Nene broke his arm.

I came home one Friday evening, and my helper walked in the door with Nene and informed me that he’d had a fall. Nene was in tears. I swallowed the urge to act right away, and said we should wait and see if ice helped. For once, my helper was taking an urgent tone and felt like we needed to see a doctor. When I realised that Nene couldn’t even move it a tiny bit without shrieking, I figured we’d better skip the doctor and go right to hospital.

Then came the drama of getting a cab on a Friday night. Our security lady kept calling but couldn’t get one. In the end, one of Nene’s friend’s dad used a taxi app to get us one and was super helpful in requesting the driver to drive slowly since Nene couldn’t be jerked around. At the hospital, I was informed that I could only see a GP and get an X-ray and nothing else could be done at night. If I wanted emergency treatment, I’d have to go to a public hospital ER. I opted to see a GP and get the X-ray, which showed that Nene’s arm was broken (not a hairline fracture that could be fixed with a cast). The GP recommended he be admitted that night, which I thought was excessive but I went along with it.

Nene was admitted to the children’s ward and once we were settled in, V, who had been out on his once in three months drinking with office colleagues, and my helper left. To my surprise the orthopedic surgeon showed up 15 minutes later and after examining Nene suggested we have surgery that night itself because the swelling would blow up if we left it till morning. While they got the operating theatre ready and the insurance sorted, I managed to put Nene to sleep. He was woken at about midnight, and I was asked to move him into a wheelchair. This was the worst part as he was groggy and the nurse didn’t give him enough time to get up on his own which he could, but asked me to carry him only the wheelchair and his arm moved and he started screaming in pain.

He then got really scared of going into surgery, although he really is the bravest kid. They let me be with him right up to the entrance of the OT but I had to leave after. An hour of so of pacing outside and the doctor came out to tell me the operation was fine but Nene was crying. When they wheeled him out he was hysterical. It was better when he saw me but he couldn’t stop crying. He began begging for water but I couldn’t give him any because you can’t eat or drink for four hours after an anaesthesia.

The next two hours were the longest of my life, as I had to stave of requests for water from a hysterical child. I finally wet a towel and used it to wipe his dry lips, but it only helped marginally and served to remind him how badly he wanted water. The whole thing reminded me of the scene in the Bible during the passion when Jesus is crucified and begging for water and some soldier puts a cloth on a stick soaked with vinegar and gives it to him. I remember once telling my mum as a kid that I didn’t think Mary had to have had an immaculate conception to be holy, it’s the mere fact of being the mother of a child who grew up to be so unusual and was punished for this with a cruel death that made her worthy of veneration, and when my children suffer I think of Mary even though I am not religious anymore.

I would here like to thank Steve Jobs and team at Apple for inventing the iPad and my husband for pre-loading videos onto it, because this is what calmed (somewhat) my son and gave him something else to focus on besides his pain, fear and thirst. He finally fell asleep and I was able to stave off requests for water for 5 hours. When he woke up we did little sips, until the nurse came in and informed me that he could have breakfast. He ate like a fiend, without any signs of nausea, and though groggy and weak, I knew he would be fine.

I would also like to thank V’s company for giving the whole family great health insurance. We could have handled this through the public system but we would have faced a long wait and would have been roughly treated. As it happened, we moved from one checkpoint to the next pretty seamlessly given the circumstances and had the benefit of a private room and room service which does make life so much easier.

V, my helper and a very tentative Mimi visited in the morning, and I traded places with V and went home for some much needed rest. By evening, the doctor pronounced Nene fit to go home. He was groggy for a couple of days, which I now realise was most likely due to the strong antibiotics, but by the end of the week, he was up and about. The problem then was how to entertain a child that is not allowed too much physical activity and who cannot use his right hand. I got his teacher to send back his school books with Mimi so he could do his homework. Mimi was a sweetheart and acted as his writer through that week. What can I say, the girl loved homework.

The next week he was back at school. His bestie invented “walking tag” so he didn’t have to run during recess, and would carry his bag up to class every day. He could even take part in the school play where he did us proud with the few lines he had to say. Last week, I had a follow-up appointment, and the doctor said his arm is healing well and we can remove the cast mid-January. In the meantime, Nene seems to be able to do a lot with his one hand and the fingers on his right hand, so our challenge is going to be making sure he doesn’t over-do it.