New Guy is no fool; thousands of kids on his table have at least taught him to pay attention to body language, and he notices that Twinks is not the happy, relaxed kid she was just moments ago. "What's wrong?" he asked, "It's not THIS is it?" holding the saw in one hand, spinning the motor up, and racing the cutting blade along his palm. Twinks shrieks, and pulls her fiberglass-covered legs up onto the table, trying to shrink back into the wall.
The Wrench, ever a mechanic, is admiring the saw, it's a saucy little cordless unit by Bosch; New Guy passes it over to him, and shows him several features while I peel Twinks from the wall. New Guy turns back to The Twinkie, and frowns. "Why are you so scared of this?" he asks her, shutting off the saw. She points to me, and I take my cue to explain.
Before we started going to The Hospital, we went to a local "Family Clinic" in The Greater Metro. The "Family Clinic" was a well-known, locally respected medical center, with all of the specialists you could ever want in one handy-dandy building. They had everything (literally) any hospital had, except inpatient beds. This was where the first orthopedic doctor that we saw had his offices. We met him before Baby Twinks was even two weeks old. That day, he put her first casts on. Then for the next six months, at least twice a week, we went back to the "Family Clinic" for those casts to be changed. Overall, Baby Twinks did great with the cast changes; I suppose because she was a newborn when they started, she just accepted them, and the noise attendant with the saw... until one very memorable day. Baby Twinks had somehow pulled her little tiny foot up inside the cast; she had almost succeeded in kicking the cast off, but had gotten stuck. We raced her down to the clinic to get the cast cut off before she lost circulation in her foot; however by the time we got there the regular techs had gone home, and "After Hours" had commenced.At The Hospital, the techs - like Big J and Craig - use what our family calls "zip strips"; they are a rubber channel that the tech puts under the stockinette before they apply the fiberglass. When the fiberglass hardens, they can cut the cast off right up that channel that the zip strip creates, and never run the risk of touching skin. Big J adores Twinks, and he even goes a step further, cutting off her casts by hand with a pair of those special scissors like the EMT's carry, (the ones that can cut through almost anything) so that she doesn't even have to hear or see the saw, and feel it vibrate.
The After Hours people had never had to cut a cast off of a baby. They didn't know that the casts weren't as thick as a cast that you would put on to, say, an active seven or eight year old child. So, the woman cutting the cast off, just kept cutting. Twinks was screaming, thrashing, obviously in distress even though she was only seven months old. I was screaming and screaming at her to stop - gesturing wildly, but the woman just kept cutting. Down both sides of the cast. It was terrible; the stuff of every parent's nightmares.
When the cast was finally popped off, the damage was terribly, horribly evident. You see, the cast saw doesn't actually cut. Not like a pair of scissors - it actually vibrates at a high rate of speed. Friction creates heat. Heat burns skin. Especially tender baby skin.
Baby Twinks had third-degree burns - one long,thin stripe down each side of her chubby little baby leg - from the cast saw.
To this day, the sound of any saw, or any vacuum (cast saws are often attached to a shop vac) still haunts Twinks. She can't stand it.
She still has the faintest scars down both sides of her leg. We call them "racing stripes".
But New Guy isn't Big J. He didn't know about the saw, didn't know about the mandatory zip strips. And, to be honest, between NOT having to travel to Hospital City, and the good news about weaning off the braces, I was so relaxed and happy that I wasn't paying good attention. Ordinarily I probably would have caught the fact that he didn't put the zip strips in before the fiberglass was on, but not today. Twinks, we learned later, DID notice, but was afraid to pipe up and say anything. Her mistake.
Now we had to convince The Twinkie that New Guy was NOT going to hurt her with the saw. Even though the saw was not hooked up to the vacuum (meaning less noise) it didn't help; she was terrified.
It took a lot of coaxing from everyone - but he did get the casts off with the saw. Twinks knew he was not going to allow the saw to hurt her; she just had to get over the fear. Once he started, New Guy had them off in no time.
Then it is time for us to go across the hall to retrieve the current braces that have been overhauled by Craig. Craig is from The Hospital, and he knows us well. Twinks is glad to get away from the crazy man with the saw, and safely into a room with someone she recognizes. Craig does his best to make these existing braces work a little longer until the new ones are ready; he warms the plastic with a heat gun that is clamped to a stand, and working swiftly, he bumps out a spot here, smoothes in a place there. Twinks stands, and walks in the braces; she points to another spot that isn't quite right. Craig heats the plastic again, and this time turns to a huge machine that looks like an oversized Dremel. He smoothes the instep of the brace carefully, then plunges it into a bucket of ice water to set the plastic. Twinks walks again, this time coming back with a double thumbs up.
We gather up paperwork, and wave goodbye to Craig, the New Guy and Cathy the NP, and make our way out to the improvised check out desk. Along the way, we greet other friends we know, now waiting for their turn at the Outreach Clinic. Some of these families we have known for twelve years now; our children are growing up together.
I stop at the desk while The Wrench and Twinks chat with some of our Shriner friends. The Office Manager from The Hospital is there; we chat as she goes through the paperwork by hand. At Hospital City, it's all computerized, but they can't use the network from here. She flashes a big smile, and hands me a return appointment card to pick up the new braces.
The card is for next month - about four weeks from now.
It's also for another Outreach Clinic. Right here in The Greater Metro.
"See you in four weeks!" she chirps.
What a day.