It always feels to me as if I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.
My attitude with Grace for the annual blood draw is the ole 'Just Do It.' We just do it cause we take care of ourselves, we follow what the doctor wants us to do to stay healthy, we do it cause we want to live long and healthy lives. We don't like it, but we can do it.
And every year, we rise early, set off without breakfast, and drive on over to the Lab. And we celebrate afterwards with a McDonald's breakfast. She looks forward to it every year. It's what gets us through, knowing when we are done, we get to eat together. I fast too, in solidarity with her. She shouldn't be hungry alone.
This time at the Lab went a little differently than the previous three years. Here's what went down.
We are sitting in the waiting room at 7:45 AM. It's a fasting blood draw, as usual. We brought the median age down in the waiting room by about 60 years. Not even my pleas about a fasting child with Type 1 diabetes got us a 'fast pass' to the front of the line. They are hardliners in this Lab.
The more time she sits, the more time she has for thinking about the blood draw, how it will hurt, remembering the past times. If we could just jump the freaking line, get in and get out, all will be good. But we are left to sit and contemplate the many ways we all don't want to be here. Grace starts to cry, silently. I hold her hand, and tell her how brave, strong and super she is.
The nurse/lab tech calls her name from the waiting room.
Grace gets up, from our 25 minute wait to get her blood drawn.
Grace walks back to the cubicle, takes off her coat and sits down in the chair. She pats the wide seat next to her, and I sit beside her, with my arm around her. She dutifully lays her arm on the fold down arm of the chair. She stretches it out, nice and straight.
She starts to cry, again.
I know, it's OK, we will get this done and be out of here.
I smile at the lab tech, who up until now, could really give a crap, that one, Grace is a young child, two, that she is crying, three, that she is wearing two devices on her. The lab ignores it all. Like it's not happening. Then, she sees Grace crying and says:
Why are you crying? This is nothing to cry about. You should not cry.
She proceeds to open the needle package and cap it into the syringe, right in front of her. I look up, hoping to meet the lab tech's eyes. I want to scream via x-ray vision with my eyes - REALLY? This is NOT helping, you actually showing her the freaking needle! Could you do that over by your lab station, with your back to us? Cause if you had an ounce of compassion, you would.
She tightens the rubber tie-band on Grace's arm. She gets the needle out and taps for a vein. Grace tries to look at her arm. I use my left hand to create a horse blinder on her, and turn her head into my chest, shielding her from looking. I tell her, remember, just don't look.
Feels like a pinch sweetie, and then it's done.
Grace is crying and saying to me 'No, Mama. Please. Please.' and she switches her little behind in the seat, thus moving her arm.
That was enough for the lab tech. I guess that's what broke the camel's back.
I need some help in here right now! She's pulling her arm back!
I say out loud - Please, just give her a minute. There's no need for anyone else to come.
The other lab tech comes quickly over. She straightens Grace's arm out straight, and sees Grace. Really sees her for the first time in all this time.
It's OK sweetie, it will be over in a minute, I know you are scared, but let's just get it done.
The lab tech is swift. She gets her three vials and pulls the needle out. Slaps on a cotton pad and covers it with the extra sticky tape, as one last act of cruelty I suppose.
And she hands Grace a cup to urinate in.
Grace looks at me, and I can see the thought in her head, almost like a bubble over her head 'What am I supposed to do with this?'
Let's go to the potty honey, you pee in the cup. Mama will help, I will hold it for you.
And we go in, but Grace is so frightened, that like girl, she cannot pee. She has herself frozen. We have a good chuckle about this, and the laughter frees my Grace again. She feels bad about being so upset. I assure her that no one likes getting their blood draw and that is was perfectly OK to cry. No shame honey, no shame.
I catch what I can, and there is pee all over the cup, my hand, the seat. I do my best to clean up.
I wrap the cup in a paper towel and hand it back to the lab tech.
She says Have a good day.
I say nothing. There is nothing to say. We are done. We got it done.
And it will never, ever, happen like this again.
I assure Grace that it will never be like this again. That next time, we don't like the way it's going, we are going to stop it, say something and get someone who will be nice and compassionate. I explain that today, it was all happening so fast, that by the time I was going to say something, the moment was gone. We would have spent even more time there, and not got it done. I try and tell her that Mama will always protect her and say when something is wrong, and she should too. She nods. I feel like I have failed in showing her that today. That I acquiesced to get it done, and it feels awful.
I say one last thing.
You know Grace, every time we have a new situation, I always tell you it's a learning experience, right? Well, today was a learning experience. Mama learned. I always tell you we should learn, right?
Mama learned today.