Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brave, For What?

Yesterday, we had our regular visit to our son’s DAN (Defeat Autism Now!) doctor. On some of these visits, Kai has to have his blood drawn for various tests that need to be done. Yesterday was one of those visits.

Kai absolutely hates being stuck with a needle and having his blood taken. In the past, those occasions have been among my most unpleasant experiences. Kai screams and cries and moves around, resisting as hard as he can. I feel like I am contributing to his torture as I hold him down and try to keep him still while the nurse attempts to stick him and get the blood.

Last fall, my wife and I took Kai with us when we went to have our own blood drawn. We wanted to set a good example for him to show him how quickly and painlessly the whole process can go when you don’t resist. He was really interested in watching us go through the procedure, and I was hopeful that our lesson resonated with him.

Yesterday was the first time he had to get his blood drawn since then. I reminded him about how Mom and I did not scream. We did not feel pain because we did not make a fuss, I told him.

When we got to the clinic, he was nervous about going into the room where the blood would be drawn. I reassured him again that it would all go well if he cooperated.

He resisted a little bit, but not like before. When it came time for the nurse to prepare him, he merely asked questions and did not cry. When she stuck him, he did not scream. I was surprised, and very proud, about how brave he was.

Now, you are probably all smiling about how heart-warming this story is and what a happy ending it turned out to be.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the story.

As legendary American radio broadcaster Paul Harvey would have said, “and now, the rest of the story.”

The nurse was unable to draw blood from the first vein she tried so she changed arms and stuck him again. Kai became a little more scared and began to resist more, but still not as much as he had done in the past.

Unfortunately, this second attempt also failed to draw blood.

So, the nurse tried once more, this time lower down near the hand. Now Kai was really resisting. He was screaming and crying, saying that it was hurting him and that he wanted to go home. He said some mean words to the nurse.

The nurse tried to maneuver the needle but nothing she did could get the blood flowing. With every second that passed, Kai’s screams grew louder. And so, not finding success, we gave up for the day.

Kai will have to go back again next week for another attempt. We scheduled the appointment for a time when a different, more experienced, nurse will be present.

As a dad, I feel like I let my son down. I told him that if he were brave and cooperated nicely, the procedure would go quickly and with little pain. Kai was all that and more, and yet, the process ended up getting drawn out and he felt a lot of pain, at least in his mind.

And so, I’m frustrated. What is the lesson he learned here? That having your blood taken really is scary? That grown ups will tell you something to trick you? That Dad was wrong about blood thing so what else is he wrong about?

After the no-blood ordeal was over, we met with the doctor. I sat with Kai so that my wife could focus on speaking with the doc. Kai asked me to massage his arm. It took quite some time, but he finally stopped crying and saying that he wanted to go home. When he seemed calm, I tried to stop massaging his arm. But, whenever I stopped, he asked me to continue.

I realized that I wasn’t so much massaging the physical pain out, but rubbing away the emotional scars. But I don’t know if a little massage will rub out the memories of how Dad told him that all will be okay, and it wasn’t.

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