Blood Draw

hospital

 

My son is accustomed to losing blood.

Every three to six months, at least, his doctor orders him into a laboratory where two vials’ worth are extracted from his tiny veins and sent in for testing. He is a medical anomaly; they still don’t know exactly what causes his symptoms.

He’s been doing this for more than three years. That’s three quarters of his life. That’s a lot of vials of blood.

At first, it was impossible. The veins were so small they had to use a special light to find them, and call in the best nurse at the best children’s hospital and even then they missed a few times.

Each time, I’ve held him. Held him down. Held him back. One hand on each wrist and my legs wrapped around his, every muscle tensed against me. He’s cried. I’ve cried. We’ve both felt bruised afterward.

On days when he has to have blood drawn, I am the most indulgent mother in the world.

A new toy? Absolutely. Candy? Why not. Stay home from school and go to the playground instead? I’ll consider it.

Yesterday, he had another appointment. “I can’t go,” he said as I ushered him to the car. “I won’t go,” he cried. Louder and louder as we traced our usual route. He thrashed in his car seat and I prepared myself, trying to slow my heartbeat. His sister stared at him, no idea what was wrong.

We got to the hospital. He sat quietly in the car for a while before announcing, “I don’t need a grown-up to help me.”

“With what?”

“I’ll sit in the chair by my own.” (One of his verbal tics, a remnant of his speech delay.) “I don’t need a grown-up.”

We went inside. We signed in. We drew pictures on the backs of all our intake forms. He got weighed and measured and even sat still for the blood pressure cuff for the first time ever. Then he said, “I’m ready for my blood draw.”

We still had to talk to the doctor, of course. Then we had to wait our turn in the lab, which is usually excruciating; he stood by a table and drew more pictures. When he finally sat down in the exam room he said fairly calmly, “I’m going to cry.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “Crying is okay, as long as you stay very still for the needle.”

He whimpered a little but it seemed put on. Like he was supposed to be doing it, or that’s what he thought. After a second or two, he gave up on it.

When it was over, he chose a green lollipop. They gave his sister an orange one so he decided he wanted orange, too. He smiled as we walked back to the car, and asked that we go to the playground.

“Of course,” I said. “Anything you want.”

We ate M&Ms in the car.

My son is accustomed to losing blood.

I am the most indulgent mother in the world.

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