Friday, September 08, 2006

The Anxious Patient

David turned four a couple days ago and yesterday he had his annual checkup at the pediatrician's office. All morning while I was getting the kids ready to go he kept asking me if he would need to get any shots. I honestly couldn't remember from his physical last year what they had said regarding his next round of boosters, and it was a different pediatrician's office, in another state, so I didn't know how their immunization schedule would jive with our current office's. I told him, "I don't really know David. I thought they had said you wouldn't need any more shots for a few more years, but I don't really know. We'll have to wait and see."

I could see him working this through his head and the anxiety was already mounting, before we had even left. I wasn't about to trick him into thinking he wasn't getting any, when I had no idea. I wanted to try and assuage his fears a little, so I asked if he remembered the last shot he got. He said he didn't. Last Fall he had gotten a flu vaccination, and it wasn't even his checkup. I had brought Sofia in for her 18 month visit and they offered both children the vaccine. I felt awful having him get a shot when it wasn't even his turn to see the doctor, but he happily obliged and even offered to go first, to show Sofia that it wasn't that bad! What a trooper! I couldn't believe he had made such a gesture and he was fine, didn't fuss a bit and then Sofia got her shot and didn't cry at all. The nurse was amazed. She had said, "if only they could all be like this."

Then the four-year check up came. Even though David had made it through that last shot with flying colors, he had himself all worked up that if there were going to be shots, he was not having any of it.

In the car on the way to the office:

David: Am I going to need a shot?
Me: Honey, I really don't know, but if you do, it's just a little pinch for a few seconds and that's it. Isn't that better than getting really sick with a nasty virus for weeks and weeks?
David: Would being sick be worse than a shot?
Me: Yes! Much worse! You'd be in bed all day, you wouldn't be able to see your friends for a long time. Wouldn't that be sad?
David: (Nodding) But is it going to hurt? Do they leave the needle in?
Me: No, they don't leave the needle in. They take it right out. It's really not that bad.
This whole time I'm thinking, please, don't give him any shots today...

So we get to the office and the first question David asks the nurse is, "Am I going to need a shot?" He's looking brave enough, asking the tough questions, right up front.

Looking at his chart, the nurse says, "Um, yup, you'll get three, but not until the end of the..."
David: AAAUUUUUGGGHHHH!!! (the flood gates open)
The nurse, all frazzled now: "But not right now and it's better if you just don't think about it..."

So I'm holding David, trying to tell him it's going to be fine and doesn't he remember how well he did last time and meanwhile Sofia is jumping on and off the scale, making this loud "clankity-clank" sound while intermittently fishing through the garbage can. You know, I can take these two just about anywhere and they do great, but get them into a 8x9 room filled with medical equipment and they go nutty. Getting them to keep their hands to themselves and sit still is like trying to get Robin Williams to stop interrupting the host with his jokes during an interview. It simply cannot be done.

So at the end of the exam, the nurse comes back in and we prep him for the shots. He's sitting on my lap and he's got one arm around me and I'm holding his other so it doesn't go every which way and she administers the shot. He doesn't even flinch. We're all like, see that wasn't so bad, right?

David: "I like shots!"
The nurse: "Oh, well that's good because we've got another one."
David: "It didn't hurt mommy! It wasn't even..." she gives him the second. His face freezes, the picture of anguish. "AAAUUUGGGHHH!!! I don't like shots!" I guess he spoke too soon.

We get through the third and for some reason that one didn't hurt. He got three cool bandages and then got to pick out three stickers this time. The nurse did a good job of telling him how great he did and how brave he was. She then assured me he wouldn't need any more vaccines (other than flu shots) until he turned 11. I'm going to hold her to that, because next time I'm coming in I'm going to have three with me and there's no telling what they may do to that room. Or what I won't stop them from doing to that room.

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