10 things to remember if your child breaks a bone and you are nowhere near a hospital

How’s that for a light-hearted title? I bet you’re well cued that this is going to be one of those laugh-out-loud posts.

Or maybe not.

Most of you probably won’t be in the position of having your child break a bone and being thirty hours and an international flight away from good medical care, but if you’re a parent thinking this topic through can’t hurt. Presumably, for example, some of you go camping. So today I’m going to share some of the lessons we learned or put into practice last week when Dominic broke his femur. Some of these things we learned the hard way as events unfolded, some we already knew and came in very, very handy.

 1. This doesn’t strictly count because it’s prevention, but we all know that prevention is infinitely better than any cure, so … Sit down with guests when they arrive and specifically warn them about any hazards in your house. Staircases and swimming pools are always significant hazards (visit this website to review other common hazards). Briefing guests will not prevent all accidents, but it can’t hurt.

2. After an accident happens, do not assume that the people involved are able to relay a complete and accurate account of events. Accidents happen fast – those involved may not be aware of everything that unfolded in that instant. They will also be shaken themselves and may be in shock. Assume that your child is seriously injured (and handle them accordingly) until you are reasonably certain that nothing is broken and that they did not hit their head.

3. If in doubt, get it X-rayed. We were fortunate that the X-ray machine here in Luang Prabang was working last week and the technician was in work. When local doctors examined Dominic’s leg it was the only time all morning that he didn’t scream when it was moved. The doctor seemed very confident that it wasn’t broken but we had it X-rayed just to be sure.

4. Use your friends. This is not time to be shy about calling in favors from your medically trained friends. Get on your phone or get on skype and call a doctor. Even if you think you have things under control, you are also very stressed and outside observers may be able to provide helpful input on something you’ve missed. (In our case our friend, Asha, a pediatrician, got on skype with me at 10pm her time, walked me through appropriate pain relief and provided advice on how to make Dominic as comfortable as possible during the night).

The pharmacy near our house

5. Have a variety of infant pain medication on hand. We already had children’s paracetamol in the house but nothing else, and it is not advisable to administer more than four doses of paracetamol in 24 hours. Apparently, when treating breaks and fractures, one good strategy is to alternate doses of infant paracetamol with doses of infant nurofen. Luckily, when Mike got on his bike at 6:30pm and made an emergency dash to some of the local pharmacies, one of those stores had infant nurofen in stock.

6. Have a medication dummy/pacifier in your first aid kit: We don’t have one of these (yet) but I’ve since learned of their existence. It works by loading the medication into a reservoir that then flows through the dummy teat. Apparently they can sometimes work better than syringes when it comes to getting babies to swallow medicine they don’t like the taste of (orange-flavored infant nurofen, for example).

7. Breastfeed upon demand. Breastfeeding apparently reduces distress and lessens pain, and so does proximity to mum (or dad, if dad is the child’s primary caregiver) so stay close by.

8. Splint the limb to hold it stable and reduce your child’s pain. Our insurance company’s doctor told us over the phone how to splint the leg. We used packing box cardboard and a gauze bandage. Cardboard turned out to be a good choice because it didn’t have to be removed for the X-rays in Thailand. I taped the cardboard edges with gauze tape so they wouldn’t scratch him, but another thing I wish I had thought to do was slip a soft pair of my cotton socks over the cardboard to make it marginally more comfortable against Dominic’s skin.

9. Move your child as little as possible. This one is common sense – anyone who has broken a bone knows how much it hurts when that limb moves – but make sure you think creatively about how you can minimize movement. We were assuming we’d put Dominic in his travel cot as usual during the night until Asha pointed out that we could just leave him on the change table mat to sleep for the night rather than trying to maneuver him into that small space. And to that end…

10. Sleep your child somewhere where you can get to them to comfort and/or breastfeed without having to move them. The change-table mat on the floor by my side of the bed worked for us – I was able to feed Dominic by kneeling over him.

Finally, a bonus number 11: If you take up yoga while you’re pregnant, don’t quit after you give birth. You never know when you’re going to find yourself on an airplane having to breastfeed a baby who is strapped into a carseat.

Any tips to add? Leave them below to help out others who will read this post.

Feeling much better in hospital in Thailand

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9 responses to “10 things to remember if your child breaks a bone and you are nowhere near a hospital

  1. oh goodness sakes. I just read your whole story from the last weeks. As someone preparing to take a kiddo and possibly have more on the field…. this type of thing is the stuff of nightmares.
    What DO we do with fairly reasonable fears?

    • That is a very good question without a very good (or, at least, a very simple) answer. I’m pondering. And in the meantime I’m also trying not to think about catastrophes in technicolor every single time I walk up or down the stairs.

  2. Dom looks great in the picture in hospital, he
    Might even be proud to have a cast on his leg to show off to his friends! Look how he’s showing it off, sign here, sign here he’s saying…

  3. I have not been able to stop thinking about and praying for y’all. So glad your precious baby is smiling again.

    I’d like to see a blog post on your relationship with your mother in law! Just kidding…sort of.

  4. Coming from a family who have managed to have major accidents whilst on vacation I really feel for you all over the last couple of weeks. Having to travel to get emergency medical care is terrible!
    At 10 years of age I managed to break my arm (radius and ulna completely snapped) whilst rollerblading on our first day of a family vacation (boxing day). I was fortunate enough to break my arm in front of an orthopedic surgeon (also on holiday), who splinted my arm with newspaper and tea-towels for the 2 hour drive to the hospital. I can still remember every bump and corner on that drive to the hospital (& I bet my parents can too).
    Then when I went to Africa I had a camp stove blow up in my face whilst cooking. I again was fortunate enough to have some very well trained teachers with me who applied immediate first aid. My tip for anyone else who experiences facial and hand burns whilst hiking through Africa – Malaria tablets make you susceptible to sunburn – sunscreen really stings 2nd degree burns – but your hands and face will not cope at all well with sunburn on top of 2nd degree burns!
    And then my sister broke her ankle whilst on a game drive in Zimbabwe and had to make 2 international flights home for surgery in Sydney. My tips – air travel makes limbs swell at the best of times and when you have a broken bone (or several as the case may be) plaster and plane travel do not mix (a well meaning nurse had decided to place 1 strip of plaster over her ankle when they were giving her a “back-slab” to stabilize her leg for the journey home). At 35 000 feet they have no knives on planes anymore – my sisters friends were trying to remove the plaster strip over her broken ankle with nail files! An inflatable cast was applied before she boarded the plane from Jo’Berg to Sydney thank goodness – but the swelling from the travel meant she had to wait 4 days for surgery when she did land in Sydney.
    We are keeping you all and especially Dominic in our prayers for healing, patience and comfort.

    • Ugh, Bree, I remember you telling me about the campfire incident. You have way too many practical “learned the hard way” lessons packed into those stories above. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Hi Lisa
    You have so many beautiful friends supporting your every move – good on you for sharing yourself with us all. My heart is with you. I’ve just had my knee operated on – so have a little first hand experieince of the need to tak care with every move. The good thing is that ‘time heals’ – being either ‘patient’ or ‘a patient’ is another story. Breathe well. Much love to you all – Sant0

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