Broken baby: how long for recovery?
June 13, 2009 10:20 AM   Subscribe

My baby girl, 7 months old, has a spiral fractured femur - mum caught her as she was falling while getting into a back carrier - she is in hospital, has had specialist orthopaedic paediatrician attention and is now in traction. She is probably at the the best hospital in the country for this, but it is a long way from home. She is 100% breast fed, and my wife is staying with her. Can any of the medicos or Mefi, or people who have had similar experience offer some advice?

No doctor has talked to us about time frames or processes, although they have been otherwise great, but the nursing staff have said 10 days in traction (could be up to six weeks) and possibly a cast that reaches from her waist to her ankles. But everyone is cagey about timeframes.

Help me Mefi in understanding what will happen, and when to my little girl. I've got a full time job it looks like I will be missing for (how long?) a while to look after my other kids. I feel our medicos are reluctant to be frank about time-frames, because they seem long. Can somebody give me some idea on what happens next, and how long I should be planning, and what about after-care?

To be clear, we are in Australia, so this is covered by our government health insurance, but I am keen to know the full longer term prognosis, so I can set my employers expectations accurately, and I want my little girl back in full health.

[note: posted for a distressed friend; I don't actually have a baby, he does.]
posted by five fresh fish to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
fff - we'll be thinking of your friends and their baby. We're in a similar, but very different situation, with an 18-yr. old with multiple spinal fractures and no easy answers. The doctors can't tell how long it will take because no two fractures are identical. We were told 4 weeks for a leg brace and 8 weeks for the body brace - that has now stretched to 13+ weeks for both. From our experience in the US, they sent our daughter home, completely broken and completely helpless, after 5 days. I don't know what the Australian medical system is like, and dealing with an infant is entirely different from dealing with a teenager who can communicate and comprehend.

Slightly more than halfway into it, we're beginning to see that there might be light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe.

We're hoping all is eventually well for your friend's daughter. I have some idea how alone and helpless your friends feel. I hope the health care system there is a little better and a little more caring than ours in the US.

The most important thing is that, even if you're exhausted, even if you don't have a clue what to do, never stop asking questions, never stop advocating for the best your child can have. Be forgiving with one another. You'll be worn out and frustrated and prone to snap. You'll have precious little free time. Find something that is yours, even if just for 5 minutes. I have found MeFi and other people's problems helpful.

Doctors and nurses may be very, very good, but they don't have to live with the consequences of all of this - you and your child and your family do. They're mechanics, dealing with parts. You are the ones dealing with human beings.

Please keep us posted.
posted by clarkstonian at 12:33 PM on June 13, 2009

Just anecdotal here, but my friend's daughter suffered a distal femur fracture (IANAD, so I don't really know what the difference is) at seven months. She was in traction for just over a week, and then in a cast for a month. Two months after that, she was "stomping around like an angry drunk" (her mom's words).

Good luck to your friend and his daughter!
posted by trip and a half at 12:35 PM on June 13, 2009

All of my best thoughts with you--I know this is so hard and even harder is that you can't be right there at least trying to make it better. I am sorry that I don't have specific suggestions regarding healing times and hospital stay expectations, but from my own experience with my own breastfed babe needing some hospital care, I found it incredibly reassuring to talk and work a bit with the resident lactation consultant. I was an old hand at breastfeeding him, but she showed me a few ways to get around his equipment and make us both more comfortable, was able to talk more conversationally about everything that was happening, and made me feel like there was something I could do and understand for my kid. The hospital should be more than willing to have their LC round on your wife and baby.

You're a good papa--and it is likely that this will pass more quickly than you might think and that your daughter will be fine. Peace to you this evening!
posted by rumposinc at 1:37 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, the "good" thing is that little kids are much faster healers than adults. So she should heal much quicker than if the same thing happened to you or me.

The truth is, all the doctors can really do is give you estimates, as everyone heals at different rates. The bone could be fully mended in about two weeks, or it could take a bit longer for this particular baby. Traction and casting is common for this type of injury, and a partial body cast is probably just because babies are squirmy and can't follow instructions like "don't squirm or you won't heal."

The baby will be okay and it seems like you have great doctors looking over her. It's especially nice that mom can be there with her.

I understand you want a more concrete timeframe to give your employers, but I just don't think you can say "I'll be back in 2 weeks" and know that's 100% true. Can you get a sitter or family member for your other kids? Can you work from home while you have to watch them? Can you bring them to work with you (I would never advocate this and hated when co-workers would bring sick kids to work because they couldn't find a sitter, but maybe things like this are more accepted in Australia?).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:11 PM on June 13, 2009

Response by poster: I suspect babies heal much, much faster than old farts, so I should think that as long as the fracture is kept aligned it'll all be over in a matter of weeks.

Good god, clarkstonian, what happened? A broken leg doesn't seem like a big deal to me, but what you're describing is horrific!

"bystander" thanks you all for your support, I'm sure.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:59 PM on June 13, 2009

fff - A spiral fracture in an infant is pretty serious, I think. She'll heal quickly, but it's really important that she heals properly. Maybe worse than her physical injuries will be the damage to your friends' psyches. They'll have issues with guilt and anger and regret. They're going to need you.

A very large tree fell on our daughter. Simple as that. Clear day. Blue sky. First really warm, beautiful day of spring. No warning. No time to run. Snapped her in half. We were incredibly, incredibly lucky - she is alive. She will heal. She might never be the carefree, athletic girl she was, but she lives to tell the tale.
posted by clarkstonian at 9:50 PM on June 13, 2009

Response by poster: Wow. Bad luck, that incident. I hope you can work your way through it relatively unscathed.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:53 PM on June 13, 2009

Actually, FFF, I'm writing this response is more to you. I was a chronically ill kid from birth -- lots of stress and hospitals for my folks to deal with. I know one of the things that really helped my folks was the support of their friends. You are a good friend for posting this, please continue to support your friends. They can be lonely when they are shut off from "normal" social activities to care for their child.
posted by Librarygeek at 5:37 AM on June 14, 2009

Response by poster: Duly noted, re: support.

I really think it'd be nice to hear something about time-frames and what they should be doing at home, and stuff like that.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:34 AM on June 14, 2009

FFF kindly posted this for me when I was quite frantic after chasing around hospitals etc. and I broke the rules to do it (unknown to him).

The responses were really helpful in calming me down.
Its been a really tough week just from an energy perspective. I've driven a lot of miles and have three other kids I've been looking after, but I can say I was a lot more in control, and effective dealing with doctors etc. thanks to these responses.
The good news is my daughter is out of hospital now, although in a cast from her waist down to her ankles over both legs for the next six weeks, but the doctors advise she will make a full recovery then.
posted by bystander at 2:03 AM on June 19, 2009

Response by poster: That's good to hear. Thanks for providing an update for the folks who helped.

She must be quite the sight, with casts like that.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:21 AM on June 19, 2009

don't forget to rest and take care of yourself. I hope your little girl gets better quickly.
posted by Librarygeek at 5:26 PM on June 26, 2009

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