Boston Surgeon Heals Bones and Spirits

The blood-curdling scream of your child after they have dislocated and broken their arm is a sound no mother on earth ever wants to hear. It’s even worse when you see the color drain from your law enforcement-trained husband’s face as he tells you to call 911. That’s what happened to our family though last month when visiting Salem, MA for the first time. So maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Hello? Who visits Salem in October? You’re just asking for something bad to happen.” Well the answer is, a lot of people!

My 5-year-old son managed to survive the 50-foot high spider web and slide at Boston Common Park near the Charles River, maneuvering a Duck Tour boar on his own, and throwing rocks off the cliff at Salem Harbor, but it was the innocent looking children’s hay playground at Salem Common Park that got him. The last words my husband and I heard him say before the fall were, “Hey Paige! (his sister) Watch this!”

That’s when his foot got caught on a string around the hay bale and seconds later came that scream. It took my husband about three seconds to figure out his arm was definitely broken from the way it was distorted through his shirtsleeve; we prayed it wasn’t a compound fracture through the skin. After the ambulance came and rushed him to Salem Children’s hospital, we found out it was actually one of the most common breaks for a young child – a type 3 supra condular fracture of the elbow. Wasn’t much solace for us, especially after hearing that he needed to go to Mass General for emergency surgery. Ambulance ride #2.

When we arrived at Mass General, the doctors there concurred that he would need to have surgery quickly to alleviate his displaced muscle and nerves, and so that the bone did not begin to set in the wrong place. That’s when we were told about his surgeon. Dr. Gleeson Rebello they said, was the best of the best. Of course the first thing I did was Google him. Google confirmed what we had been told, top rated orthopaedic surgeon, on faculty at Harvard Medical School, who specializes in kids. Ok, I was a little less nervous. Hearing that my five year old would have to be in surgery for two hours though was still making me nauseous and I could tell he was very anxious as well, not to mention his excruciating pain. Fast forward to after the surgery: three pins in his arm and an incision about an inch and a half long, and he would have to wear a cast for a month. The coolest thing though was the gift Dr. Rebello gave Parker. It was a book called Darebone’s Big Break, written by the surgeon himself, to help kids with this type of injury understand what had happened to them. I guess it was a common injury. The Dr. said after seeing this so often, he came to realize that many people feel like they have to “dumb down” the experience to their children, not giving them the necessary facts and information about what they were going through. “Kids are smarter than many people give them credit for,” he said. “This book is to show them exactly what happened to them, and how it will be fixed.”

And it really is just that. We have read the book to our son about 20 times now (at his request) and he loves to see what his broken bone looked like, how it will be fixed (especially the part about the pins), and how one day soon he will be back outside playing with his friends. My son’s Kindergarten teacher read it to the class and said she has never heard them so quiet, as they sat listening intently to every single word about the procedure. As a parent, I have to also say it is an amazing tool. The book not only shows our child that what happened to him happens to a lot of other kids, but also gives him the peace of mind to know what is coming next with his cast and that he actually will get better – when a month can seem like forever to a five year old. Kudos to you Dr. Rebello, for not only fixing his physical injuries, but for also helping with the emotional ones, as well.

Darebone’s Big Break is available at

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