As promised, the story of the traumatic blood draw. I had to wait this long because it really was that traumatic.
As we were leaving the cardio check up, my phone rang. I didn’t answer even though it was a hospital number because I thought it was the Foundation (which supports the Children’s Service Board). (Not that I often ignore the development officers that help make our philanthropy a reality, but I was focused on Charlotte.) Phil’s phone then rang and he answered it. After a few “yes, I see” and “sure, we’re still here,” he hung up and announced that Charlotte needed a blood draw to be sure her kidney’s can tolerate the dye for the MRI. Since we were standing in front of the lab (literally), he told them we’d be right there. In fairness, if it had been either of us, we would have thought, “Well, I’m here. Let’s just get it over with.” What Phil forgot is that Charlotte is still a little kid and she doesn’t like sudden change of plans. And she really, really doesn’t like needles.
So, the blood draw didn’t start well. Charlotte thought she was getting a milkshake and going to school. Charlotte got a chocolate milk and a candy bar and a needle in her arm. She was hungry, hopped up on sugar, and surprised. And scared. And with no time to prepare. To be honest, however, we’re still not sure if having time to prepare for a needle helps her or makes her more anxious. (Ask me about flu shots one day.)
In any case, we waited about 10 minutes and then went to an exam room with the phlebotomist. There, Charlotte began to whimper, and then cry. She was hysterical just at the thought of the needle.
Phil sat in the big chair next to her and put his arm around her. The phlebotomist got all of her materials together, and Charlotte got more terrified as each thing was placed on the tray. Rubber band. Collection tube. Thin tube. Bandaid. Needle. Each item caused more hysteria and by the end, Charlotte erupted into screams and shivers and tears. I’m guessing anyone walking by the room worried she was being tortured.
Our technician reached for Charlotte’s arm to locate a vein. She showed Charlotte that she had nothing in her hands. Still, Charlotte yanked her arm away. And screamed. She said she wasn’t ready. We got her to let her arm be tapped, and then the technician rolled her chair to the other side of the room. She told Charlotte she’d stay there until Charlotte was ready. Every time Charlotte calmed down a little, she rolled a bit further. Each time, Charlotte erupted into fresh screams.
This went on for a good 30 minutes. The screams were ear-splitting. The terror in my daughter’s eyes tortured me. Phil didn’t know what to do–he’d never experienced this before. To keep it in perspective, neither had I. The last time she had blood drawn it was also a surprise. But Charlotte just sat on my lap, smiled and stuck out her arm. She was 7. The blood draw was part of a regular check up and not related to her heart. She wasn’t scared.
Eventually, she said she was ready. As she tried to rescind that pronouncement, Phil wrapped one arm around Charlotte and held her right arm firmly in his other hand. I held the left arm straight so she couldn’t move it. Then I used my head to block her view and further prevent Charlotte from yanking her arm away as the needle went in. I was rewarded by a primal scream directly in my ear as the needle went in.
A few moments later–longer than any of us wanted–it was all over. Charlotte had a bandaid (at least she doesn’t scream for those anymore!) and I had an apology for my ringing ear drum (she felt really bad about that). And Phil had an understanding of what vaccines and flu shots have been like for the past two years.
It’s gonna be a rough ride. Her heart hurts and she is so very, very scared.