Our oldest burst through the front door, wailing in pain. Since he’s on the autism spectrum, I have to remember that sometimes his reactions are incongruent with actual events, yet very real in his own lived experience.
He’d taken a spill on the driveway while shooting basketball and was holding his hands limp in front of him, pieces of loose concrete clinging to his palms like glitter. Quickly assessing the situation—no visible bleeding, no malformation of limbs, no bones sticking out—I had him sit down on the couch, reminding him to breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. His exaggerated exhale always make me smile. It’s more akin to the expulsion of air on a winter morning, the one you make so your breath comes out in billowy puffs.
“I need to wash my hands!” he exclaims.
In the bathroom he clears away the sediment and I get a good look at the damage. There are a few spots where small bits of skin have been exposed, so we apply hydrogen peroxide. I explain, like I do every time he scrapes or skins a knee, that this is to make sure we clean the area well and to prevent infection.
Later, after he’s calmed, we notice the slight swelling on his wrist and I’m immediately transported.
Several years ago he fell off his bike and broke his arm. Only we didn’t know it was broken because we’d waited overnight to take him in for an X-ray. It was late on a summer night and I hadn’t been there when it happened. By the time I got home he was half asleep on the couch. We’d fashioned a makeshift splint out of a plank of wood and an Ace bandage so he could rest, and took him in first thing in the morning. I still feel the rolling waves of shame and sadness whenever that decision sticks its head out of the closet of things-I-wish-I-could-do-over-again.
So here we are again.
It’s Sunday evening and my initial thought is the ER, but we settle on the walk-in clinic because they have an imaging machine.
Sure enough. A right scaphoid distal avulsion fracture.
“This spot is serious,” says the physician on duty. “It can cut off circulation to the rest of that bone. He can’t use it. Keep him out of school until he sees an orthopedist and get an appointment as soon as you can. Sometimes this one requires a pin.”
I felt sincere relief that we’d taken him in, and an ocean of gratitude for the rare unicorn of an occasion to correct a past experience, but all I could think about was how he could no longer play the drums, or the piano. Music is our kid’s connection to the world, the umbilical cord to his well of ineffable emotions. It’s one of the most dependable go-tos for peer interaction, a veritable social “in” amid the awkwardness of middle school pubescence. He’d just had his first rock band rehearsal and was thrilled about the songs they would be playing, a couple of which he already knew how to play to perfection.
Neither he nor my husband had made the connection to what a fractured wrist would mean for his 13-year-old heart.
Vanessa Sadler is a trauma-informed Spiritual Director and Enneagram Specialist. Through her company Abide (@abidinginstory), she collaborates with clients who seek deeper abiding and a greater understanding of the ways they relate with God, self and others. Vanessa has Level I and Level II certificates in Narrative Focused Trauma Care from The Allender Center, located within the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, and also offers Integrated Story Work to her clients along with a culture identity component.