Today was a rather traumatic day for both myself and Matilda Bear. She has needed to have blood tests taken for some time now and after one failed attempt which ended rather badly (i.e. no vein found, no blood taken, life-long phobia of blood tests a result) I was rather hesitant to push for another try.
But today was our last opportunity to do it while my husband was at home to help with the other kids. So this morning I found myself up at the hospital at 8am with a nervous girl and an anxious heart. I really wanted things to be different this time, for the test to be complete so it no longer hung over our heads.
We waited about 15 minutes before her name was called. Her demeanour instantly changed. One minute she was happily showing me some colouring in drawings of characters from “Cars”, the next, she was shrinking beside me, shaking in fear.
Yet, she walked into the room with me and smiled at the blood collector, (I’m really not sure what they are called, that seems to cover their role, doesn’t it?) and they had a quick chat about butterflies. She didn’t want to get onto the chair with me but we coaxed her anyway and she let Renae, the blood collector (for want of a better description) feel her arm for a vein.
This was when it started to go pear shaped – she then crossed her arms and refused to let us near her. We tried gently encouraging her to put her arm out for us, moved onto to bribing her with McDonalds for breakfast and finally, resorted to pleading with her to cooperate. She wouldn’t budge.
It was clear by this stage that we would have to use force. Matilda was beginning to get quite upset at our repeated attempts to get her to cooperate and I knew deep down that all the rational arguments in the world would mean nothing to a 5 year old terribly scared at the very thought of a needle.
A third person was called in and the 15 minutes that followed were probably the most personally upsetting and traumatic of my life. Matilda, understandably, had a meltdown. They had trouble finding a vein, finally finding one only to have it dry up before they were done. The decision was made to try the other arm but despite several attempts a suitable vein could not be found.
Matilda was inconsolable by this stage, whimpering and asking for me to make it stop. I was a mess as well, crying as hard as she was, hating every second of having to hold her down with my arms and legs to keep her still. I knew we had to do it, I knew it was for the best, but at that moment all I wanted to do was run away and protect her from the pain and her fear.
Instead, I asked them whether they had enough blood to go on with – I knew they really didn’t – but they tried to make us feel better by saying that what they had would do. They then wrote on her form for the pathologists “bad connection”. I think that must be code for “there is no way on God’s Earth that they would have another try at getting blood from this child”.
At least it was over, for now.
After sharing wet and salty cuddles and the gift of a lollipop (yes it was early morning but I was willing to do anything to take the fear from her eyes) we were finally able to leave the pathology centre, nearly an hour after first arriving. Matilda looked as exhausted as I felt and I spent the whole time walking back to the car silently praying that they had enough blood to properly test and that we wouldn’t need to go back again.
I’m pretty sure she will have to be sedated if we were to try this again – I’m fiercely hoping that we will not have to resort to that measure but I literally don’t know how else I could approach another attempt at this.
Do you have any tips for helping kids through medical procedures? Do you remain calm and collected in the face of their pain or do you fall into a heap like me?