Thursday, March 05, 2009

Cast Off

Ever since Tristan broke multiple bones in his arm, right before Christmas, he had been counting down the days until he could finally lose the sling, get his cast off, and have the steel pins removed from his elbow and wrist.

February 3rd was that day. Six weeks and four days incapacitated, unable to dress himself or bathe properly, and continually answering the question, "What did you do to your arm?"

We went to the Orthopaedics department in the Ambulatory Care Center of the University of North Carolina Hospitals. First, Tristan had his arm X-rayed again to make sure that the reduction (bone-setting) held, and that he was ready to be unencumbered. Everything looked good, so they put him in a room where a helpful assistant guy came in to cut off the cast.

(click on the pictures for all the gory details)

He cut right through the ace bandage and whatever else was under there.

We finally got to see what had been hidden all that time, and it was not pretty.

We knew he had pins placed in his arms, but I don't think any of us realized that there were five of them.

One in the upper arm, three through the end of the elbow, and one in the right wrist.

Tristan had been a great sport up the entire time. He had been doing fine until he saw his arm. It made him a little queasy. He later said that he decided he wasn't going to be a surgeon, due to his aversion to looking at this kind of stuff. In fact, we only filled his pain medication prescription from December the day before he got his cast off, so we could give him a pill before we came, more for the psychological effect than anything. The next part would be the reason why.

These pins are inserted through the skin by being chucked in a drill and drilled all the way through to the bone. From there the excess exterior portion is cut off, and those little green balls (called Jernigan balls, I believe) are attached. So how does one remove the pins? With a big old pair of Craftsman pliers.

Allegedly, this doesn't hurt. It sure looked barbaric enough though. The pins are rotated coaxially while being pulled straight back out. Since they're coming out through a hole that goes bone-deep, there's bleeding too.

What made the procedure slightly more palatable was that Dr. Dahners was being assisted by Dr. AJ, a very cute southern girl resident surgeon.

That spoonful of sugar certainly helped the medicine go down. . . I would assume.

After a few minutes, Tristan was all done, bandaged, and slightly less queasy.

It'll take him up to a year to get a full range of motion back in the arm, but he won't need physical therapy, plus he has the cool benefit of having a gorilla arm until that long hair that grew under the cast wears off.

Now comes the pain for Mom and Dad; paying for all this.



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