In the backyard playing with her sister, six-year-old Isabella looked up at the basketball hoop before her. Going against her mother Kimberly’s wishes, Isabella began climbing the basketball hoop with her sights set on the top.
As she climbed, she lost her grip and fell onto the pavement. Hitting the ground, she felt the bones in her right forearm snap.
Calmly, she went inside and stoically reported the bad news.
My arm is broken, the little girl said.
Not a tear fell from her eye, although she was visibly scared and upset. The relaxing family weekend had now taken a whole new turn.
Kimberly, a fix-it mom who eagerly takes on house projects with success, felt helpless. This was a problem she could not fix.
A surgery gone wrong
Rushing off to the urgent care center, Kimberly and Isabella were told to go to the hospital. At the hospital, they saw the results of the x-ray.
The radius, the largest bone in the forearm, was broken completely in half. The ulna, a smaller bone, was also broken.
The doctor recommended a closed surgery, a surgery that does not involve an incision into the skin, during which Isabella would be under anesthesia. Placing her arm in a mesh netting and securing each digit for stabilization using sight and touch, the doctor maneuvered the bones back into place. Afterward, her arm was placed in a cast from wrist to elbow, with a bandage from elbow to upper arm.
Five days after the swelling went down, Kimberly took Isabella to a physician in the East Bay as instructed.
Looking at current x-rays from the top view, the bones appeared to be secured. But an x-ray from the side view revealed that the radius was only 10% attached.
Kimberly was worried. Had irreversible damage been done? Would they need to break the bone and start over? Would Isabella suffer permanently from a procedure gone awry?
She asked the doctor what should be done.
We will not do anything. The bone should be left as it is to heal, he instructed.
Kimberly was shocked. How could a physician recommend that a young, growing girl leave such a large injury untreated? The potentially disastrous consequences of doing nothing were too much to bear. Following her instinct, Kimberly refused to accept the doctor’s advice.
“We will need to fix this”
Afraid that waiting any longer could cause long-term damage, Kimberly requested copies of the x-rays and drove straight to Muir Orthopaedic Specialists.
Walking in without an appointment at the end of the day, Kimberly knew there was a high possibility that she would not see a doctor. But the staff did everything they could to help her. Although Dr. Contreras had a full patient schedule that day, he reviewed Isabella’s x-rays after his surgeries were complete.
His prognosis was simple and unwavering.
"I would like to see more contact with the bone. We will need to fix this," he said.
Kimberly also learned that waiting any longer could cause permanent nerve damage and disfigurement, affecting Isabella’s arm and hand function. The possibility that her daughter could suffer such grave permanent injuries was terrifying.
Dr. Contreras worked with the staff to schedule the first possible appointment a couple of days later.
After placing Isabella under mild anesthesia and working on her arm in a closed surgery, Dr. Contreras saw that the bone would not stay in place and a more extensive operation would be necessary.
After placing Isabella under stronger anesthesia, Dr. Contreras performed an open surgery during which he added a metal pin to secure the radius bone.
Looking at the updated x-rays, Kimberly was amazed at how perfect and aligned the bone was.
At the worst point in my life, Dr. Contreras gave us the best possible chance for success, she says. He gave Isabella the opportunity for a full life and for that I am very grateful.
After three months, Isabella was as good as new. She returned to her normal activities such as biking, riding her scooter, and practicing her dancing and cheerleading moves.
Kimberly and her husband, Greg, are happy to move on as a happy, healthy family.
Impressed with the work and results, Greg has created a new nickname for Muir Orthopaedic Specialists.
They are the carpenters of surgery, he says.