SE ROMPÍO LA PIERNA
It’s funny how mothers have “a feeling”. It’s just that little annoying voice in the back of our minds that says, “Remind them to be careful and to not do anything crazy.” But, then again, kids need to be kids. And they certainly hear me say, more often than not, to “please be careful”. I say it so much, in fact, that I have heard them say that they are sick of it. I think it’s lost its intensity. So, I never said it. Not to say it would have made a difference at all but I kind of had a feeling something would happen.
The kids left on their school ski trip Monday morning Feb 18. They piled into their bus with such excited nervousness that we could feel it. It was oozing from them. They sat in the front, cause Skye gets carsick. And they sat together. We watched them board and were thrilled for them and the opportunity that lay ahead. A whole week, without us, to bond and make new friends, to speak Spanish and see a mountain that Erik and I knew we would not get to see during our year abroad, The Pyrenees. The bus pulled away and thus began our week alone as well.
Erik and I had not taken much time for little trips here and there. So we were looking forward to taking advantage of this alone time by exploring a bit and also really diving into our Spanish studies. But it was hard to let them go. We had gotten so close and I knew how nervous they were. Erik and I spoke about these feelings a bit the first day of their trip. We spoke about how close we had become and reminded ourselves that this trip was ever more important because of that fact. Growth would be a direct result of our week apart.
Their bus ride was a whopping 10 hours from their school in Santander to the Boi Taull ski resort in the Pyrenees. We had a bit of contact with them on their bus ride but not much. At some point during this first day, I had this feeling and I called my friend Maria, whose son was also on the trip. I asked her if we needed special insurance for this ski trip. How did that work here in Spain? She reminded me that the insurance was a part of the price we paid to go on the trip. All was included. There was something in me that thought the threat of injury was real.
Each day we would hear from the kids less and less. Their days were packed with skiing and their evenings were packed with playing and studying. (4 teachers were a part of the trip to ensure the kids stayed up on their homework). Both the kids were doing great. Nothing was perfect but they were having a blast on the hill and surviving all of the imperfect parts with a laugh. On the 4th day, Erik and I decided we would head to our favorite surf spot at high tide for some evening surf and a dinner date. We left the apartment around 4pm. We hadn’t heard from the kids and thought that was a good thing but I panicked for a moment thinking, “I should probably send them a text to let them know we will not have wifi for a few hours and will try them when we return.” I don’t turn my cell phone off of airplane mode because I do not have a ton of data through our cellphone plan but this time I did. Halfway through writing my text to the kids I saw a voicemail pop up. I didn’t think much of it as I have been getting a ton of solicitation calls from when we were researching health care, but this one was different. It caught my eye so I checked it out. It said the call came from Houston, TX but the number started with “34”. “34” is the country code for Spain so I knew it was a Spanish call. I clicked on the message but the written dialogue didn’t give me much information so I clicked on the message to listen to it. There was a pause and lots of Spanish talking in the background and then it was Skye. She said, “Mom, Spider has had an accident. They think he broke his leg. Please, could you call this number. Please. That would be great. Love you, Bye.” The message came through on Bluetooth so her voice was on surround sound in the car. We pulled the car over immediately and stopped. She was her sweet self and very calm but, of course, I knew she was holding it all in. (I played it days later and she almost started crying. She said she wanted to cry so badly when leaving the message but she tried her hardest not to)
In that moment, I wasn’t surprised by the news. But I did feel helpless. I remember asking Skye, our 12 year old, “What should we do, Skye? Should we drive to you guys? What happens next?” I was asking a 12 year old all of these questions and she was actually answering me in a very, very calm manner. None of the doctors spoke English so Skye and her teacher Oscar were doing all of the translating. Spider was in great spirits. The first thing out of his mouth was, “We are still going to Italy.” (We did not go to Italy. We have postponed that trip which was to be from Feb 27-May 4 ) I assured him that all of that would work out and that our biggest concern was getting him home.
