Casting lasts for 9 long weeks.
Between the 5 and 6 weeks mark each baby goes back into the OR and under anesthesia for a cast change. The good news about this, is that once the new cast is on you are on the downhill sprint to the finish.
Since my girls were so little they were always first up in the OR. You follow standard surgery procedures and “No food or drink after midnight” which can be awful. Holding your hungry baby and not being able to do anything about it is taxing on a mothers soul. Knowing this, the surgery schedulers put the littlest one at the front of the line.
When it was Hazel’s turn for her cast to change from pretty purple to rocking red we also had a one and a half year old, so Daren took the day off of work to stay home and I headed out at 4:30am with Hazel. I know the routine by now and calmly walk from the check in desk to the nurses desk to our tiny hospital bed and wait our turn.
Eventually the nurses come and get us and we all walk down to the OR waiting room. This is the hardest place to be. You wait in your little area with your hospital bed and curtain walls. This is the place where tears flow forcefully and families gather around their children to pray and joke in vague attempts to ease the tension. The anesthesiologist comes to talk to you, then the Dr comes to talk to you then then nurse comes to take your child away. Its a gut wrenching feeling to hand over your child and watch them disappear behind the ‘magic doors’ that open and close like magic, it is a children’s hospital after all.
But in our case, this was my fourth casting and Hazel and I were as calm as could be. I send knowing smiles around to the other mothers in the room while I rock my own casted baby and play cooing games. The anesthesiologist comes to talk to me. He tells me about the procedure and what he’s going to be doing.
“Sounds good” I say.
“Do you have any questions?” He asks.
“No, I think we’re ready” was my reply
He sits down. “So you know your baby may feel….” and he goes on to tell me about some of the possible hardships that could be coming my way that day.
I smile and say “This is my fourth casting. She has a sister who was casted last year so I’ve done this before”
He throws his head back and he laughs out loud. “No wonder you are so calm! I was beginning to worry!”
By then my Dr.’s nurse, who knows this family well by now, was there and we all laughed. I kissed my baby a see you in a little bit kiss and waited in the waiting room for them to tell me she was securely in her rocking red cast.
When the timer dings and its finally the day to get their casts off they are removed in the Dr.s office, by Joe the Cast Guy in our case, just like casts for broken arms and legs are removed. Once the cast in removed, they are fitted with a brace that each child wears for varying amounts of time based on their unique response to the cast and how severe their hip dysplasia is. Some babies will be in the brace for 23 hours a day, my babies were only in the brace for 18 hours a day at first. Then down to nights and naps until they were 15 months old. This brace allows them to catch up developmentally and regain their muscle tone while assisting the hip development and ensuring that everything stays where it should. Another nice thing about this brace is that is helps keep their little legs comfortable. Getting out of the cast after so long hurts. My babies were sore and stiff for about a week, but the brace keeps their legs in a very similar position and helps alleviate that discomfort.
Ultimately casting in a pain in the you know what, but it works. It takes a lot of time and a lot of emotional energy to get through. Cast care is constant, hard and time consuming with my longest diaper change taking 90 minutes.
But soon, and in no time at all my sweet baby girls born, each born with bad hips, are running, jumping, dancing and getting into all sort of childhood fun together.
For more information on Hip Dysplasia you can check out this foundation, actually started by Larry the Cable Guy.