Blood, Bandaids, and Tears by Margaret Hart
During the last few weeks, my son has been to the school nurse twice and the hospital emergency room once. More on the ER in a minute. In fact he’s been to the school nurse so often in his three short years in elementary school, that the nurse and I are on a first name basis.
The latest visit was caused by a nasty fall on the blacktop during recess when he was playing kickball. The fall was so hard, it ripped two large holes in his pants, and badly skinned the knee that bore the brunt of the fall. When he came home there was a lot of dried blood, and two large, messy, scraped up spots where once there was skin. And so began the fight over bandaids: what size, in what position and with or without antiseptic ointment. Most of the time, the battle of the bandaid is one I lose.
Just when the knee was on the mend, this past Tuesday evening about half way through soccer practice, he fell to the ground, curled up in the fetal position and began to sob. I asked what was wrong and he said his stomach hurt very badly. I didn’t see what preceded this behavior so I asked his coach. The coach thought that he had gulped his water down too quickly during a snack break. Within the hour we were in the hospital emergency room.
This visit to the ER was longer and more traumatic than past visits (of which, fortunately, there have been few—knock wood). After checking vitals, they ordered an x-ray and blood work. My son had never had blood drawn before, so I immediately started thinking about what I was going to say to prepare him. As I was running through explanations in my mind, the nurse offered this explanation: “It’s going to feel like a mosquito bite,” she said. I wasn’t confident this description would work, but at least it didn’t cause alarm.
When the nurse brought out the needle and prepared the spot on his arm, I saw my son’s face go white. He knows that shots can hurt so he started to get nervous. When the nurse inserted the needle into his vein, I could swear all color in his face disappeared. He turned to me and winced from the pain, and while he didn’t say anything or even cry out, the look in his eyes said. “How could you let them do this to me?”
The nurse drew three vials of blood and then inserted an IV line for fluids, and taped the needle into place. My son suddenly realized the needle was not coming out and started to get upset. How do you explain to an eight-year-old what it feels like to have a needle in your vein? He wanted it out.
I had been so nervous about how my son would handle the blood draw and the IV, that I hadn’t allowed myself to get worried about what may actually be causing the horrible stomach pain. And as I began the tried and true parental technique of distraction—thank goodness for my smart phone—I suddenly realized he had stopped complaining about the pain.
Ten minutes later, the nurse returned to check on him. When he asked her, she told him the IV would need to stay in for about one hour while we waited for the results of his blood work. She explained that if they needed to give him any medicine, this is how they would do it, through his veins. He cried a little. He was scared. He was hungry. But the good news was that he was feeling better. The IV fluids seemed to be helping.
When the doctor came to speak to me, he said my son’s blood chemistry was fine, but that his x-ray showed he was probably constipated. That was a relief. And now he could have the IV removed. He was a very happy boy! He just wanted to go home and eat a sandwich.
He was discharged with orders to drink lots of fluids, eat more fruits and veggies, and some bran cereal. The following day he pooped like a goose!