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Broken Bones and Broken Systems: The Day My Son Broke His Arm at School

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

On Friday, December 9th, at about 3 pm, I received a call from the school secretary informing me that Blake, my 9 year-old-son, had hurt his arm. The secretary gave me a message almost identical to this, “Blake has hurt his arm. He’s in the office. We’ve given him some ice to put on it. You might want to get it checked out.” Given the benign language used by the secretary, her cavalier tone of voice, and the routine steps she described that had been taken to treat the injury, I was under the impression that Blake’s injury was relatively minor. So, I drove over to the school, parked my car a block away on a side street, and headed to the front office to pick up Blake.

Upon walking through the front doors, I saw Blake and his fear-filled eyes and instantly knew this was not a minor injury that required ice and a phone call home. My mom-intuition was confirmed when, as I went to talk to Blake, one of your teachers cut me off and asked to have a private word in the hall. In the hall, the teacher said to me, with visible concern and worry, “I’ve looked at Blake’s arm and it doesn’t look good.” At this time, you were with my son in the office, telling him not to get upset and to take deep, calming breaths.

On that Friday afternoon, my sole concern was making sure my son received the urgent medical attention he desperately needed. Since then, however, my husband and I have had time to reflect on your handling of the day’s events. I want to let you know we are quite disappointed and hurt by your poor decisions, and we believe your lack of concern for Blake after his accident crosses the line of neglect and professional misconduct.

Given the visible severity of my son’s injury, the paramedics should have been called immediately. Blake should not have been moved from the site where he was injured without proper medical attention, and his arm should not have been touched. However, because you failed to make decisions that were in my son’s best interest, here’s how the events of the day unfolded.

Since I had received a message that significantly downplayed the severity of my son’s injury, I had to leave Blake sitting in the office, along with my other 2 kids, while I ran one block to get my car and drive it to the front door of the school. Then, I had to get Blake, carrying his painful and misshapen arm, into the car, drive home to pick up his health card, and secure childcare for my other 2 children - all before I was able to get Blake where he needed to be: at the hospital. Driving was terribly painful for him. Every little bump and crack in the road shook and jostled his arm. He continually asked me to find roads with fewer bumps and to take corners as slowly as possible. I finally arrived at the hospital with Blake about 45 mins - 1 hr after his accident. I registered him at the ER desk and then left him sitting in the busy ER waiting room - alone, scared and in pain - while I went to find parking.

I tell you all of this because Blake’s discomfort, fear - and possibly even his injury - were exacerbated as a direct result of your inconsiderate and neglectful decisions. By not getting Blake the medical attention he needed, you caused us a great deal of unnecessary travel and movement of his arm. By dismissing the severity of Blake’s injury, you administered improper and potentially harmful medical care, specifically by putting ice on an obviously disfigured bone and allowing your staff to try to reposition his arm in a sling. In short, by neglecting to treat Blake’s injury with the degree of attention it required, you put his welfare directly in harm’s way.

And, though it may be speculation, I can’t help but wonder whether he might have avoided a two-hour surgery - and having rods and pins implanted in his forearm for the next 8 weeks - if proper procedures had been followed by yourself and your staff, the paramedics had been called, and his arm had been properly immobilized.

As a mother, I find it alarming and frightening that a visibly misshapen limb, a limb that in the doctor’s exact words was “dangling from [Blake’s] body,” did not warrant immediate medical intervention. If not a dangling limb, what? And, while I understand kids will have accidents, my husband and I hold you accountable for the poor decisions made in the aftermath of Blake’s.

For the past several weeks, I’ve wanted to ask you many questions. Did the teacher who spoke with me when I arrived at the school to inform me Blake’s arm “didn’t look good” share the extent of Blake’s injury with you? And, if so, did you simply dismiss his concerns? Because, clearly, this teacher was well aware that Blake would be spending his Friday evening in a hospital. Did you see my son’s V-shaped arm through his hoodie and choose to ignore it? Or, did you not care enough to glance at his arm? Because I saw his bones protruding from underneath his sleeve the moment I laid eyes on it. Did you decide at 3 pm on a Friday that your day was done and it was time to begin your weekend? Or, did you decide that calling the paramedics so close to school dismissal would have been too much of an inconvenience for the school busses and their students? I wonder which staff member with current First Aid and CPR examined my son’s arm? And, why they also failed to call 9-1-1? Why was my son assisted to my car by a teacher, instead of being placed on a stretcher with his arm immobilized to prevent further damage? I’d like to know these answers. Not only because I have 3 children in your care, but because there are hundreds of students in your care and I don’t want a single one of them to have to endure an experience like Blake's.

My concern on December 9th was for my son. My concern now is for the future of my son’s arm and the next student who is seriously injured during school hours. I would like to know that s/he will be cared for and receive proper medical attention. I would like to know that Blake’s story will not become the norm for students injured at your school. It’s my hope that you will learn from Blake’s experience and that you will take the necessary action to make your school a safer place.

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