Monday, July 12, 2010

Baby Veins

This past Friday morning, we had T's 9 months check-up. Much to my relief, he had only one shot during the examination. During either the 3 or 6 months check-up, I think they stabbed him with four shots, and seeing the nurses grip the needles with enclosed fists as if they were knifes and plunge them into his chubby little thighs made me want to cry out with him. This time, T cried for just about 5 seconds after the shot, and we were about to go merrily on our way when the nurse handed us a sheet and reminded us that we needed to go to the lab to get his blood drawn for lead testing. Lead testing -- that sounds pretty important, right? Of course I wanted our little baby tested for lead. It didn't even occur to me to think about what that might entail.

We promptly headed downstairs, with little T ensconced in my ergo, and I dutifully handed over the lab sheet to the lab administrator. We waited for a short while as T tried to climb over me, onto the table, and onto all the chairs around us until his eyes caught the TV screen in the far right corner and he suddenly seemed to forget he had limbs. When they called his name, I was happy to drag him away from the oblivion of the bright blue screen.

The lab technician and his assistant introduced themselves and we followed them into a private room. There, they had me sit on the chair with the arm rest as I propped T on my lap. They briefly checked the veins in both of his arms, wrapping the blue elastic around each and tapping quickly. They settled on the right arm, pinning it down, while I wedged T's legs between my thighs and wrapped my arm around his free left arm. T was already screaming and trying to fight us off. For a little guy who weighs just over 20 pounds, he can throw his weight around like a gorilla.

I was so focused on keeping his legs and left arm pinned down that I didn't look at what the technician was doing. In a desperate effort to comfort him, I had my face pressed against little T's as tears streamed down his face and he drooled out of his nose and mouth. His contorted face was pleading with me to make it stop, and I focused all my energy on communicating to him in whatever means he could understand that it would be over quickly. His sobs and screams, with intermittent screeches, were unlike any I had heard before, and he was at times almost dry heaving because he was so exhausted from crying.

After a while, I wondered what the hell was taking so long. I looked up toward the right arm and saw that the technician still hadn't attached the vials to the needle. Despite my aversion to needles, I looked over directly at the needle and saw that the technician had the needle stabbed in little T's arm with his one hand and was rolling the skin on T's arm toward the needle to try to get the needle to meet the vein. With nausea, I watched him do this three or four more times as I silently muttered to myself, "He's the professional. I'm sure baby veins are really hard to find. I'm sure he's trying the best he can. He must know what he's doing." I was on the verge of turning into a hysterical protective mother when I finally blurted out with as much restraint as I could muster, "I don't think this is working."

As soon as I said it, the technician pulled out the needle as T kept bawling and screaming. He put a wad of cotton over T's arm and told me to put an ice pack on it when I got home. He then practically ran out of the room as he muttered, "Let me get some help." He returned with another technician, and she briskly took over. Little T had been screaming and crying non-stop since this all began, and he tried with all his little might to fight her off as he tried to climb higher up my chest. She pried his arm down and began the process all over again of tying the blue elastic around the other arm, tapping it, and rubbing it with alcohol. She couldn't seem to find a suitable vein, so she pressed something like an ice pack on it and then tapped it some more. As little T kept crying hysterically, I suggested that we return on another day. The technician seemed relieved and said, "Yes, what a good idea."

Little T cried all the way to the car, and finally settled down when he was strapped in and surrounded by all of his colorful furry toys. He seemed to forget all about the trauma he had endured during the rest of the day. When I later removed the cotton wad from his arm, though, I saw the damage they had done. T had more than seven holes in what had been a perfect little arm. I am sure it will heal, but the thought of him being stabbed so many times makes my blood boil.

I am dreading having to go back in again. We plan to call ahead to find out who is the most experienced with little baby arms. The next time we go in, I will have to make a point to keep my eyes on the needle from the beginning to make sure the technician doesn't treat his arm like a dart board. And I won't be so eager to pull the little guy away from the television in the waiting room.


  1. Oh that's horrible! I made my husband hold him during the whole thing. I left the room even, not wanting to hear Christian cry even. For my second, they didn't need to draw his blood... I don't think. Oye. Makes your heart break doesn't it?

  2. Oh, that makes me so stressed for both of you!

    (Love the name and colors over here at the new digs!)

  3. So sorry to hear about your ordeal! Definitely insist on getting the MOST experienced technician, and no other shots that day. Maybe they used up the "good" veins already. Luckily, baby memories are short--he'll never know this happened.

    I had to have my 2 year old tested for allergies. They pressed a panel of 30 barbs with various allergens into his back to test for reactions--poor baby! I couldn't even pat his back when I held him to comfort him. He doesn't remember it, but I still do!

  4. shinyung
    as somebody who has very small veins, i too have gone through this ordeal many times. in a case like this you need to speak to the supervisor 0f the lab and demand a skilled technician. usually the best techs are the oldest ones, which makes sense. it's so horrible that your baby had to go through this, my god! if there is no good tech in that hospital, please go to another one.

  5. One thing most parents do not realize is that you can demand that a numbing agent be used for drawing blood. (My pedi does it automatically for all children under the age of 5.) While you may have to pay for it out of pocket, in my humble opinion it is well worth it so as to reduce the chances of white coast anxiety or future phobias. Also, I work with the one stab process for both myself and my babe...if you don't get it in one stick you get me another tech as you apparently cannot do your job.

  6. WTF! Sorry I just read this, and this is ridiculous. I'm pretty sure at that age they can still do a heel prick. And why did your baby need lead testing? Is there a reason? The age of your home? Exposure to lead at another person's home. While I think it is good to be proactive, unless there is a very good reason, in this day and age, lead testing is usually not necessary.