5.10.2011

needles and hinges

We’ve had to get Calvin’s blood drawn on a regular basis since he was diagnosed with epilepsy over five years ago. He customarily gets a complete blood count, liver and pancreatic functions and drug blood levels to name a few. It’s usually a painful experience for everyone involved. The blood draw that occurred just before Calvin’s third birthday was no exception.

This time Calvin’s nurse came along to help. She sat in the blue vinyl chair with Calvin propped on her knees, restraining his flailing arms and nodding head, the padded blue flip-arm resting on Calvin’s lap. I'm always responsible for soothing words and damage control, restraining his kicking legs while the phlebotomist ties the tourniquet and searches for a vein. If the phlebotomist finds a good vein the other lab tech holds Calvin’s arm taut while the thin butterfly needle is inserted. On rare occasions the phlebotomist strikes gold and the blood flows easily into five or six vials. Usually, though, they meet with difficulty and must fish around, poking and prodding while Calvin struggles, tears rolling down his hot red cheeks. Often several attempts are required, once in each arm and, if that fails, they try each hand in the tiny veins that travel down the top of his little wrist.

Partway through this particular painful draw Calvin’s crying escalated. His eyes rolled back in his head and he began to moan. I halted the procedure and scooped him up from the nurse’s arms suspecting a seizure to unfold. Calvin was listless and groaning, his eyes still drifting back in their sockets, the color draining from his face. I panicked. I had never seen him like this before. Eventually he calmed as I rocked him, his moans becoming whimpers, so we loaded him in the car and headed for home with the loathsome knowledge that we’d have to return later and try it again.

Once at home, during his diaper change, we noticed the source of his misery. Calvin’s side had been badly pinched in the metal hinge of the padded flip-arm. A large purple bruise with a bleeding center proved it. I felt sick; my poor defenseless kid who doesn't understand what's happening to him, only that he is in pain ... so much pain. If only Calvin could tell us—or point to—what is hurting him. I so desperately hope that one day he can. 

But if we could find a cure for epilepsy, Calvin wouldn't have to take these nasty drugs that cause heinous—sometimes lethal—side effects, and he may never need to have his blood drawn again.

Please share Calvin's story with others. Help bring us one step closer to a cure for epilepsy. It's not hard. Just do it one story at a time.


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