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The Night My Son Dislocated My Knee

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Or soul. Or body. Especially if one has boys.

This past Saturday night is a case in point. Brace yourself.

My husband was away at a campout with the two oldest, supervising an airsoft gun war. That sounds dangerous. I’m more than happy to stay safe at home with the two littlest.

The lights are out. I’ve just told a bedtime story in the top bunk and am about to climb down the ladder to the bottom bunk to repeat the process.

My son doesn’t want me to go and plays his nightly “You can’t get out of my bed” game, unaware he’s about to take the game to a whole new level.

dislocated knee drawingHe giggles, climbing across my legs. And then it happens. He inadvertently pushes the heel of his hand into my left kneecap. “THWIK!”

I gasp and reach my hand to my knee to feel the sickening truth. My kneecap has slid to the left and wedged itself diagonally into the groove at the end of of my femur.

“Oh, Lord, help me.” I pray. I try to push it back, but it’s locked tight. I feel the blood drain from my face. The pain makes me want to SCREAM, but I hold it in for the sake of my children and their future psychotherapy bills.

Mommy, are you okay?” my son whispers in the dark.

I don’t want to shame him so I try to keep my voice calm. “Yeah…I mean…NO, actually, my kneecap is… out of place. I need you to go get my phone so I can call Daddy.” He scrambles down the ladder.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Twenty years ago, I dislocated my other kneecap when I was snowskiing. I can still feel the scratchy texture of the blanket in my mouth as I bit it, hard, screaming all the way down the bumpy mountain in a toboggan to the ER. There was no relief until a doctor popped it back into place.

But this time, I’m stuck in a top bunk in my house with two little boys.

I ask my youngest to turn on the light. He does, and then climbs up the ladder to visit me.

“Can I see your knee?” He steps onto the bed.

I yell out in pain. “Buddy, please get off the bed. It hurts mommy too much.”

“GET OFF THE BED!” his brother commands. The little man obeys.

“Can you get me a drink of water?” I ask. He does, glad for a way he can help.

Once I have my phone, I call my husband. It goes directly to voicemail. I guess there’s no service where he’s camping.

So, I call my brave friend and neighbor, Lindsay. She has 3 boys and has had her share of ER visits. She says she’ll be right over.

While we wait, my 8-year old looks at my leg. It isn’t pretty. I can get two fingers under the edge of my

kneecap and I’m holding it in place so it doesn’t slip any further. He looks terrified. “Mommy! Is that your knee?” he asks, aghast. “Does it hurt A LOT?”

I can’t answer. I’m trying to remember my Lamaze breathing. He scrambles back down the ladder and out of the room, sobbing. I feel bad he feels bad, but my knee feels worse.

Lindsay is upstairs in an instant. She climbs the ladder and takes one look. “Oh, Heidi.” And then, in typical organized fashion, she says, “Okay, I’m going to make a plan.” I know she doesn’t have one yet. It just helps her to know she’s going to make one.

She calls medical people we know in the neighborhood. My friend Amy is a nurse who lives down the street. She and her husband, Ryan, arrive shortly. They also have 3 boys. She sees my knee and winces. “Oh, wow. Yeah, you need to go to the ER.”

Photo of a dislocated kneecap, in case you really want to see one
Photo of a dislocated kneecap, in case you really want to see one

Lindsay announces the plan. “I’ll take the kids to my house and then we can all carry you to my car and I’ll take you to the ER.”

“But I can’t get down,” I grimace. “There’s just no way. The pain would kill me.”

Lindsay takes my boys to her house and comes back. My kneecap has now been dislocated for 40 minutes. I can’t believe I haven’t passed out.

We remember a couple in the neighborhood who are both expert PTs and have 4 boys. Lindsay calls and then sends a text.

PT John is in his bedroom about to go to sleep and sees his phone light up on the nightstand. It’s late, and he considers ignoring it. But then, thankfully, he picks it up and sees Lindsay’s text. He calls back and is at my house in a flash.

He comes up the ladder and gingerly scoots near me. He asks me to let go of my kneecap so he can check to make sure the ligaments haven’t torn. In a great act of faith, I let go. I know letting go is the only way to move to the next part of the story, but it feels like I’m jumping off a cliff.

He fingers the edges of my kneecap. “Oh, this looks bad,” he says. “But your ligaments are fine.” I look away.

Amy asks, “Need a hand to squeeze?”

I put my hand over the edge of the railing to grasp hers. I SQUEEZE for all I’m worth. My teeth are chattering and I’m breathing hard.

Then, suddenly, “POP!” The deed is done. John has expertly slid my kneecap back in place. I cry like I’ve just delivered a baby (without the 6 months of sleepless nights ahead of me).

“Thank you, Jesus.”

John wraps my knee and they all help me down from the bunk bed, through the house and into my own bed. I thank each of them profusely, especially John. I can only guess how many thousands of dollars he just saved us.  (Of course, I’ll have a follow-up appointment to make sure everything is okay.)

Lindsay tucks me in and tells me she’ll keep her phone on in case I need her in the night.

Once they’ve all left, I lie in the dark. The ice pack is heavy and cold.  I rest and wonder, “Did that really just happen?” I don’t even know how to process it.

I’ve heard it takes a village to raise children, but it also takes a village to help us parents survive raising children. Tonight, I’m thankful for my village- especially Lindsay, Amy, Ryan and John- all parents of boys who helped me survive one more day of parenting boys.  (Come to think of it, we have 14 boys between all of us, which means could have our own very rambunctious village with an ER right in the center.)

I think Brian got off easy this weekend. Next time I’ll go supervise the airsoft gun war.


2 thoughts on “The Night My Son Dislocated My Knee”

  1. Oh, Heidi! I was cringing and grimacing and sort of feeling your pain through every paragraph… wow! I’m so glad your neighbors were close by to help you out and get your knee popped back into place. I know it was horrible while it was happening, but it does make for a great story!

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