I remember one time when I was pregnant with one of my kids – I think it was Alex – and I had to go have some routine lab work done, which, of course, included blood work. I’m okay having blood taken, but it’s not my most favorite activity in the world. I think I’d be a little worried about myself it it was, actually.
Anyway, I went to the lab to pee in a cup and give them some blood. And so this lab chick did the usual tying off of my left arm, swabbed the crook of my elbow with alcohol, and tapped on the tender area a bit to get a little blood vessel to show itself. Tap tap tap. Apparently the veins are shy in my arms. Anyway, she finally decided to go for it, and proceeded to jab the needle in and FISH AROUND IN MY ARM A BIT because the vein had retreated somewhere deep in my arm and she couldn’t find it.
After a bit of that, she removed the needle and decided to try the other arm. Same routine – swabbing and tapping. And then the jab – and MORE SEARCHING FOR A VEIN. Do you know what it feels like to have a little needle under your skin, searching around for something with blood in it? Oddly enough, IT DOESN’T FEEL GOOD.
So then she finally thought she should get some help, so she called in another lab worker – someone with experience in what she told me were extremely thin veins – and that woman nailed it on the first try.
I have since gone into any bloodwork situation advising whoever is wielding the needle that I HAVE VERY THIN VEINS – PLEASE USE A SKINNY NEEDLE until one day someone told me I didn’t have thin veins at all. Perhaps that other woman just didn’t do a good job. And that seems to have been the case.
That was just a little background story for you.
This morning, after dropping Alex off at kindergarten, Julia and I got some chocolate donuts to fortify ourselves and headed down to the lab so Julia could be thoroughly tested for Lyme. She carred in a little plastic bear with her, and we took a number and waited. Not a long wait – we were the first ones there.
A young, pleasant girl wearing medical profession white shoes led us through a labyrinth to the little blood-drawing room. I gave her the prescription page from Julia’s Dr with all the tests he wanted run, and she started looking through the cupboards for something. Perhaps a textbook. Oops, that was prematurely mean of me.
Then she said she didn’t have any of the bottles for pediatric bloodwork – they have a pink top, apparently – so she called another lab office in another building in the same enclave of brick medical buildings to see if they had some. They didn’t. The girl she spoke with told her it was ok to use a normal adult bottle. So after taking off Julia’s coat and putting it back on, I took it off again, and mine, and we sat on the chair
Julia sat on my lap, and this cushioned table thing came down to lock us in. Lab Girl gathered the bottle and another bottle with an amber liquid in it, and a little carry tray with all the stuff that would be a part of Julia’s fun and exciting lab experience. For some reason, Lab Girl put these things on the padded surface of the locking-us-in table…it crossed my mind that it wouldn’t be a good thing if that bottle of liquid got shoved off by mistake. But – not my call to make.
Lab Chick pushed up the sleeve of Julia’s left arm and swabbed it with alcohol and then with iodine. I tried to distract Julia by discussing the color of the iodine and Look! It has little bubbles! It’s amazing how many dopey things have come out of my mouth since becoming a mother. I mean – in addition to the regular dopey things that came out before.
Anyway, Lab Chick wrapped a blue rubbery strap around Julia’s biceps to cut off the flow or to give her a preview of the hell to come. Lab Chick was nice enough – she asked Julia if she was strong, if she liked Dora, and normal girly chitchat like that. She had me hold Julia’s right arm under the restraint bar/table thing, and hold Julia’s left wrist. She had Julia hold an empty vial and squeeze really hard. Then Lab Chick tapped on the tender little inner aspect of Julia’s elbow and stuck Julia with the needle.
Julia wrenched her arm away (she is very strong…and I wasn’t holding her tightly enough, obviously) and cried out and from there it just got worse and worse. I tightened my hold on Julia’s tiny little wrist and basically stretched her arm out so she couldn’t wiggle, and I held her tightly around her little waist with my other arm. Lab Chick tried again and we watched my baby’s red blood flow through the skinny tube into a vial.
