As a parent, when your child is injured you may find yourself wishing not only that you were a doctor (unless you happen to be a doctor!) but also that you were your child, so that you would know exactly what the injury feels like. It can be hard to get unemotional information for your child in the heat of the moment, and, as a recent experience showed me, external opinions are also of little help.
We visited extended family for Passover and our older son was playing with his cousins, riding in a push-type car of some sort, and he ended up bending his foot backward and hurting it very badly. Cousin J, who is a doctor (neurosurgeon), examined it and said, very obviously, “It’s either fine, sprained or broken.” That diagnosis was not much help, but his lack of alarm, as the father of two children of his own, was reassuring. This was not an emergency. Since my son could walk on the foot, albeit with pain, it was likely not broken.
In the back of my mind, however, I didn’t want to be the parent who neglected to do something if it would mean that the injury could get worse or not heal properly. So I called the nurse at our pediatrician, who responded with the typical overly-cautious, CYA recommendation that I expected, “Get him to an emergency room right away.”
“Why?” I asked, wanting to be sure that a delay wouldn’t cause any harm.
“Because you don’t want him to be screaming in pain at 2 in the morning,” she said.
Well, that told me that “wait and see,” if the pain was not unbearable now, was probably OK.
We stayed for the seder and our son hobbled around fairly well. He slept through the night
without incident. We went back the next morning to visit with relatives again. Half of them
said, “He seems to be walking on it much better today.” We felt reassured. The other half
said, “Wow, it looks like he really hurt himself.” We felt worried. We received all kinds of
advice – soak in Epsom salts, wrap the foot, ice the foot, etc.
In our gut, we felt that things seemed to be improving and were comfortable with our decision to wait and see how he progressed, rather than rush to get an x-ray which would probably reveal nothing. Fortunately, our instincts proved right and he is no longer limping – in the past week he played soccer, T-ball, rode his bike and did all his usual shenanigans.
I know there will be more incidents and accidents, and I just hope that knowing my kid and trusting my parental instincts will continue to help us in the future.