**Trigger Warning: The subject-matter of this post (sudden paralysis with no explanation forthcoming, and our increasing helplessness) may be disturbing to some.**
I can’t honestly say I remember anything at all about Sunday, August 21st, before Love Bug woke up from her nap. Chris doesn’t remember much, either. I don’t know if the morning itself had been unremarkable, or if the ensuing events were traumatic enough to wipe the preceding hours from memory.
I remember Love Bug’s schedule was a bit off-kilter, as she had been fighting a cold and low-grade fever all the previous week, and had the excitement of her birthday party and grandparents visiting to overwhelm her, so she woke up from her nap later than normal. I thought I was the one who picked her up out of her crib and changed her diaper, but Chris recalls it being him. Maybe we were both upstairs with her. I don’t recall noticing anything odd; Chris recalls seeing her do something unusual that caught his eye, but aside from making a mental note to monitor it, it wasn’t so extraordinary as to cause concern.
I do know that within the next ten minutes, as we sat her down with an afternoon snack, we noticed several instances of strange behavior. We realized Love Bug wasn’t using her right arm at all when trying to climb up onto the couch – at that point, one of her favorite activities. It just hung at her side. Chris and I glanced at each other, and continued to watch her as she got settled in between us, snack bar in hand. The next thing we noticed was that she was holding the whole bar in her left hand – unusual for two reasons: the first, that she was right-hand dominant; the second, that she always broke the bar in two and held one half in each hand. When we encouraged her to eat the bar using her right hand, she glanced down at her hand, and then continued eating from her left hand when nothing happened.
I make it a point to avoid Dr. Google, for fear of inundating myself with apocalyptic-level-worst-case-scenarios. We called our off-hours pediatrician line, and were told the on-call doctor would get back to us ASAP. Based on previous experiences, we expected to hear back within five to ten minutes, so when ten minutes of silence turned into fifteen, and then twenty, I couldn’t help myself. I Googled. And while Chris was agonizing over something being inexplicably fractured or broken, I came across the condition known as Nursemaid’s Elbow. You can read more about Nursemaid’s Elbow here, but in short it’s a pretty common ailment in toddlers, and can happen pretty easily by accident. We wracked our brains trying to figure out if Love Bug had been in a situation where her arm could have been dislocated, and concluded it must have gotten stuck in her sleep.
As twenty minutes stretched into forty-five, I called the off-hours line again, and almost instantaneously received a call back from the on-call doctor who, after hearing our situation, agreed that we were probably looking at a case of Nursemaid’s. Worried but at least reassured, we headed out to a local pediatric urgent care center, thinking if it wasn’t Nursemaid’s, it was a fracture or broken bone, or something else equally easy to diagnose and fix.
What we were not expecting was the Nursemaid reduction to fail; what we were not expecting was multiple x-rays – during which Love Bug sobbed and screamed for us to hold her – to be completely normal, and thus inconclusive; what we were not expecting was to be sent from urgent care to the children’s hospital emergency room, because our treating physician was concerned it could be “something neurological.”
I honestly don’t remember how long we were in urgent care before being forwarded to the emergency room, half an hour away. I do know that it was light outside when we went in, and was sometime between 10pm and midnight as we were on our way to the ER, feeling exhausted, but otherwise optimistic. I don’t know if I was holding onto a hope or a delusion, but I was convinced – certain in my bones – it was Nursemaid’s Elbow, and that the reduction just hadn’t worked (which is also fairly common).
Little did we know that within the hour, we’d be sick with fear that our daughter was dying.