Yesterday, I took Huck to the hospital for upper GI testing.
We arrived a few minutes early and went straight to admitting. The woman behind the glass smiled and indicated his paperwork was on the top of her pile. Then she proceeded to highlight, write, and staple all over several other people’s paperwork while we stood there staring at her. I was just about to say REALLY?!?!?!, when she straightened her last little pile against her ruler and picked up Huck’s papers. To me, this indifference to us was a bad omen. However, the rest of the admitting business followed without incident. I told myself she was probably ODC, which is good in hospital admissions, and to stop being silly.
In the waiting area, I began reading an entertaining new book to Huck. A dad was there with his son who looked about three-years-old. They had a backpack full of toys and an air of seasoned pros about them. They happily listened to me reading aloud. I got the impression it was nice for both of them to have a new waiting room activity. They were called back to the lab and returned a few moments later laden with cool stickers and completely dry eyed. In my mind, this was another bad omen. I mean, what are the odds that two kids in a row will handle a blood draw well? Would you play Russian Roulette on those odds? If you answered yes, please seek help, or revisit your 3rd grade math book.
I was correct about the bad juju this time. Huck somehow had gotten it in his head that they were going to prick his finger. I warned him several times this would be like a shot, but he was still startled when the guy pulled out a needle. He started to shake and tears began running down his cheeks. Another guy came in and held him still. I guess they pegged him as a runner, probably a smart move. The phlebotomist’s idea of bedside manner was to tell him that the boy before him didn’t cry, plus his actual vein puncturing skills sucked. By the time Huck’s blood started to flow, he was crying in that opened-mouthed, half yelling, drooly sort of way big kids cry when they aren’t trying to garner sympathy or get out of trouble. You know, real crying. When it was over, hold-em-down guy looked at needle digger guy and said, “Good job, Joe.”
Excuse me? Practicing your embroidery on my son’s arm and pointing out that the toddler before him didn’t cry, constitutes a good job? What the hell is a bad job? Using dirty needles? Snapping the kid with the rubber tourniquet then showing him the syringe and saying – this mofo’s gonna hurt even worse? Please let’s refrain from giving false confidence to all medical professionals, shall we?
After that, I figured the worst was behind us.
When will I learn that optimism is a total waste of time?
To be fair, the x-ray tech and radiologist were fabulous. The x-ray tech, Gary, was a big Hawaiian guy. He called Huck “brah” & me “cuz” and said aloha & mahalo and crap like that. Huck was immediately taken with him. In fact, when I commented to Huck that his breath smelled particularly acidic, he offered to let the x-ray guy smell it too. Gary declined, but with a mahalo all the same.
Jim, the radiologist was clearly a dad. He asked age appropriate questions and knew just what foods to talk about to get Huck’s stomach working.
At first, things were going great. The giant x-ray camera was familiar to Huck thanks to previous tours of Jo’s workplace. He enjoyed seeing his ribs and spine on the TV. He wondered if people would grow extra ribs if they ate too many bar-b-que ribs. This got him a chuckle from the guys, so then he was ON. He was chatty and charming and clever. He even sipped the barium without incident a few times. I sat down to wait it out, confident that these guys had it all under control.
Then Huck hit a wall. Turns out his stomach empties much slower than normal, so everything began to take a really long time. He had to drink something that adds gas to your stomach, but then you aren’t supposed to burp. Burping is the one thing that really makes his stomach feel better (well, except for actually barfing, but let’s not count that), so we always encourage him to burp. At one point, he was having to roll around on the table, hold in burps, and take sips of barium – he just fell apart. Unfortunately, the next task was to drink about 6 ounces of barium in about 8 minutes.
I held the cup and straw, Gary held wet and dry wash clothes, Jim brought a barf bag and then snuck out (chicken!). He cried, he gagged, he sputtered, he cried some more. I had to play good cop and bad cop. Alternating between encouraging patience and drill sergeant is difficult. At three minutes remaining, I started to lose my patience. I’m a chugger when it comes to nasty medicine and was just about to demand the same of him…
Then I thought of backpack dad from the waiting room, my friend with Autistic twins, and the other people I know who go through medical tests and procedures with their kids regularly. I mentally slapped myself. With my shit sufficiently together, I easily guided Huck through the last 4 ounces. We took every second of the eight minutes, but he got it all down. Gary commented that he could see I was about to lose it and then it was like I just switched gears. I told him that’s exactly what happened.
Later, at lunch, we told Coco all about our hospital adventure and I noticed that Huck was telling it all cheerfully. I wanted this to stick in his mind, but not as a bad memory, so I decided to tell him something to make him laugh about it.
Me Hey, dude. You know you had upper GI testing, right?
Me Do you know what they do for lower GI testing?
Me They take that same white medicine you drank, and shoot it up your butt instead.
Huck *blink*blink*blink* Coco, is she joking me?
Huck I guess there’s always something worse.
What a great lesson. Thanks, Huck.