Dear Ms. Hill, Ms. Clare, and any other mothers out there telling the stories of your children’s broken bones,
I am a Pediatric orthopedic surgeon. I take care of children who break their bones. I have a few huge enemies: Public enemy number one is the playground. The monkey bars are responsible for so many broken bones, most commonly the elbow. Treatment varies, sometimes a cast, sometimes a surgery. Most of the time the children heal and return to normal lives without long term consequences. But sometimes the break can lead to stiffness, sometimes nerve damage, and sometimes deformity and growth disturbance. Some surfaces are preferable to others: sand and wood chips and bouncy rubber are better than pavement and concrete But they do not offer true safety.
Recently, the world has become enamored with a photograph of Meadow Clare and her mother Heather. In 2015, Ms. Clare put Meadow on her lap to go down a slide, with the sweet and common intention of introducing her little one to a slide in what she thought was a comfortable and safe way. She did not know that this is a set up for a broken tibia (shin bone), known as a “toddler’s fracture”. She is now publicizing her experience hoping to keep other children safe, to educate and prevent. Pediatric orthopedists send our gratitude to Ms. Clare for helping to tell the story.
In July of 2017, Kaitlin Hill shared an image of her then 3 year old son in a spica cast, which is a body cast from the waist down to the legs, after he broke his femur (thigh bone) on a trampoline in an indoor trampoline park. Ms. Hill took to social media to share a warning to the world about trampoline safety. Pediatric orthopedists also send our gratitude to Ms. Hill for helping to tell the story.
Warnings, position statements, white papers, research, data, scientific proof of dangers that lurk for children every day are everywhere, they teach our brains. I have written many of these pieces. Even I find these too boring to go back and re read them. I offer my time to be interviewed by journalists who help us spread the word. And I thank each and every one of them for helping parents keep their kids safe. But personal stories, transparency, photographs of children sad and in pain, reach people in their hearts.
I have operated on countless elbows and wrists, femurs and shins, children broken on playgrounds and on trampolines. I am fortunate to help children and families, fix them and help them heal. But I prefer to prevent. Prevent the breaks. Prevent the pain. Prevent the itchy casts. Prevent the stinky casts. Prevent the cost of the doctor’s visits. The days off from school and work. The worrying. The anxiety. The boredom. Kids get sad and mad and angry and monstrous when they are cooped up in a cast. So thank you, thank you, thank you to the brave families that are willing to teach the world about prevention. You are on my team, and I am thrilled to have any help I can get!