Adventures With Needles and 5-Year-Olds

Having blood work done for children is a very traumatic experience to which every parent can relate to.

I knew the doctor's visit was not going to end well when I walked into the pediatrician's office last Thursday and they wouldn't accept my co-pay. Always take it as a bad sign when someone won't take your money, especially a doctor's office.

Teddy, who is 5 years old, was patient playing with his Nintendo DS, oblivious to the fact that the waiting room was expanding with people, and yet no one was actually leaving (yet another bad sign at the doctor's office), which signified that they were understaffed. Maybe all of the doctors were at the beach, which is where I should have been.

When it was finally our turn, Teddy announced that he didn't want a “girl doctor.” It also turns out my 5-year-old son is a sexist. I don't know how that happened, but I wasn't going to put up with it at that point. So I explained to him that most normal people were at the beach, and whatever doctor he got, he should be happy about. Of course, the door opens and in comes a female doctor and Teddy goes to hide behind me.

Somehow we conjoled him to let her take a look at him. His exam went reasonably well until the doctor said that Teddy needed to go in for blood work. Teddy is not deaf, so when the word “blood” came out of the doctor's mouth, Teddy began to whimper.

For some reason the thought of a needle took three years off of Teddy's age. All of a sudden he couldn't put his own clothes back on. So I had to dress him and explain that we couldn't go home until we visited the lab first.

I explained that they had to take blood. I told him it was 'cool' to watch your blood fill the tiny tubes. I honestly thought this might interest him.

I was wrong. Teddy started crying before we left the doctor's office. By the time we got to the lab, Teddy was in full-blown panic. Even his Nintendo DS wasn't able to calm him down.

has two waiting rooms you have to sit in before you are actually seen by a technician. It's like Disney World–you never really know the true length of the line. Of course, Disney doesn't make 5-year-olds cry.

When we were finally called back to the second waiting room at the lab, we were seated next to a mom and her two toddler-aged children who were next in line for blood work. When they were called back, I worked to calm Teddy down. I held him on my lap and told him jokes.

That's when the screaming started. The toddler we had just seen playing happily was screaming, having his blood withdrawn. A minute later the mom walked past us giving me a tired smile as she carried her crying baby out the door.

“Theodore?” It was our turn.

To say that Teddy put up a fight is an understatement. The screaming, kicking, hitting, and crying went on for at least 25 minutes. The technician even seemed rattled at Teddy's behavior and, finally, after several attempts, she told me that they were not allowed to restrain anyone to get blood and that we would have to go to the hospital.

That's when I bribed him. He wanted Nintendo points, and whatever those were I was going to get them and I promised. It worked. He stayed still, I held his arm gently, and the vials were collected. It turned out I was right: blood is 'cool' and the sight of it silenced Teddy. I wanted to hug the technician. We had survived.

When we left the lab, everyone was looking at us. The people who work there, the people in the waiting room, they all looked at me with a mixture of pity and relief that we were leaving. We went home and I bought the Nintendo points and everyone was happy.

The next day we were at the table having breakfast when the doctor's office called to inform us that Quest had lost a vial of blood and that we needed to take Teddy back in for more blood work. All I could respond to that was, “Are you kidding?” Which of course, doctors don't call to kid around, not when there is a beach to sit on.

I went back to the table to announce the bad news. Teddy's face started to scrunch up in pain. I quickly added that Peter would join us, and afterwards we would go to Target for an ICEE and that Teddy could pick out a small toy, but only if there was no crying.

About 30 minutes later we were done with the blood work and heading to Target, where I bought the boys ICEEs and toys.

There were no tears, at least on Teddy's part. I do think the lab staff might have cried a bit when they heard we were coming back, but there was no need. Teddy was brave this time around. Well, I'm not sure if it was bravery or bribery, but either way I think I should send my Target bill to Quest for losing that vial of blood.


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