Surviving a Toddler with a Broken Leg: What You'll Need

Last week, I shared the story of how my daughter ended up in a full leg cast

She is two years old (will turn three in February) and she is VERY high energy. In fact, we have a rule in our house that on the weekends we plan a morning outing, head home for a nap and then usually plan another late afternoon outing--just to keep her from getting bored and stir-crazy in the house. So you can imagine, that upon finding out that her tibia was fractured, and she would need to be in a full leg cast for 4-6 weeks... I started to wonder, "How the hell are we going to survive this?"

Luckily, my mom is an occupational therapist and immediately sprung into action around accommodations that would make Lu more comfortable and as independent as possible. 

So here's my lists of must-haves when dealing with a toddler in leg cast:

1. A jogging stroller. This is going to be the best way to transport your youngin' around. Jogging stroller seats are angled in a way that your child's leg can be stretched out comfortably without putting pressure on his/her cast, plus it's protected from banging into things. If you don't already own one, check out Craigslist or Facebook Yard Sales for a good deal on one. 

2a. A cast cover for bath time. Wet casts are a big no-no. I mean I've heard this before, but didn't realize how serious it was. Basically, if the cast gets wet it turns to mush and you will have to go and get it re-casted... so... no. While a garbage bag and some rubber bands will keep it dry for a sponge bath, I recommend investing in a real cast cover. I opted for the Limbo waterproof cast cover and it feels much more secure and so far has kept the cast very dry through several baths. 

2b. A baby bath seat. Depending on how big your kid is, this may or may not work for you. But I've used the Angelcare Bath Seat for both of my babies and it's coming in handy now for my toddler. This keeps her butt off the bottom of the tub, and I have her prop her covered cast up on the edge of the bath or on a step stool that I put in the bath. This way I can fill the tub up a few inches and she's not freezing while I wash her hair and body. 

3. Fun socks. You can store away some of the cute shoes you have for your little one because he/she wont be able to be wearing them for a while... at least not as a complete set. If your kiddo is in a cast in the colder months, fun socks in their favorite theme will keep their toes warm. I bought two packs of Ana/Elsa socks, one in her current size and one two sizes up and then I just pair up a small and big one from each pack for the day. 

4. Wider leg pants or cheap leggings. The time of year/climate will dictate what you need in the wardrobe department, but since it's pretty chilly outside, we headed to Walmart and purchased some wider leg sweatpants (for boys) and a few pairs of cheap leggings that I could cut to the knee so they would fit over the cast. If it was the summer, you could probably just get away with shorts and dresses and might not need to buy anything. 

5. A breakfast tray. This is most helpful for the first few days when your kiddo is feeling uncomfortable and not mobile yet. A breakfast tray allows them to sit on the couch for a meal or for some coloring time and keeps everything contained. 

6. A soft, low chair that tucks under the coffee table. For the first few weeks, Lulu's Anywhere Chair was the best way for her to be able to sit at the coffee table for crafts/coloring and be able to push herself out to scoot around. Now she can get on and off the couch, but she still likes to sit at the coffee table for coloring and snacks. 

7. Arts and crafts. If you haven't picked this up from the previous two items, to keep your kiddo engaged and entertained, you're going to have to pull out all of the stops in the arts/crafts category. Play-doh, Goop (cornstarch + water), floam, kinetic sand, watercolors, crayons, markers, puzzles, stickers... you name it, you should try it. It's going to make a mess, there's no doubt about that, but put a good vinyl table cloth down, cover the floor and chair if you have to and just let the kid go to town. 

8. A cast shoe. During our appointment with the orthopedist, he mentioned that kids Lulu's age will eventually put weight on the cast. He said it can't do any damage to the fracture, but to watch out for irritation on the top of the foot from rubbing and to keep an eye on the bottom of the cast for breakage. So during that first appointment we had the bottom of her cast reinforced and we were given a soft shoe that velcros around the cast and keeps it from wearing down. This has been helpful because it makes the cast less slippery on hardwood/tile. 

9. A small wheelchair (optional). My mom being an OT and all, immediately reached out to med supply companies to inquire about wheelchair rentals. Under my insurance plan, I was able to get a rental on a 12" wheelchair (it's truly adorable) for no money out of my pocket with a prescription from the doctor. It was our hope that the wheelchair might give Lulu some mobility around the house, but the truth is, it actually ended up being most useful when she is at preschool. Since her classroom is located upstairs and the playground/gymnasium are on the ground level--the teachers can take her from her class to recess in the elevator and not have to carry her up/down the stairs. Now, we leave the wheelchair at school and have the jogging stroller for any trips that we need to take during the week or weekends. 

