There was only one car in the parking.
A small sigh of relief.
Philip is smiling as I unstrap from his car seat. He contentedly walks with me to the door and waits patiently as I sign him in. I feel as if I’m deceiving him.
I recognize the technician who waits as I finish writing down Philip’s name.
Another small sigh of relief.
Philip wants to use the pen, but I direct him to the room on the left. He goes in without complaint and removes his coat. I hand him the watch toy that he played with five weeks ago.
I detect a noise that’s not quite a whimper, but it does sound like Philip is concerned.
“I think he remembers this place,” I say to the woman.
“I think you’re right,” she responds as she takes the lab orders and insurance card.
She remembers us. My mom gets her blood drawn here regularly and had been at the lab the same day as Philip last month.
“His grandmother talks about him all the time,” she tells me as she assembles her supplies.
Philip does not start to cry until she inserts the needle in his arm. He didn’t like the tight squeeze of the tourniquet, but that did not upset him like the needle does.
“Has he had much fluid yet today?” the phlebotomist asks.
“Not really,” I answer, my tummy feeling funny. I get the same queasy sensation as if the needle were poking my own arm.
The tears are in earnest now.
“Well,” the lab worker says as she withdraws the needle. She has either missed the vein or it has been unwilling to give up its contents. “We can try his hand.”
I hesitate, weighing my options. We are already here. Philip is already upset. Our information is already logged into the computer and the vials are already laying on the counter waiting for Philip’s blood. Do I take him home, make sure he drinks a bunch before coming back tomorrow morning?
She shows me the prominent vein on Philip’s hand.
“I know this isn’t easy,” she assures me. By now Philip has a bandage holding gauze in place over the spot in the crook of his arm. “I feel bad that I have to stick him twice. It will be a smaller needle in his hand.”
I give her permission to continue. Philip’s tears had stopped, and he had surprised me by using the proffered tissue to wipe his eyes and nose. Unfortunately, he gets anxious when she ties the blue tourniquet around his wrist. And the tears resume when she breaks the skin. This time, blood comes out immediately.
As she did last month, the technician works efficiently and calmly. I sing to Philip, which seems to quiet him a bit. A second time through “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and it is over. The needle is out and I’m holding the gauze over the drop of blood on the top of Philip’s right hand.
Philip is trying to stop crying. He pokes at the gauze while he watches the technician closely as she moves about the room. I can tell that, despite the discomfort, he likes this woman. I do, too.
“Thank you,” I say. “I really appreciate how you work with him.”
This is true. I think back to the x-ray experience. There were four or five people in the room, all them trying to talk to Philip at once, not realizing that their words were more than meaningless, they were probably painful. All of the voices, combined with being in a new, unfamiliar, possibly frightening-looking place combined with being tired led to sensory overload.
That doesn’t happen here. Already, Philip’s tears have stopped and he is playing with the bandage before the phlebotomist applies it to his hand.
I continue my words of gratitude.
“I appreciate that you don’t try to keep talking at him, making things worse.”
“Your singing seemed to help,” she says. “He did a good job.”
She had said the same thing last month. And it was true then and now. Considering what happens to him in this place, he holds up and recovers rather well. This is a good thing since we’ll be back in another four weeks.
I hate that Philip has lead poisoning. I hate that we don’t know the source yet. I hate not knowing if things are getting worse or better. I hate the strain this is causing Peter.
However, I am thankful that, if we have to keep coming back for blood work, we at least found someone who makes the experience go as smoothly as she can.