In an ideal world, this is how that first conversation would have gone:
Me: So, you need to have a blood test, darling. The appointment is for next Tuesday.
LO: OK Mummy – I don’t really know anything about what that is, so I won’t make any fuss, judgement or get worked up about it at all.
It didn’t, though. This is how it went instead:
Me: So, you need to have a blood test, darling. The appointment is in a few weeks’ time.
LO: Oh no, no, I don’t want to! No! Noooooo! I won’t do it! It will hurt! You told me jabs wouldn’t hurt, and they DID!
This is because he’s been around his big brother’s blood tests for the length of his life, and they have never been plain sailing. The first test he had, they used the cold spray instead of anaesthetic cream, and he has approached every blood test since with the same fear and terror which that first test struck into his heart.
And while we’ve always managed to get the blood test done with the older one – eventually – the problem I had this time is that the LO is far, FAR less compliant. Followers of the blog willl remember the rollercoaster ride we had just to get him on stage for Christmas performances. Hell will freeze over before he agrees to do something he’s set his mind against. Bloodshed is more likely than blood test.
So we worked very hard to prepare the ground. We told him when we knew it was coming; explained about the magic cream he would have on his hand, and that would mean the needle wouldn’t hurt at all; bribed him with the promise of Thomas the Tank Engine rewards if he would submit on the day; told him how proud we would be, and how proud he would be of himself, if he could go through with it.
The problem with LO, though, is that he has absolutely no problem with good intentions.
He knows exactly what he’s supposed to do, he understands the logic of why, and he knows what rewards he will reap afterwards. But when he’s gripped by a strong emotion, all that flies out of the window, and there’s no reasoning with him. So in spite of all the hard work to get him used to the idea, I knew that the most likely outcome was that there would be a massive struggle – verbally and physically – and that any blood that showed itself on the day was unlikely to be his.
We got to the hospital in good time, armed with his favourite Disney Stitch toy for moral support. We found some blackcurrant juice, which he drank to see whether his blood would come out the same colour (another great tip I thought I would try…desperately throwing all I had into it at this stage). He did try so hard to be brave, but every time he said he would go through with it, it was quickly followed by “I’m not going to, though”.
Then we met Penny, the paediatric blood nurse. Penny sat him on my knee, with one hand behind my back. She turned on a projector that rotated space images onto the wall, and asked him to look for aliens. He didn’t want to look for aliens. He wanted to twist and wriggle and kick and shout to see what she was doing with his hand. But Penny had an answer for every concern. “I’m just taking the cream off” – “I’m just washing you, silly sausage” – “I’m drying you off with this cotton wool!”. It was on this third reassurance that he reluctantly turned his attention to the elusive aliens for about five seconds, then squirmed mistrustfully back round to see what she was doing next…only for delight to spread across his face as he realised that the needle was in, and blood was trickling into the tube – and he hadn’t even felt it. Now that’s magic.
“It’s RED!!” he squeaked, grinning from ear to ear.
Magical, miracle-worker Penny achieved what I considered impossible without a general anaesthetic – she successfully extracted blood from my youngest son, without him even knowing she was doing it; and she made the whole experience so happy for him that he wants to go back for another one, as long as it’s with her. She’s basically had a five-star Trip Advisor review from one of those customers who is completely and absolutely convinced that the whole holiday is going to be hell on earth. There are hoteliers all over the world who would like a tenth of that ability.
The NHS is full of miracle-workers like Penny – and she has my admiration and gratitude forever.