Hansen student recovering well after injury scareBy Jay Turner
There is tough, and then there is 8-year-old Luke Romano of Canton.
While that might seem like a bit of an exaggeration, consider this: After injuring his arm while navigating an obstacle course in gym class last winter, Romano, a second grader at the Hansen Elementary School, promptly got up and completed the course. He didn’t cry, nor did he even mention he was hurting until his teacher, Dave Bohane, asked him if he could lift his arm.
Unable to comply but still not showing any visible signs of distress, Romano was sent down to the nurse, who promptly called an ambulance and then his mother, LoriAnn.
“They really didn’t think it was anything — maybe a dislocation,” said LoriAnn, recalling her conversation with the Canton EMTs.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, LoriAnn said she had no reason to believe that the injury was extensive, let alone a major emergency. And yet within hours of falling down in gym class, a then 7-year-old Luke was being transported from Norwood Hospital to Children’s Hospital in Boston, where he would later undergo a six-hour operation in an attempt to save his arm.
As it turns out, not only had Luke badly fractured his arm in the fall; he had also damaged an artery, thus blocking the blood supply to the lower part of his arm and hand. He ended up needing two procedures: one to reset the bone and another to fix the artery, which required taking a vein from his leg.
For LoriAnn and Brian Romano, it was a terrifying ordeal and a night they never want to relive. They had gone through surgery before with their oldest child, Amanda, but nothing where the worst-case scenarios were so life-altering and final.
“We were hoping that it was just the bone, but I just had a sick feeling in my stomach that it was going to be more,” said LoriAnn. “By that point I was sort of ready for it and I trusted [the doctors] completely, but it’s still your baby and it’s overwhelming.”
Fortunately for the Romanos, the surgery went as well as could be expected, and Luke even showed some of that characteristic toughness upon waking up, happily announcing that his arm didn’t hurt anymore.
He ended up staying in the hospital for the next five days and was treated with anticoagulants to prevent blood clotting — which required that the temperature of the room be set at a sweltering 80 degrees.
He also was fitted with a large cast on his arm that he wore for the next four weeks, and by late December, just before the holiday break, he was back in school with the help of an aide.
That is not to suggest that the transition was an easy one, however. Not only was he unable to write while his cast was on, but Luke also could not participate in gym class or recess — or even play outside — for the next three months.
And the removal of his cast introduced a new challenge for Luke: a large, lightning-bolt-shaped scar that extended from the middle of his upper arm down to the middle of his forearm, zigzagging at the crease of his elbow.
“It was very hard for him at first,” admitted his mother. “He immediately looked at his arm and then told [the doctor] to put the cast back on.”
However, as his parents had explained to him, a scar was nothing to be ashamed of and in fact was a real sign of bravery. And soon enough, Luke came around to the idea, and though he was initially nervous about showing others, he started to like the attention and is now quite comfortable showing classmates and anyone else who seems curious.
“Now that the warm weather is here, he is wearing short sleeves and is trying to filter people’s reactions to his scar, and he’s doing so wonderfully,” said LoriAnn. “He [still] doesn’t understand why people think that his scar is ‘gross,’ but we are trying to educate others that it’s okay to ask and be curious, but to also be sensitive and kind.”
Of course, it also helps to have supportive neighbors, friends, and school community, and all three have been a “tremendous help,” according to the Romanos.
The kids and families in their Ponkapoag neighborhood have been especially wonderful, noted LoriAnn, who returned home from the hospital with Luke to find their entire front door plastered with get-well cards.
Luke’s principal, Peter Boucher, and his teacher, Ms. Walsh, both visited him at home while he was recovering and brought cards and gifts from classmates. And his gym teacher, Mr. Bohane, visited him in the hospital and at home and brought him an autographed football from New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski.
LoriAnn said that Bohane, to this day, is amazed at how stoic Luke was in the face of what turned out to be such a serious injury.
“It was just a freak thing,” said LoriAnn, reflecting on that day. “Luke’s got an incredible threshold for pain; he always has. But this one really took the cake — everybody was shocked.”
The Romanos, for their part, are just grateful that the surgery was a success and that their son is back to being the “outgoing and active” boy that he always has been. And while they do hope that the scar fades in time as Luke continues to grow, they also like to think of it as a reminder — of “what he went through, of how strong and brave he was at a young age, and how lucky [they] are.”
“I always tell him, ‘Luke, you’re so lucky buddy,’” said LoriAnn. “He doesn’t really see it that way yet, but he’ll know it someday.”
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