The Weeber family’s weekly summer tradition: happy chaos.
Every Tuesday, the family would make the trip from their home in Zeeland, Michigan, to their grandma and grandpa’s house in nearby Holland, Michigan, to meet up with a crowd of cousins and siblings, giddy with sunshine.
“My mom has a pool and a trampoline and we all go over so that the kids can swim and play,” Anna Weeber said. “It was Aug. 2, 2022, and after arriving at the pool, I took one of my sons out for a golf cart ride in the field next to their house while the other two played with their cousins.”
Anna’s cell phone pinged in her pocket. Family calling. Her youngest son, Hudson, 5, suffered an injury while playing on an in-ground trampoline.
“After arriving back, I saw Hudson lying on the tramp with his lower leg in two distinctly different angles,” Anna said.
As luck would have it, one of Anna’s cousins, Katrina Vander Veen, was trained as an emergency medical technician.
Vander Veen calmed Anna and called 911. She also recognized the break was bad enough that a car ride to the emergency department wasn’t the best option.
“My cousin, the EMT, had quickly gotten all the other kids off the trampoline, and Hudson lay there on the surface,” Anna said. “My cousin was careful not to move him.”
When the ambulance arrived, paramedics quickly determined Hudson’s leg needed immediate care. They whisked him off to Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
It was a lengthy ride, but as soon as Hudson arrived, the team in the emergency department sprang into action. Medication eased his pain while technicians took X-rays.
“The X-rays showed us that Hudson had a broken tibia and fibula, the two long bones in his lower leg. And the two sections were about an inch-and-a-half apart,” Anna said. “The break was diagonal, but it was a clean break.”
Hudson tolerated his care with courage.
“He was the bravest little boy,” Anna said. “He just wanted mama and daddy with him and he was fine.”
Doctors set Hudson’s leg so the broken bones aligned. They placed him in a soft cast to wear for a week. With the cast in place, technicians took another set of X-rays to ensure the bones remained correctly aligned.
A week later, Hudson returned to the hospital for his first check-in. He met with Susan Laham, PA-C, physician assistant in pediatric orthopedics.
“Hudson was ready to transition to a hard cast at that point,” Laham said. “Unfortunately, the kind of injury he had is not uncommon. I am just one of seven pediatric orthopedic physician assistants here and I have seen maybe around 40 injuries on trampolines just this summer.”
Laham has recommendations for parents concerning trampolines.
“I’m a mom, too, so I know how hard it is to say to your kids that you can’t have a trampoline,” Laham said. “I played on one when I was a kid. My kids do play on them when they visit friends—I have elevated blood pressure when my kids get on trampolines elsewhere.”
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, there were more than 1 million emergency department visits for trampoline-related injuries from 2002-2011. Many happened during adult supervision.
The most common injuries were sprains and fractures. Somersaults and flips on the trampoline are among the most common causes of permanent and devastating cervical spine injuries.
“Netting around trampolines has helped to prevent falls off the sides, but it gives parents a false sense of security,” Laham said. “Most injuries occur on the surface of the trampoline.
“I see a lot of breaks of the tibia or the wrist and forearm and it usually happens from what I call the double-bounce: when there is more than one child jumping on the trampoline and the size of the kids is unmatched—one bigger and heavier than the other.”
Among the most important safety measures: Allow only one child at a time on the trampoline, Laham said.
Multiple jumpers increase injury risk, particularly to the smallest participants.
“For instance, you should never have an adult on a trampoline at the same time as a child,” Laham said.
Always have adult supervision and take a moment to remove any ladders that might tempt smaller children when adults are not around. Make sure springs are covered well with padding.
Another safety measure: Choose a rectangular trampoline rather than a round one. The bounce “sweet spot” is larger and provides a straighter, more consistent bounce.
Somersaults, flips and falls put jumpers at increased risk of head and cervical spine injury, with potentially permanent consequences.
“Trampolines were originally developed for sports training,” Laham said. “Now they have become a toy. And I get it—it’s a blast, it’s a great energy-killer for kids. But you have to know that when kids are having fun, they forget the safety rules.
“I wish we could wrap them in bubble wrap. But short of that, at least always keep a close eye on them.”
After Hudson’s third week in a cast, he returned for more X-rays.
“What we saw on the X-rays was that the bones had moved and were no longer aligned,” Nate Weeber, his father, said.
“The swelling had gone down and his leg was moving around too much inside the cast,” Anna said. “I was afraid they would have to reset it, but they just put on a new, tighter cast and the bones went back into position again.”
After another week, his care team removed the long leg cast and replaced it with a short cast so that Hudson could begin walking on it.
“What we’ve learned as a family from this experience is a greater understanding of how we can show each other Jesus and serve one another,” Anna said. “And we are so grateful for all the knowledge and care of Hudson’s health care workers at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.”
As his parents recounted the experience, Hudson took a seat and opened his arms to his newest sibling, 6-month-old baby sister, Brynlee. If he can’t carry her yet, he can at least snuggle her.
His parents looked on with smiles.
“Even when bad things happen, there’s grace,” Nate said. “There’s always something good, too. When one of us needs help, we have learned how to be there for each other.”