Childhood Family

Thumb and thumber

As a parent, you rather quickly develop a sensor that gauges the severity of your child’s peril. For example, you can quickly tell if wails of anguish are a result of an argument over possession of the remote control and the screams of horror are mainly an attempt to get a little brother in trouble. But you can also tell when it’s something real. And I knew it was something real.

I was getting ready for work when I heard Parker. This was the real deal siren being sounded. Being your typical 10-year-old boy, he’s had his share of bumps, scrapes, scratches and cuts. He’s been stitched up and superglued together on several occasions. This was even trumping those alerts.

I went to run downstairs but he had already bee-lined it to my room. He was clutching his left hand. Tears streaming down his face, he looked up and me and said, “Bawble craffel laropy!” At least that’s what it sounded like. I assumed there were actually English words that he could use to explain things. “Calm down. Take a deep breath. What happened?”

He did not take a deep breath and he did not calm down. He held up his left thumb and said, “AHHHHHHHH!!!!”

I looked at his thumb. It was starting to become an awfully big thumb, far bigger than the one on his other hand, which remained  a normal sized thumb. I quickly grabbed some ice and put it on his thumb. He was now sitting down and, as a counter to the pain, stomping his feet. He continued to speak in tongues.

After a few minutes, he was able to tell me what happened. He was looking at a bird nest in our willow tree. He was preparing to climb down via his usual method, which is by slide, which is attached to the tree. Unfortunately, he slipped. Today’s fun medical fact – don’t try and break your fall with your thumb.

I told him we would need to go to the doctor and get an X-ray. I told him that I broke my thumb when I was a kid and that I knew how bad it hurts. He asked me if I had to get a cast. I did indeed. He told me his thumb was feeling better, and the doctor would not be necessary. Apparently, the first day of summer break is not the time to inform a kid he may very well be getting a cast.

He made it through the day, in obvious pain. As a bonus, his thumb began to turn several lovely shades of blue and purple. His tough guy act finally gave in. The fear of missing some summer swimming did not outweigh the fact that he was in some serious pain. We took him to get his X-rays, at which point he asked that I stop telling every medical professional we meet that we are here for a thumb transplant. Good to see he is getting at the age where I can embarrass him.

The X-rays showed two small breaks, which, apparently happens when you snap your thumb backwards. He tried to be a tough guy when he got the news, and even gave me a high-five on his first confirmed broken bone. (Shockingly, my wife declined my offer of a high five.)

When we went to the orthopedist’s office, he was again a bit on the nervous side, probably because I spent much of the time in the waiting room showing him pictures of people in body casts. Again, no high fives for that.

Fortunately, the cast he was given is removable. Well, I guess technically they are all removable with the right tools, but his one is designed to go on and off. Anyone who spends time around a 10-year-old boy in the summertime knows that being able to remove said cast and dunk said child in a bath is a good option to have.

So now we log some summer miles with an immobilized hand. Being a lefty, it’s hard for him not to have his strong hand at the ready. Granted, dinnertime isn’t a problem, as everything can be finger food when you’re 10. Plus, school’s out, so there’s not a lot of test taking going on right now. The main thing that’s bumming him out is the difficulty in shooting hoops or throwing a ball. This has led him to use his boundless imagination to create new games (beach ball golf was a particularly inspired choice). But this will all be temporary, as in a few weeks the cast will be off for good and he will be back to doing all the things he used to do. You know, before the thumb transplant.


Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he can be reached at or followed on Twitter @StandardMike.


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