With regard to blood draws, I have been quoted as saying “it gets easier”…
It’s true. It gets easier. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still hard.
Yesterday, both of my boys needed to go in for their routine blood draw to check their thyroid levels, as do all children with congenital hypothyroidism. Now that they are older, they only go every 6 months (unless there is an issue, then more frequently). Just enough time to forget they have to ever go again. I picked up my oldest from school. My youngest was already in the car. With my youngest, the less time he has to ponder the thought of having his blood drawn, the better. At the last draw, they both did well. No tears. This is a victory. For any other parent who has a child with a chronic illness (like congenital hypothyroidism), you know what I mean. You too have endured kicking, screaming, biting, fighting and everything else your child has thrown at you and the other people in the lab. You too have watched your child meltdown at the mere sight of the Children’s Hospital. Those days are, for the most part, behind me.
I pulled over into the Church parking lot near the school. I explained that today we had to go see our friends at the hospital (Ms. Tracey and Ms. Sonya) because it was draw day. I asked which arm my youngest, Alex, preferred and he held out his skinny little left arm. “This one” he said in a shaky voice. I reminded him that treats awaited him after the visit and pointed out something funny on the screen of our movie player in the car. I asked my oldest if he wanted to try going without the numbing cream. He chose to use it and gave me an arm. We drove to the hospital with EMLA applied and covered with Tegaderm.
As we were driving along, the sweetest, most pitiful voice came from the backseat. “I don’t think I can do this.” Taking a deep breath, fighting back tears of my own, I said cheerfully: “You’ve done this hundreds of times, you know you can do this. William and I will be with you the whole way.” Nothing else was said until we arrived at the hospital.
As I was unbuckling my youngest from his car seat, his eyes welled with tears but none actually rolled down his cheeks. He again voiced his concern about not being able to handle it today. I carried him into the hospital, because he didn’t think he could walk. The fear had exhausted him. He’s five, but luckily, not too heavy to carry.
Once inside the lab, I didn’t see any of the regular phlebotomists that we usually work with. I panicked. I tried not to show any panic, but inside I was a mess (i.e., contemplating leaving). I got them situated and then quietly asked if Ms. Tracey was available. I told them that William would be okay with anyone, but that I needed Ms. Tracey to be with Alex. They smiled and nodded. Nothing else needed to be said or done. Thanks be to God, Ms. Tracey was working yesterday!
A phlebotomist walked out and called William’s name. He stood up and walked back with her. I asked him if he wanted me to go with him. He looked over his shoulder and said “Naw, Mom, I got this!” Inside my head, I’m thinking, “Wait, what? You got this?” How did I go from having to hold him down to him walking back there by himself? I had to fight the urge to go anyway, but my lap was full with Alex, who wasn’t budging.
Very soon thereafter, Ms. Tracey came to chat with Alex. We walked back together as she asked him about his beloved stuffed animal who comes everywhere with us. I glanced over and there sat William. His draw was done, and he was holding the gauze onto his arm while he waited for her to tape him up. Just sitting there chatting with the phlebotomist about school. I was floored. He has been sitting in the chair by himself for a while now, but to go back by himself was a whole new level of independence and courage.
I asked Alex if he wanted to sit in my lap or in the chair by himself (last time he chose to sit by himself). He pointed to me without saying anything. I sat down and he climbed on my lap, all the while answering questions about his “pet”. Ms. Tracey is so good at what she does. She chats with him while at the same time, giving him a heads up about each stage, but without pausing to allow any lulls or opportunities for protest. Before you know it, he’s done. We say our goodbyes while everyone congratulates my boys on their bravery.
In the hallway, Alex breaks down into tears. He had held it in so long. Doctors and nurses passing us in the hallway…all giving sympathetic glances. William attempts to comfort Alex by making jokes. I carry my not so little littlest one to the car. By the time we reach, McDonald’s for his routine post-blood draw milkshake, he is fine.
It’s a funny position to be in. I was so proud of William, I felt like my heart was going to burst wide open. I couldn’t believe that he just sauntered back there like this was no big deal. He’s only 9. At the same time, my heart just broke for Alex. We’ve come so far, but we still have so far to go. I can’t help but wish, still, that neither of them had to deal with this at all. My emotions were all over the place. I’m no different than the rest of you. I try to stay positive for my children. I see other people posting on Facebook about how hypothyroidism ruined their lives. I can’t help but cringe when I see that. These children born with congenital hypothyroidism don’t use hypothyroidism as an excuse for anything. They are courageous, strong and healthy. They face giant fears like walking into hospitals and having blood drawn like the champs that they are. They go to swim practice after their blood draws, even if their arms are sore. They take their bandages off before walking into school, because they don’t want anyone to feel sorry for them. Which is why whenever I start to feel bad for them, I remind myself of what kind of adults they will grow up to be. I remind myself that one day, Alex will look over his shoulder and say “Naw, Mom, I got this!” and he totally will.
By Blythe Clifford aka Thyroid Mom
For more resources on how to survive blood draws, click HERE.