Jim Kayes’ blog: breaking bad

Jim Kayes has been a journalist for 25 years. He survived growing up with four sisters and is now married with two daughters. Despite this, he thinks he’s in charge. This week the sky falls in after a slip on the rocks.

The world came to a fractured end two Friday evenings ago for the eldest daughter when she slipped on rocks while training for surf lifesaving. Her wrist developed a nasty, angry lump that looked far from right and was extremely painful.
An x-ray the next morning saw her in a cast, her world destroyed. It brought a premature end to the netball season, ruined her hopes of sitting her Bronze Medallion test to be a lifeguard, torpedoed dance, PE and gymnastics at school and meant she couldn’t go on the Duke of Ed tramp through the Waitakere Ranges.

All she could look forward to was a plaster prison for six weeks while her mates got on with their exciting, physical lives. The level of sympathy from her parents was acceptable, but the understanding, the compassion, the ability to lay-on hands and make her bones instantly heal was apparently lacking. Ours was not a happy house as our teenager tried to deal with my suggestion that six weeks wasn’t a long time and that a bit of patience wouldn’t hurt.
It’s not the first time she has broken her arm and while she can’t remember that previous injury, my wife and I do – all too well.

We were in Melbourne – me for the 2003 Rugby World Cup and they visiting me for a few days to relieve the sanity of all concerned. She’d fallen from one of those playground features with a make-believe horse on top of a big spring. At least, that’s where we think she broke her arm.
The problem was there was nothing apparent at the time. The only evidence something was wrong came when we tried to dress her. She cried as we slipped tops on and off. Otherwise, she was her regular happy self.
A trip to the nearest Melbourne doctor left us believing she had either sprained her elbow or that the elbow had dislocated then slipped back in. We were none the wiser and, as first-time parents, we took the doctor’s advice and moved on. My wife and the girls returned to New Zealand leaving me in Melbourne still covering the rugby. But things were still not right with our girl, so my wife took her to the hospital for an x-ray. And things turned bad very quickly.

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Yes, the scan showed a fracture. But worse, it was now a week-old-fracture, so my (now tearful) wife’s fitness as a parent was under scrutiny. She was obliged to provide contact details for two people, not relatives, who could attest to her parenting ability.
At the time it wasn’t fun. I totally understand that the hospital staff were simply doing their jobs and that, sadly, there are many cases in which fractures go unreported for reasons other than a misdiagnosis from a doctor. Too many more, and too many awful reasons.

But now, almost 14 years on, I use it when I want to wind-up my wife – to the delight of my daughters. And even more when I need to stake a claim as the ‘favourite parent.’
The truth is, though, that their mother is a lot more sympathetic and empathetic to injuries than I am or ever will be. It’s not a macho thing. It’s more stupidity. I’ve simply played too much sport and bashed my body to bits too often to worry about minor injuries.

But I’m not as tough or as fit as I once was – and the girls aren’t shy about reminding me. A few years ago I had to dig a long ditch for water and gas pipes to our home. What had seemed a simple job became a war between tree roots and rocks, and my aging hamstrings and back.
What should have been full days, became multiple half days and as I walked, in agony, up the stairs for a rest, the youngest would mimic my moans and groans. It’s been the same this week when I boldly told the builder I’d pull up the old deck boards allowing him to just lay the new ones. That plan lasted about half a day.

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And the plaster cast lasted only a week with the second x-ray revealing the arm wasn’t broken, but instead, ligaments had been wrenched and the joint bruised. The delight was overwhelming as she quickly rattled off her plans to get back in the pool, on the board and a top the surf ski.
Then, the specialist told her all of those things needed to wait two more weeks – and the sky fell in again.


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