So those are my tips. Hopefully, you never find yourself in the situation that you need them! 


Feeling Like a Really Bad Mom

I have been thinking long and hard about if/how to share this. But I'm going to do it, because I believe that vulnerability can lead to healing. 

The Story.

Let's start at the beginning... it was a beautiful fall afternoon. I picked up my kiddos from their school and we headed to the park. It's the park that's just around the corner from our house and one that we go to often to burn off some toddler energy. 

My oldest, Lulu, has her favorite spots in this park--primarily the swings and springy ducky. After that, she'll explore the playground structure, but she's fairly timid about it. One day when we first went to the playground she went down the large slide, but since then she hasn't seem interested. 

Long story short, I haven't thought much of this slide except I knew that my kiddo wasn't into it. I've seen a few kids go down the large slide and there's a weird turn at the bottom that has a tendency to catch a shoe and bring them to a jerky halt. 

So on this particular day, I decided that maybe I'd try to persuade her to try it again. I started by going down the slide myself, she watched me and laughed and said, "Mommy, go again!" So I did, and this time at the top of the slide I said "Lulu, you should come with me! And she said, "Okay!" and climbed up the jungle gym to join me. She sat on my lap and off we pushed, and as we came to that same curve I've seen countless kids get their feet caught on... in the blink of an eye, Lulu's shoe hit the side and her leg twisted under her little body, wedged between her and me...

She immediately cried out in pain. I wasn't sure if it was just a rolled ankle or something more serious, but my mommy instincts said to take her to the hospital. And low and behold, after several hours at urgent care and many x-rays, tears and lollipops later...we learned that sweet little Lulu had a spiral tibial fracture and would be in a full leg cast for 4-6 weeks. 
So of course, as if there isn't enough mom guilt in this world... I'm over here feeling completely responsible for my daughter's broken leg. We've seen quite a few doctors over the last week and everyone one of them asks how it happens, we tell them it happened on a slide and then before I can get out the next sentence, they say "on someone's lap." Just like that, a statement, not a question.

Apparently this is one of the most common injuries for kids that are 1-2 years old. In fact, they call this break the "toddler fracture" and it most frequently occurs from kids going down slides on a parent's lap. Kids can go down slides alone and if their shoes/legs catch, their own body weight isn't enough to cause them serious injury in most cases. But when you put the force of a 100+ pound adult behind the foot catch, it's too much for their little bones to bear. 

Why is this not a more known thing? Is it, and I'm just the only one that didn't know?!? Shouldn't this be just one of the many parenting no-no's that you hear about...like never put blankets in the crib, never let a baby sleep on his/her stomach, never let babies play with things that fit through a toilet paper roll (choking hazards).

Lessons Learned. 

Long story short, don't put kids on your lap to go down slides. Tell your friends. Tell everyone. 

The first week with the cast on was tough...I'm not going to lie. Tough for Lulu who was suddenly stripped of her independence. Tough for us to watch her get frustrated and have no way to release her energy but to just scream. Tough to not dwell on the guilt and the "what ifs." 

Thank God for my parents who were so incredibly helpful, either watching the baby or staying unbelievably patient with Lu. 

There are a couple of things that Lulu has taught me this past week...

1) Kids are incredibly resilient. Within a couple of days Lulu was finding ways to get around. She started crawling and scooting around, and then started trying to lift herself up to standing positing by leaning on furniture and now, she'll stand straight up without even holding onto anything. 

2) Children have no sense of feeling sorry for themselves. If I had broken my leg, there's no doubt I'd be having a freaking pity party for myself for weeks straight. Lulu on the other hand doesn't know what it means to feel sorry for herself. Does she get mad that she can't do what she wants to do, exactly when she wants to do it? Yes. But she was like that before the broken leg.

We're counting down the days until Dec 7 (cast removal day). It's going to be a long few weeks to get there, but we will make it through and I'm excited for her to be cast-free for Christmas. 

I'm going to follow up this post with another one that's more focused around how to survive a two-year-old with a broken leg and all of the things you need to buy/have. But I didn't want to post that first without explaining the full story.

Pray for us. Lulu was a tough toddler before the broken leg...but now she's really giving us hell! 
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