Friday, May 28, 2010

Nursemaid Elbow - Common Courtesty Please

No one feels better after a, "You didn't know that? I've always known that" comment.  There are some things that if you're socially competent, or wish to be known as someone with class, you really shouldn't say.  Along with the above mentioned, are phrases that begin with the following:

"I don't mean to be a jerk, but . . ."
"No offense, but . . ."
"I know I shouldn't say this, but . . ."
"Don't take this the wrong way, but . . ."
"I don't want to sound rude, but . . ."

You get the idea.  Saying you don't want to look like a jerk doesn't make it alright to speak like one.  So please, if you already knew about this, I don't want to hear it.  I'm passing on a life experience I wish I had understood before, or read about on someone else's blog.  It would have saved us some grief, and a late night trip to the E.R.

We all love playing with our kids.  Tossing them up in the air, and hearing that squeal of delight and those sweet giggles keep us swinging and tossing until we've given ourselves a workout no expensive gym membership can top!  Even then, those cute chubby faces are pleading, "again, more swinging?  Please, up high?!"

Not easy to turn down- unless of course this innocent play ends in screams and tears.  Such was the case last night, with our little Merrylee.  We were holding her up high by the hands, and blowing raspberries on her tummy, when giggles turned to tears.  Not all that unusual, tickling often is only tolerated for so long- accept this time a little snuggling wasn't making it better.  Neither were fruit snacks, or other offers of treats.  She just sat there, quietly fussing, and not moving her arm.  We examined it for swelling, felt around for breaks, but didn't find anything unusual.  She didn't like us moving it though, and wouldn't move it herself.  We thought maybe a muscle was pulled, and hoped she'd start moving it again after a little while.  As the evening progressed however, it didn't change, and we got more worried.  She ate her supper, and played a little, but still wouldn't move that arm.

My experienced mother of 6 mother-in-law mentioned the term nursemaid elbow.  You can read about it here.  She was visiting my sister-in-law, and we drove two hours to spend the evening with them.  We got home pretty late, and put the girls to bed, hoping maybe after some rest Merrylee would wake up feeling better.  It was too late to call her doctor, and I really didn't want to take her to the emergency room unless I really had to.  It didn't appear to be broken, wasn't swollen, and she wasn't crying about it anymore.  As any parent who's experienced the late night E.R. trip knows, it's definitely something to avoid if possible.  Lots of waiting, lots of germs, lots of hassle. 

Merrylee, of course wouldn't sleep, thus increasing our worry.   I tried to look up her symptoms on the Internet, but found nothing conclusive or helpful.  Then I tried looking up the term my mother-in-law gave me.  Sure enough, she matched every symptom!  It's basically a partially dislocated elbow, and a very common injury among toddlers and young children under 6.  It's caused by pulling on the child's arm while it's fully extended.  It can happen by something as innocent as Mom and Dad each holding a hand, and swinging the toddler over a curb or step.  Don't tell me you've never done that with your child, because I wont believe you!

Symptoms include crying at the initial injury, and then the child refusing to use the arm, but more or less carrying on like normal, unless something forces him or her to move the arm.  The article suggested to immediately go visit the doctor, or if after hours, visiting an emergency room.  So that's what I did.  Very fortunately, we were the only ones there.  We went through Triage in record time, and saw a doctor right away.  He gently popped her elbow back into place.  It's hard to say if she was crying because it hurt, or because she doesn't like doctors.  (She definitely doesn't like doctors, she cries even at Anny's appointments).  However she immediately regained the use of her arm, and used it to push the doctor away with her little hand.  As we were walking back to the car, her tears were gone, and she was using the arm to point at the "twinkle, twinkle, little stars". 

We got home around three a.m., and all went to bed and slept soundly.  If you're gonna go to the ER, that's the way to do it!  No wait, no blood, minimal drama, and immediate recovery.  She's a happy baby again today, and we're grateful and a little wiser.  Learn from us and pass it on, so your only involvement with this common injury is what you've read here!    


  1. This just happened to a friend of mine's little girl here too. Glad your sweet baby is better!

  2. This happened to my youngest sister as a toddler when I was swinging her around by the arms. We had to take her to the ER too. Not fun! And I felt horrible, of course.

    Thanks for your nice comments. I am definitely planning on writing - hopefully books - down the road. That is my ultimate dream job. My degree in Marriage and Family Therapy will be a great supplement to the type of writing I want to do someday. Take care!

  3. I'm so sorry you guys and Merrylee went through all that. Glad you are all doing better.

  4. Aww..I'm so glad Merrylee is all better. I'm so happy you posted this because I am most definitly guilty of doing this with Rylee & I would have had NO idea what was going on if this happened with her. I know how hard it is to see your little one's hurting & have no idea what you can do to help, so I'm happy to hear you were able to get her into the ER & feeling all better again. :o)

  5. Liz, so glad to hear that everyone is okay now. Doesn't it just break your heart to see your girls hurt. Thanks for sharing your valuable information!