What is a spica cast, you ask? A spica is a type of body cast made of fiberglass or plaster that typically goes from the chest to the hips and legs. There are different reasons why people need to wear body casts, but spica casts are most commonly used in children with hip dysplasia or to help heal a major broken bone such as the femur.
After Sarah’s spine surgery (a hemi-vertebra resection and fusion) she was cast in a spica. Sarah’s spica cast starts at her chest, just under her arm pits and extends to her knees. There is a titanium bar that goes between her legs, mid-thigh.
If your child requires a spica cast, your doctor will give you very specific instructions to follow. Follow them! The tips I’m sharing are non-medical, practical ways we’ve learned to make life with a spica cast a bit more tolerable for Sarah.
Pillows! You will need at least 6-8 pillows. I ransacked the house and pulled a variety of pillows from beds and closets. Having a combination of larger, fuller pillows and flat, firm pillows is helpful. Sarah is cast at an awkward angle (about 45 degrees) from her hips. I use 4 pillows (2 under each leg) to prop her legs. And, 2-3 more pillows to help prop her on her side when we rotate to change her position. We change Sarah’s position frequently, rotating her from side to back to side, to avoid bed sores and to keep her comfortable.
Bean Bag Chair. Some children can be mobile in their spica cast. Sarah cannot and is pretty much limited to her hospital bed which we lovingly call her “fancy up and down bed” or her reclining wheel chair which she is not fond of—it’s super uncomfortable. Our nurse recommended a bean bag chair and of all the tips I’ve been given, hands down our bean bag chair is the winner! Sarah can wiggle and adjust herself as necessary. And, she can comfortably sit in an almost upright position. She spends lots of time in her turquoise bean bag playing games, doing arts & crafts, and eating her meals. I found ours at Pier 1 Imports and it’s such a hit, her siblings now each have one too.
Incontinent pads & briefs. Because of the odd angle Sarah is cast, using a bedside commode proved to be nearly impossible. We never got the hang of a bed pan and so we mutually decided diapers were the way to go. The good news is that Sarah was still looped up on pain medicine in the hospital when we made this decision so by the time we got home, being in a diaper was just a new normal. We use Poise pads and disposable briefs. Because Sarah’s cast is so large, we actually use an adult size medium in the briefs! The diapers and maxi pads have provided endless amounts of jokes and potty humor from her older siblings. I just roll my eyes and am grateful for the laughter.
No Rinse Shampoo. Sarah’s hair is a disaster, y’all. I’m just going to be honest. The back of her hair is so matted and tangled (think dreadlocks!), it will have to be cut once we get her out of her cast. A few weeks ago, we rigged up a mini salon in her wheel chair and I tried everything to untangle the web of her hair. I used 1/2 a bottle of olive oil and a small bottle of conditioner – all to no avail. So, expect photos of a darling pixie cut soon. In the meantime, Mia found this no-rinse shampoo for us that is wonderful. You lather and towel dry. It works great (on the non-matted part of Sarah’s hair!) and would be idea for camping or mission trips where water is scarce.
No-rinse disposable wash cloths. Obviously, Sarah can’t take a bath in a spica cast. She is elated by this silver lining. However, sponge baths are a must, at least from her mother’s stand point. The hospital sent us home with a package of these no-rinse disposable wash cloths which I’ve since re-ordered on amazon. The cloths are soft, fragrance free and do not leave any icky residue behind on Sarah’s skin. Like the no-rinse shampoo, these disposable wash cloths would be incredible to take on mission trips.
Candles. Spica casts stink. And, not just figuratively. We’ve just chalked this unpleasant fact up to, “it is what it is.” I found these candles at CVS and we love them. The three wick version is the best and since I depleted our local supply (sorry neighbors!) and was grateful to find these fresh, clean scented candles on amazon.
Lap Desk. Sarah is either in her “fancy up and down bed” or her bean bag chair all day. Having a lap desk with a soft, pillow bottom has been a life saver. She can color, play Barbies, games, and eat her meals on her brightly colored lap desk.
I’m sure I’m forgetting a hundred things that might be helpful. If you have taken care of a child in a spica cast, please chime in with your tips. And, if you are preparing for an upcoming spica cast and have questions, please ask. I’ll get back to you promptly.
Love and encouragement from spica cast central! xo, Kristin