When Your Child Breaks Her Ankle...or other catastrophe

Abby, I'm not posting about your broken ankle...or the surgery you had a week later...or the terrible effect the pain meds had on you...or the emotional roller coaster we've all been on for the past two weeks. That's not what this post is about. It's not about you.

It's about me -- the caretaker.

My 21-year-old daughter Abby did indeed break her ankle during a production of Othello two weeks ago. And, since she's a theatre performance major, her injury and pursuant surgery have caused major and, ahem, dramatic problems in her life. But they caused some pretty significant problems in mine, too. And since I've been instructed not to post about Abigail's woes, I won't. I can't speak for her anyhow.

But let me tell you something sister. I've learned a thing or two about being my child's caretaker after a major accident. No, my daughter didn't incur long term or life altering injuries. Praise the Lord. And I know other parents do have to navigate those life changing situations. So I haven't been through the worst case scenario. But I think I do have something to offer the mom whose son breaks his arm during baseball season, whose daughter contracts Mononucleosis during her senior year of high school or whose daughter takes a tumble and doesn't get to cheer the rest of the season. And even if your situation is more serious, you might find something here that will help.

I felt completely overwhelmed as a mom from the get-go when Abigail called from the emergency room to tell us her ankle was broken and she would need surgery. I didn't even know what to do first. Do I immediately get in the car in my pajamas and drive the 80 miles separating us? Or do I change clothes and go? Or do I take time for a shower and pack a bag?

I chose the latter. After running around my house aimlessly for a few minutes, trying to get my wits about me, I decided I might not have opportunity for a shower any time soon once I picked my injured daughter up. I was right. I'm glad I took the hour to shower, wash and dry my hair and even put on some makeup. I wouldn't have the opportunity to do any of those things again for about three days. And I felt a little more equipped to handle the twists and turns of the day because I looked and felt like myself.

That said, I'd like to offer you just a few more lessons learned from my experience taking care of my precious daughter during her crisis. I certainly hope you never need these, but you might. And even though all of our emergencies tend to be different in nature, I think you'll find these lessons to fit across the board.

You're not alone.
As long as we're packing lunches, shopping for back-to-school supplies or putting together birthday parties, we feel like we're doing the normal mom thing...in good company. But when we detour into uncharted territory, we feel alone. We've never been here before and we suddenly can't recall any of our friends ever doing this before either.

But you're not alone. As I drove to the hospital and during every quiet moment I had thereafter, I prayed fervently to feel God's presence and to hear His voice. And my prayers were answered. He walked through every day with me. He whispered sweet reassurances to my insecure heart. And He gave me wisdom for making decisions I'd never faced before.

You don't have to do this perfectly.
I was in the middle of reading Holley Gerth's latest book You're Loved No Matter What when Abby broke her ankle. Up to that point I had been thinking that this book about battling perfectionism with the love of God wasn't really for me. But suddenly I found myself frustrated because I didn't know how to navigate this new territory correctly. I had never been here before, and I was petrified that I was going to somehow injure my daughter further if I didn't get my act together and handle her physical, emotional and spiritual issues the right way.

But as I read a little of Holley's book each night before drifting off for a few hours, I began to realize that I didn't have to do things perfectly. God was not surprised or thrown off guard by Abby's accident. He had a plan and He was working it. I just needed to do the things I could do -- give her her medicine on time, provide ice for her ankle and sit with my hurting daughter -- and allow Him to do the rest.

Mom, you don't have to do whatever you're being called on to do perfectly either. You do your best. Ask for help from others when it's appropriate. But trust that God is at work in it all, too.

Your child's going to be okay.
It may not be okay. But she's going to be okay. Abby didn't want to have surgery. In fact, she's passionately agin' it. Know what I mean? But in the long run, she managed. God worked: He provided gracious and kind nurses, a calm and knowledgeable surgeon and, perhaps most importantly, a huge team of anaesthesiologists who all loved college basketball (or at least they told Abby they did) and were all really handsome. (She had her surgery at a teaching hospital, so this team was made up of interns and residents who looked like they had just walked off the set of Grey's Anatomy!)

Your child may go through some really tough stuff -- chemotherapy, unpleasant tests, extreme nausea, surgery, transfusions, etc. That stuff is not okay. I get that. But if your child has to go through it, God will make a way. And He'll get them through it. He'll build into their make-up whatever it takes to pull them through. He promised that they can do absolutely anything through Jesus who gives them every ounce of strength they'll need. Sister, you have to trust that promise.

Now I'm not promising that things will go back to normal or that it will be easy. I'm not telling you that your child will not be stretched, will not cry, will not suffer. They may. But, by the grace of God, they will indeed be okay.

Take care of yourself.
It may feel indulgent to take a shower, a nap or a walk. I understand the mixed emotions that accompany the decision to do something for yourself when your loved one is hurting and helpless. But if you don't do a little something here and there for yourself you will be of no good to your child.

Depending on the length of time your child is healing or enduring treatments, you may need to call in friends and family members to help you so that you can care for yourself occasionally. People will undoubtedly offer to help; let them. And when you take them up on their offer, be prepared for the fact that they may not be able to do what you're asking when you're asking for it. That happened to me a couple of times. But I just kept asking until someone was able to say yes. And I did not hold it against those who couldn't say yes. I knew they wanted to, but they had life situations going on, too.

Bottom line...
Taking care of someone you love during a crisis situation is very exhausting. Not only do you perhaps have to lift things, put in long hours and do things you've never had to do before, but you also grow weary from the emotional stress. You care and you hurt for them and you want so badly to make things right and good again. Plus, you're navigating new territory. It's all just a little scary.

But sister, you can do it. By the grace of God, you can do it. You have more to offer than you know. And you'll learn along the way. (I now know how to secure a temporary disability parking placard and I know that you can get your hair washed at Cost Cutters for just $5!)

I'd love it if you'd share any wisdom you gleaned when you were caring for your child during sickness or injury. 

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