Getting him home proved to be the toughest part of this whole experience. For some reason, the insurance company that the school bought for the trip didn’t want to cover Spider’s injury once he arrived back in Santander. I guess they felt it wasn’t their responsibility anymore. Which is quite crazy since it is the same injury, just a different location. For this reason, the ambulance would not leave for the mountain and then would not leave the mountain with Spider until things were cleared. Spider and his wonderful teacher waited in the lobby of the hotel for 7 hours while they sorted things out. In the end, we told them we would pay for Spider once he arrived at the hospital so that the ambulance would leave.
In the ambulance
For 8 hours. We called and asked them to elevate his leg.
Now, remember, Spain has national healthcare. But their healthcare does not cover “deportes riesgo”, risky sports. And skiing is a risky sport. For these types of adventures, one has to get a special insurance regardless of your residence status. Once Spider arrived at the hospital, they unloaded him from the ambulance where he was able to lay down with his leg up for the entire 8-hour drive and we got to see his smiling face for the first time. They took him into an emergency room and we waited. They took his temperature and we waited. I was asked to come out and sign some papers at which time Spider’s teacher thought we were good to go, so we started to get up and gather our things and leave. That is when a nurse came over and asked us to wait a bit. To which we did, for an hour. And finally I told Spider he could head out to the car. By this time it was almost midnight. Nothing needed to be done that night and we didn’t want a non-pediatric doctor making recommendations for his recovery. So, with the family in the car and me standing in the waiting room, the nurse brought out our papers which basically said, “Voluntarily leaving”, which I signed.
In the hospital
We think the doctors on the mountain did a phenomenal job with his break. He went off a tiny jump, according to both kids. They were following their “monitor” who had gone off it first. It was icy and his ski caught an edge and then he doesn’t remember much else until he was on the ground. It was a spiral fracture, which means that when he fell, he looked at his foot and it was facing the wrong direction. His friend then unconnected his ski from his boot and his foot went back to facing the normal direction. It was a clean break and the doctors pulled the bone back into place and then put on his plaster cast with room for swelling. All and all, we feel like it was pretty lucky to have that kind of care.
But now, we are sitting here dealing with insurance (sounds familiar doesn’t it) there are many times when I have reminded myself that it would be the same in the US. But there are many times when I have been amazed, in a good way. For instance, although they didn’t take x-rays at our emergency room visit or at our first appointment, we went to an “X-ray store” (that’s what we are calling it) and paid 60 euros for Spider to get images of his leg, which were completed in about 6 minutes after walking through the door.
But what we are missing is direction. We never really got any direction. We weren’t handed a sheet of paper that says, “Here is what you should watch out for, here is what not to do, here is what to do, here is what to expect and here is the date and place of your next appointment.” We got nothing. We made an appointment with a wonderful doctor the Monday after Spider returned. We heard that this doctor was the best pediatric orthopod in the area. He was great and we handled the entire appointment in Spanish only. And, what makes it even better is that we completely understood him. He explained that we have two options, surgery or no surgery. After tons of consulting with doctors back home in the states coupled with a very strong gut feeling from Spider, we decided on the non-surgical option. We had to firmly request to be scheduled for the second appointment because the insurance was not secured. And our hope is that our second appointment will give us a lot of the information that we do not have, including time frames and schedules of follow-ups. And Spider is hoping for an orange cast that is much lighter than the one he has been lugging around for the past week and a half.
Putting aside all the BS of insurance and lack of communication, we have a very patient patient on our hands. We have a very dedicated teacher helping us wade through the waters. We are lucky. At first, some people were saying that is was just some, “bad luck”. Maybe, but I don’t really believe that. Things like this happen regardless of luck and maybe for a reason. Maybe they happen at times when maybe you need to pause and think. Erik and I have sat down a ton and thought about all of the things that Spider is learning through this hiccup. But what made us giggle with tears was that Spider, himself, actually said it to Erik on about day 3 of his leg-break. He said, “You know dad, breaking a leg makes you think. It makes you think of what you could have done differently and what will happen next. It makes you think about a lot of things.” Which made me think, maybe we all just needed some time to take this all in and think. And maybe next time I will subtly mention to be slightly careful. Moms always know.:)