own child and its always nice to blame someone else if things go south.

I called a close friend of mine who is a pediatric Ortho Surgeon. I had originally only intended to find out who was on call in the ER but what he said meant more to me than when the wife tells me “that was amazing.” We all know she is lying to me, but with my friends we know we can take it at face value because men say exactly what they mean. My buddy told me he would meet us in his office in 20 minutes. I did what I could to pack it in and load them all to load up for the journey to the clinic.

True Colors

Color can be a very polarizing issue to the world. I am not speaking about skin or ethnicity. I am speaking of the physical color of tangible objects. All parents out there that have to buy toys, clothing, dishes, or even popsicles for more than one child at a time will understand how not having the correct color can trigger beast mode in their children. If you want to see a meltdown or ruin a birthday party, give a kid a toy in a color you know they won’t like, then sit back and watch the world burn to the ground.

After speaking with my buddy who is a Pediatric Ortho Surgeon and reviewing the images, we decided to put a Cast on my daughter. Her face lit up and I could see the wheels turning as she glamorized the concept of being that kid at school with a cast. It was like an instant popularity boost her mind. Thank god we didn’t mention the color options available at that time. Being a holiday weekend, there was no staff in the clinic other than the two of us. Neither of us actually had a key to the supply closet so we were limited to what was in the room. All of the Pink casting material was under lock and key so we were stuck with… Green. My sons favorite color.

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Cold Reality

With the cast in place and the ever growing list of favors we all owe each other, we headed back home. The rest of the day was full of the other two kids being enamored by the green monster while Lily was still fantasizing about what would be the reaction at school. Time flew by as she began to grapple with the reality of not having a functional right arm.

I have had several broken bones and various injuries over the last few decades of life. I am no stranger to the concept of adapting to these situations. As a parent though, it is difficult to watch your kids struggle with the speed bump in their routine. Something as stupid as brushing your teeth can instantly humble you. I was proud of my daughter though. She soldiered through her normal routine without a single complaint.

The next day came in like the shock of falling through the ice on a frozen lake. We had plans to go swimming at our neighbors pool and everyone was excited. Excited until someone did the math on not being able to submerge their arm in water… All of a sudden that confident adaptable demeanor came crashing down. It was no longer exciting to have a cast.

Adapt and Survive

Life has a way of throwing constant curveballs at us. Being able to adapt on the fly and find a way forward is an extremely valuable skill to develop. It takes work to calm the nerves, assess the situation, identify the problem, and then create a solution. Most people get stuck in the first faze and never allow themselves to adequately assess the situation. When my daughter came up to me with tears in her eyes on the side of the pool, I couldn’t help but think about this exact concept.

I spent a few minutes consoling her and calming her emotionally. Calming the nerves allowed for her to think rationally. I then began to ask what the problem was. She obviously said “I can’t swim” with the most sincere feeling of failure in her sweet little voice. I again consoled her and probed further. “Is the problem that you can’t swim, or that you can’t put your arm in the water?” I asked.

After a brief moment of hesitation, she responded by explaining how she can’t get her arm wet so she can’t get in the pool. Again, I questioned the situation trying to help her assess the viable options. She began to see where I was going with this. She offered up the possibility of removing the cast which I of course said no, but then she came up with the idea of covering her arm with something to keep it water proof. My excitement must have been showing at this moment because her tears were gone and that perfect little smile began to appear.

Final Thoughts

We eventually fashioned a covering for her arm that let her effectively get in the pool. After that we ended up buying a rubber sleeve to keep sand and water out of it so she could still have fun on our camping trip to Carpinteria as well.

As parents we try to plan out the lives of our children in great detail. Anticipating points of failure and doing our best to prevent them. Life on the other hand is more chaotic. The concept of cause and effect is a distant relative to a phenomenon in physics referred to as the butterfly effect. This effect is the compounding impact of cause and effect. We have no idea what moments in life will be a defining moment for our children later on. All we can really do is try to coach them and keep showing them how to push forward. Try to make every moment count because we will never get them back.


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