Waterproof casts saving summer for local kids

DETROIT – It was a rough start to the summer for 4-year-old Willow Mullins of Monroe.

"First I was trying to get off the bed, but I fell and broke my arm," said Mullins.

Her mother was worried this would ruin the young girl's summer. 

"I was scared and I was not looking forward to summer having a cast on her arm," said Shanna Mullins. "I mostly just felt sorry for her because she's four now, so she can do more during the summer."

But the Mullins were surprised to learn, they had a new option.

"When we were here getting it put on, they asked if we wanted waterproof or not, so I said, 'Definitely waterproof.' We just bought a blow-up pool. I didn't want her to miss out," said Shanna Mullins.

"We're excited this year to be able to offer a waterproof casting option for kids who have fractures or other injuries that we traditionally put in a cast that wasn't able to get in the water," said Dr. Chris Minnock, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Children's Hospital of Michigan.

Minnock spearheaded the effort to make the waterproof casts available.

"I did training in Arizona, and it's obviously a drier climate down there, and we did a lot of waterproof casting, pretty regularly, had good success with it, and parents and families really liked it," said Minnock.

The outside of the cast is exactly the same. The difference is in the padding.

"This is synthetic and allows water to pass through it and dry out pretty quickly. The traditional cast, that wasn't the case. The water would kind of stagnate in there, and it wouldn't dry very well," said Minnock. "Kids can get it fully wet in a bath, or a shower or pool and it dries in usually about 30 minutes or so."

The waterproof casts are not an option for everyone.

"These are good for fractures that don't require a reduction or haven't had surgery or any incisions underneath," explained Minnock. "Those fractures we still worry about the wound healing if water gets into the cast."

Fourteen year-old Hezekiah Walker broke his finger playing football. He was happy a waterproof cast was available.

"I can wash up in water. I can go swimming," said Walker. "It's really cool."

There are other benefits too. Minnock says the waterproof casts tend to smell a little better and patients often need fewer visits to change their cast. And yes, you can still sign it.

While some private practices do charge more for a waterproof cast, Children's Hospital is offering them at no additional cost. They are available at their locations in Detroit, Clinton Township, Troy, Canton and Dearborn. With the casts taking about 30 minutes to dry completely, doctors do have some concerns about frostbite in the winter, so they've decided to offer them from May through about October.

"Summer doesn't have to end just because you have a fracture," said Minnock.

That's good news for Willow Mullins, who already has big plans.

"Play in the pool, play in the park and do everything outside," said Mullins.

"Thankful for the cast," said her mother. "For sure saved our summer."