And we listened to Julia yell and cry. It was horrible. But not AS horrible as it was to become. I kept murmering "it’s okay, it’s okay, you’re a brave girl, you’re being such a good girl, it’s almost done, it’s almost done" in one long run-on sentence in Julia’s ear, and I’m sure she didn’t hear any of it because she was busy hollering "I WANNA GO HOME!" over and over, pausing occasionally to sob and gulp and gasp shakily for more air before yelling some more.
Lab Chick finally pulled the needle out and pressed some gauze on the wound and got Julia her Dora band aid. Look! Who else is that? It’s Boots! And Map! Julia’s crying slowed and she calmed down. And Lab Chick finally decided to mention that she wasn’t done yet. She still needed blood to put in with that amber liquid. I guess that was for the actual Lyme test. She looked a little dubious about continuing. "It’s up to you…" she told me.
If it was really up to me we would have been gone. But that would mean coming back another day for the rest of it, and that would probably be harder to accomplish, since Julia would recognize the building and I wasn’t sure I could get the local National Guard to get her into the building again.
So I said to Lab Chick "It’s got to be done. We’re here already. Her other arm, right?"
Of course, once Julia heard me say "other arm" she knew what was going to happen and she fought with all her strength to not allow it. Unfortunately, she’s only three and a half and so eventually she was back on my lap, left arm locked (by my left arm) around her torso, her right wrist in my right hand.
And Julia was bawling. And her voice dropped octaves and got all scratchy – she sounded like Suzanne Pleshette – and she just kept crying NO I DON’T WANT THAT IN MY ARM I WANNA GO HOME and other stuff I couldn’t even understand because Julia was drooling and crying and gasping and I was trying to ignore it all so that I could do the sucky job of being a human manacle.
And here’s where it got worse. Lab Chick got a bunch of blood flowing, and then she apparently had to get that blood into the bottle of amber liquid, which was now at my right on the arm of the torture chair of hell. And she just…I don’t know if she was flustered or just SLOW BY NATURE or what, but she seemed unsure of what to do, and couldn’t get the little blood thing into the little plastic funnel contraption for the bottle (to keep everything sterile) and while she’s screwing around trying to figure out how it worked, blood was dripping out the end of the little tube, and she’s distracted by it and NOT MOVING FAST ENOUGH IN MY OPINION and Julia’s loud and practically incoherent (at one point she choked out "MOMMY (gasp) I’M BEING A (sob) GOOD GIRL NOW!!!" – I almost started crying myself at that point), and meanwhile the freaking needle is still in Julia’s arm WIGGLING AROUND and I wanted to BITE Lab Chick or scream at her, but I didn’t want to make Julia more upset, so I just fumed quietly in my head and kept trying to reassure Julia and NOT BITE LAB CHICK. After screwing around pointlessly for oh, what seemed like several millennia, Lab Chick finally just took the needle out of Julia’s arm, had me hold some gauze on it and she finally figured out how to get Julia’s blood into the amber liquid.
Julia got a Diego band aid this time. She politely declined the offer of a sticker. "I just wanna go home, Mommy."
Instead we went to the grocery store to get a few things (which I just realized are still in their bags on the kitchen floor, heh heh, dairy products and all) and told her we could get her a balloon…no, TWO balloons, one for each arm. If she’d asked, I’d have bought all the balloons. Instead, she saw a Pink Panther balloon and we also found a Sponge Bob balloon for Alex. And I bought her a Go Diego Go DVD. And a monstrous box of goldfish crackers. If she’d asked for lobster and filet mignon, I’d have bought that too.
I had this very strong urge to just go through the store loading the cart with anything she might want. But I didn’t. I also had an urge to cry. And to throw up. I didn’t do those either.
Right now Julia is downstairs eating goldfish and watching Diego rescue animals.
And I am trying to shake the sound of "MOMMY, I’M BEING A GOOD GIRL NOW!" out of my ears.