This is one of those posts that, as a parent, I hope you never have to use. I hope you can file it away on a Pinterest board or in a favorites menu and never have to use it. In all honesty, I wish I didn't have to write it.
My son has another broken bone this summer. It's his 5th fracture in 2 years. (Oh, and my daughter was also in a cast last summer).
Yes, we've had him tested - for calcium deficiency, for Vitamin D deficiency, for brittle bone disease -- you name it and they ran a test, checked the scans and referred to multiple physicians. But the only answer we have is that "he's growing quickly and the bones haven't filled in yet". Not much comfort to any of us right now.
My main reason for writing this post is to let other parents know what we've learn about living with casts.
First, here's the medical disclaimer :) - I'm not a doctor -- always follow your doctor's advice on how to care for the cast and on what your child can do.
But, I am a parent who's experienced in caring for kids in casts - so here's what I've learned!
Baby Them -- But Only a Little
Both of my kids will tell you that they don't want symphathy when they have a fracture - they just want to be kids. Yes, at first they loved the attention of friends wanting to sign their cast. But after a week, that wore off. They already have enough restrictions - like no bike riding, no contact sports, etc. Their goal is to try and forget they had a cast and just go on with life.
That being said, it's not always easy for us parents who feel the need to help them. We've had a number of wrist and hand fractures in our house. A hand or arm cast means it's difficult to cut your food, tie your shoes and use a pen or pencil. So, if you do have to help out, try to do it in a discreet manner.
If you're at home, you might try preparing bit-sized portions before serving at the table. If you're out to eat, think about what your child is ordering. It's already hard enough for kids to hold a sub sandwich in two hands - it's almost impossible to do it with one.
Big kids and Teens don't like to have Mom tie their shoes either :) Make life easier by trying to wear slide on shoes while in a cast. Also, allow extra time in the morning to get ready - no reason to hurry along an already frustrated child (just makes for a bad start to the day).
And don't get me started on the change in bathroom habits that are needed. Most older kids will just figure it out - but if you have a younger child in a cast (arm or leg), you may need to help them in the bathroom the first few times.
If You Can, Choose a Waterproof Cast
This was a lifesaver when we had the option - sometimes a fracture can be casted with a waterproof cast. This means the kids can still bathe, shower and swim!
It also means you don't have to worry about it if it's raining, if they want to run under the sprinkler or if they spill something on it. This is not always an option, but be sure to ask your doctor if it would work.
Try to Plan 'Alternative' Activities
Having a cast means no longer riding a bike until it's off, kids can't play contact sports, there's no gymnastics or trampoling, sometimes no PE class, and your child may also be limited on what they can do on the playground. All this adds up to less activity -- so you need a Plan B.
Talk to the doctor about what is allowed and how your child might get some exercise. If it's an arm cast, you might want to go on evening walks together. Swinging may still be allowed with some casts as long as your child can hold on safely.
We found that with a leg cast, my son got quite a bit of exercise using crutches. We still made sure to get him outside in the fresh air as much as possible.
And think about other things that might be fun - maybe seeing a movie on a day that they were suppose to play in a big soccer game. Or if you normally have a family bike ride, you might turn that into family game time.
Let Them Do as Much as They Think They Can
If they had a sleep-over or playdate planned, try to keep them scheduled. If there's a scouting event or school field trip, make sure they can still attend.
As a mom, I always thought things would be more difficult for them to do - but they figured out how to adapt. My son learned that using crutches in a crowded classroom was more difficult than 'army crawling' around the class when he broke his leg. So the teacher and I just allowed him to do what he could on his own (yes, he wore holds in the elbows of some of his shirts, but he felt independent).
Learn About Bone Health
I'm sure your physician will give you a sheet on bone health - READ IT! There are tips on things you can do at home to help kids' bones stay healthy. NO soda is a biggie! And some kids will take extra calcium while their bones are healing.
Be Prepared for After the Cast
Guess what - when the cast is removed your child will STILL have restrictions on what they can and can't do. The first time this happened, we were not ready for it! When you have a cast, there is some muscle atrophy (meaning that your muscles kind of shrink from lack of use).
Here's a few things we found out once the cast came off:
- Light hair grows on the casted area - kids may be self-concious of this.
- Kids will need to get their muscles back to full strength - sometimes physical therapy is recommended.
- Balance may be an issue for a little while if your child had a cast on their lower body.
- They may run 'with a hitch' - after my son's leg cast came off, it took him a few months to get a full-stride back when running.
- Kids may have some soreness when weather fronts move in - talk to your doctor, but we were told this is normal.
- Your child may be afraid of breaking something again - and this fear may keep them from 'getting back to normal activities'. Give them time and talk about their fears.
- If they play an instrument and couldn't practice while wearing a cast, there will be some 'catch-up' time for that too.
Your House May Suffer Too
This is obviously that last thing to consider, but I thought you should be warned - you may find that there are things you'll need to replace or fix. Casts can scratch paint off the wall, leg casts can scratch toilet seats, and I have more than a few marks on my wood furniture.
If you're concerned with some items (like maybe dinner at Grandma's on her new table), than I would suggest that you get a cast cover to protect items the cast may touch. Or you can cut the toes off an old sock and use it to cover the cast.
As I said earlier, I hope you never have a need for this information - but if you do, know that kids do learn a lot about adapting to their surroundings.
And I hope that any fracture is a minor one and heals quickly for your child! ~ Jacquie