Mad Luke

Luke Garbacz frowns at the prospect of wearing a cast for a week after he partially dislocated his elbow after being pushed off a climber block by a classmate.

I have been telling my wife that I would wager heavily that Luke won’t make his teenage years without busting something, considering how he loves to climb, jump and just generally fly around.

And I was proven right, kind of, last Monday, as we spent the evening in the emergency walk-in clinic at the orthopedic office.

Whether this will be the first or the first of many, well, I guess time will tell.

On Monday, March 1 I got a call from daycare around 3:30 in the afternoon. I dread seeing calls from daycare, because it’s rarely anything good when they ring me during the day. For the last year, a call from daycare usually has meant a COVID-19 exposure and that I have to pick up Luke and keep him home for a few days.

This time, however, it was the center director calling to let me know that Luke got hurt at school.

He was climbing on one of the climber toys they have for the kids — small steps and blocks and stuff for the kids — and while up on one of the blocks he got shoved by another kid. Luke fell only about a foot to the ground after getting pushed, but as he tried to catch himself he landed awkwardly on his left arm.

Luke was crying and then protecting his arm and it might have been a little swollen, but he had calmed down after a few minutes. She wanted to let me know and wanted to know what I wanted to do?

“Well, let’s give him a little bit and see if he bounces back,” I said. “Can you keep an eye on him and give me a call back in like 15 minutes?”

Fifteen minutes later, I got an update. He didn’t bounce back and wouldn’t let anyone mess with his arm. So, more concerned, I packed up from work a little early to go get him.

When I got to daycare, he was sitting in the director’s office on her lap, looking sour. “All right, Bud, let’s see what’s wrong with you,” I said and tried to roll up his sleeve to get a look at his wrist.

And he did not like that at all, even that simple disturbance of his arm.

I called my wife. “Yeah, I’m taking this kid to the walk-in clinic because his arm is jacked up.” As I put him in his car seat and had to lift his left arm a little to get the strap around, he sounded like he was on the verge of death.

I drove over to the orthopedic clinic, got him checked in and we saw one of the on-call doctors. She asked where he hurt himself and I told her I wasn’t really sure, since he can’t tell me yet and I didn’t mess with him too much.

She started probing his arm a little bit — squeezing his shoulder, fine, squeezing his upper arm, fine, squeezing his elbow, not so fine.

Then she held onto his wrist and lifted his arm a little and tried to rotate his arm outward and jackpot.

So Luke got his first X-rays (an experience he didn’t enjoy because we had to rotate his arm to three different poses, none of which were pain-free). We went back to the exam room and the doc came back with the X-rays.

And... nothing was broken, which kind of shocked me.

Instead, Luke likely had “nursemaid’s elbow,” which is basically a partial dislocation.

Since kids don’t have fully formed bones or ligaments, they’re more susceptible to their ligaments being pulled. Nursemaid’s elbow usually happens if you pull hard on a kid’s arm — maybe yanking them away from something or holding on to the wrist and they fall or holding their arms and swinging them in circles which kids love but that you’re not supposed to do because it can hurt them.

But also, more rarely, it can happen when trying to break a fall, if the impact jolts up the arm and knocks your elbow out of alignment.

The good news is, nursemaid’s elbow is a little easier recovery than a broken bone. But, the treatment is the same, meaning Luke got his first (maybe last?) plaster cast, for one week.

The doc and nurse wrapped his arm in padding, then casted him from wrist to upper arm. As we waited for the plaster to dry, I took out my phone to snap a picture of Luke to send to my wife.

As I pulled out the camera, Luke put on the biggest frown I think his little face is capable of producing. As I looked at this picture, I knew instantly this is one of those that goes in the “embarrass your kid in front of his girlfriend” portfolio someday.

Honestly, I think he was plotting revenge.

A week back at school with his cast, we didn’t hear any reports that he put a hit on the kid who busted his elbow.

But who knows, maybe he’s biding his time.

Steve Garbacz is executive editor for KPC Media Group and editor of The News Sun. He broke his left arm falling off a golf cart in fifth grade, but didn’t get a cast because it was nearly at his shoulder. Email him at

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