Sunday, August 02, 2009


When Maxfield broke his femur Lauren and I drove him to the local ER. They x-rayed his leg and confirmed the fracture but were unable to treat him due to their lack of a Pediatric Orthopedic Specialist. They sent us to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, CHOP for short.

CHOP had to do their own evaluation and run their own tests on Max's leg. The pushing and prodding and twisting of his leg to get the x-rays was extremely painful for Max. Now he had to go through it twice. While being pushed and prodded in CHOP's triage area Maxfield started screaming at the top of his lung's "This is the worst hospital I have ever been to." Which was very funny because, well, you know, he has only been to two.

Someone must have heard him screaming (every body on the floor heard him) and they sent in a specialist. This specialist entered the room, evaluated the situation, and quickly began working on calming Max down. She talked directly to Max and started teaching him breathing techniques to help ease the pain.

"Take deep breath, hold it for a couple of seconds and then push all the pain away when you exhale. Blow the pain away." She said over and over again demonstrating with long audible exhales. She made sure that Lauren and I were watching her so we could help Max manage his pain when she had to leave. This specialist was not a doctor or a nurse, nor do I think this person had any kind of medical degree. She was a volunteer. She was incredible.

Later that night when Max would wake up every five minutes, with severe muscle spasms and intense amounts of pain, I would start coaching him to blow the pain away. The spasms would last for a couple of minutes and Max would, between tears and sobs, huff and puff his way through them. I would end the final moments of the spasm by whispering in his ear, "Push the pain out with your breath. Whoooooooow. Push the pain out with your breath. Whoooooooow. Push the pain out with your breath. Whoooooooow." Max would drift off to sleep for another five minutes before another spasm would hit and we would start all over.

For the two weeks following our hospital stay, at least once a night, I would have to coach Max to blow out his pain. I know we were sent to CHOP to make sure that Max would see a Pediatric Orthopedic, but I am glad we were sent to CHOP so Max and I could see the volunteer.

The cast came off at the end of June and Max is doing really well. The doctor said he is healing exactly as he should be but he won't be back to normal for another 6 or so months. The muscles surrounding his thigh are still somewhat atrophied but are slowly returning to normal. As a result of the fracture Max's right leg is a centimeter or two shorter than his left leg. This causes a very awkward gate and limp when he walks.

A few nights ago I was watching Max play with some kids at the park. The kids were running in a pack from one end of the field to another, using soccer nets as their start and finish lines. Max could not keep up the pace. He was always about 15 yards behind the group. At one point the group stopped at a soccer net and Max kept running. He ran right past them. The other kids started sprinting to catch up to Max. Just as they were on his heels, Max's leg gave out and he went sprawling into the grass. The other kids kept running. Max lay still for a few moments but he then slowly stood up, brushed himself off and hobbled to the other soccer goal.

I watched it all from a distance and my heart was breaking for Maxfield. I found myself welling up and whispering under my breath to myself, "Push the pain out with your breath."


Here is a great link for parents. Save it in your favorites. It has tips and information about dealing with trauma After the Injury.


kalki said...

Let's hear it for the volunteer! This was a sweet post, Bill. I'm glad he's returning to normal - he'll get there.

Ann ( said...

Hi, I'm a fairly new reader of your blog and I love it. This post was great, very inspiring about the volunteer. Thank you. Maxfield sounds like a tough guy. Good luck to him.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure it wasn't a Child Life Specialist? I am a pediatrician, and I LOVE the Child Life people at the hospital...they are truly under-appreciated for the things they do!

Melinda said...

Three cheers to the volunteer lady!
I love hearing stories like this.

Unknown said...

william, This was beautifully written. I was right there with you. I just had to comment on your "Grease" adventure. I think we have a connected brain. I almost called the post "Summer Lovin, Had Me A Thrill" but thought I would go with an earlier memory! Good time those days were! Thanks for the comment! E

Unknown said...

CHOP is awesome. My friends' dad used to be chief of surgery there for many years, and her mom was like head of anaestisia or something. Thank goodness I never needed to go there myself, for me or my kids. I'm sure Max will be good as new in no time. I can't imagine watching your child in so much pain.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the lady that left you a lifetime message. You will remember that always. So will Max.

Michelle said...

Volunteer or angel? Sounds like a bit of both.

Anonymous said...

I love their checkerboard endzones

Bogart said...

Souns like there is often more pain for the parent.

But the obvious question I have for you...was the volunteer cute?

Lowa said...

Parenting is so hard, isn't it?? I find that 90% of the time, it hurts us more than the kids. Emotionally AND physically. They are SO resilient!

What a wonderful volunteer! Maybe I should start volunteering at hospitals. It sounds like more one on one time than the soup kitchen I volunteer at. Thanks for the idea!

My little Clown knows breathing techniques for his panic attacks. Before he learned them (and visualization tricks), my heart would break when my little man would be so panicked and scared of what seems like nothing, that he would hyperventilate and say he wants to die to get away from the horrible feelings:( Talk about a rough time with parenting! A person feels so helpless!

Glad that Max is healing!

Jacqui said...

owwww, I love your post! Poor little Max! What a trooper embracing the breathing exercises. When people tried to show me breathing exercises to ease the pain during my recent labour, I just wanted to punch them in the face. Humbling to see that even some brave children have a better disposition than me in the face of pain!

Anonymous said...

Hooray for that angel, whatever her specialty!
My favorite picture of my husband is of him holding an Iraqi baby girl in the hospital. She was crying and needed a daddy to hold her. My heart melts whenever I see that photograph.

Keep breathing, Max! And you, too, Bill.

traci said...

I broke my hip when I was 14. I am now 44. The muscles in that leg have never been the same.

Your angel lady was a miracle indeed.

I understand completely the heartbreak you feel for your Max. I still feel that sometimes for my children and they are all grown.