A shot in the arm

ShotMy five-year-old daughter can’t handle anything medical. She won’t even let me look at cuts and scrapes — forget it if she has a splinter! Unimpressed by tales of  Tooth Fairy riches, she’ll wait until her loose teeth, hanging by a thread, fall out on their own. I don’t know why this is, but given her unwillingness to let me even comb her hair, I’ve theorized that she has an unusually low threshold of pain.

At no time is this more apparent as when she needs an immunization. She needed two shots in order to start school this year and what an appointment we had!

“Do I have to get a shot?” she said on the way to the doctor.

“I don’t know,” I stalled, not wanting to alarm her but not wanting to lie, either. Okay, it was a lie. I did know.

The doctor’s assistant who led us into the office was a trainee. That was bad. Very, very bad. My daughter knows the regular assistant and likes her, and she gives the shots. After weight, blood pressure and pulse, we waited for the doctor.

“Do I have to get a shot?”

“You might, Honey, you might.” Still avoiding the truth. I didn’t want to alarm her, or, truth be told, be the one to tell her.

The exam went well – we love our doctor – but the doctor told her she’d have to get a shot.

“I don’t wanna get a shot!” she said, retreating into the corner.

“I know, Baby,” I said, “But you can’t go to kindergarten without it.”

“I don’t wanna get a shot!”

Sigh. “Baby, you have to.”

“Will it hurt?” Progress!

“Maybe for a second,” I said, “Like this.” I lightly pinched her arm.

“I don’t wanna get a shot!” she said from the corner.

Crap. The trainee came in with the shots. I should have asked for the regular assistant right then. “Okay,” she said, “Come sit right up here.” She patted the examining table.

“I don’t wanna get a shot!” She came closer to me.

I reached out to her and she recoiled, knowing I wanted to hold her still. “I don’t wanna get a shot!”

“You’ll get a sticker afterwards,” the assistant tried.

“I don’t wanna get a shot!” my daughter said, hiding in the corner.

“You’ll get these cool band-aids!”

“I don’t wanna get a shot!” Crap.

“You can’t go to kindergarten without it,” the assistant said.

“I don’t wanna go to kindergarden,” my daughter said.

The assistant brought in backup – a nurse my daughter didn’t know. They went through the whole spiel. Finally, they asked if they should get Kayla, the regular assistant.

“Yes, please do. My daughter knows her,” I said. Kayla’s given my daughter every shot she can remember. They left the room.

I moved closer to her in the corner. “Okay, Honey. You have to get a shot.”

“I don’t want a shot!”

“What would Merida do?”

“I don’t wanna get a shot!”

That didn’t work. “What would Rapunzel do?”

“I don’t wanna get a shot!”

Shit. “Well, you need it for kindergarten and we’re not leaving until you get it.”

“I don’t wanna go to kindergarten!”
“Well, you can’t go back to preschool. You graduated. And if you don’t go to kindergarten, you can’t go to school at all, and all the other kids will learn, but you won’t. I can’t teach you. I have to work.”

“I don’t care.”

I sighed. Much as I didn’t want to be that parent, this required the big guns. “Okay, Honey. What do you want? What do you want for getting the shot? Something from the American Girl store?”

She thought. A ha!

I had to protect myself. “It can’t be the car, or another doll.” The car’s like $300. Dolls are $105. “The carrying case? The fancy coat? The horse?”

“The horse!”

“Okay, the horse,” I said. “But you’ve got to be good for the shot.” I thought the horse was about $70. Not a great compromise, but if she got the G-D shot, then fine. I was not at all proud of myself. I didn’t want it to come to this.

Kayla came in with the trainee and nurse trailing behind her. She had the shots in her hand.

“I don’t wanna get a shot!” She told Kayla from the corner.

“Do you want the horse?” I said, feeling my fail as a parent in front of three medical professionals.

“Hop up here,” Kayla said. “I’m not gonna do anything without telling you.”

Trusting Kayla, my daughter got up on the table. “I don’t wanna get a shot!”

“I have stickers for you,” she said. “Bring the sticker box over,” she told the trainee.

My daughter looked through the stickers. Kayla ripped open the alcohol rub. My daughter recoiled. “I’m just gonna clean your skin. I told you, I’m not gonna do anything without telling you.”

My daughter allowed her arm to be cleaned. Kayla unwrapped two band-aids. “Look at the band-aids you’ll get,” she said. “Pink camouflage and Hello Kitty.”

“I don’t wanna get a shot!” She shied away from Kayla.

“It’s okay,” Kayla said. “Do you want to hold Mommy’s hand?”

“Is it gonna hurt?” she said. Progress!

“It might hurt a little teeny bit, but then you get your stickers and your band-aids.”

“How about we sing ‘Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts’ while she does it?” I tried.

“Oh, yeah,” Kayla said. “I wanna hear it. I don’t know that one.”

“Nooo! I don’t wanna get a shot.”

“Do you want the horse?” I said.

She thought. “I don’t wanna get a shot!”

“Okay, we’re gonna have to do this. Look at mom and it’ll be really fast.”

I grabbed her arm. She saw Kayla out of the corner of her eye. “Hold her,” she said. I had to grab the other arm and hold her down, but Kayla got one shot, two shots, and she was done. “Now you get your band-aids,” she said.

“And your stickers,” the nurse said, offering the box. My daughter looked through the stickers. I did not mention the horse.

“All done!” Kayla said, smiling. “And no more shots until you’re twelve.”

My daughter looked at her arm. “It doesn’t hurt.”

“That’s what I told you,” Kayla said. “Now you can go.”

As we packed up, I still did not mention the horse. She was supposed to get it for being good, and she had to be held down. Technically, she shouldn’t get it. But if I didn’t get it for her, would she lose her trust in me? Dammit, I had to get that horse.

“Can we go to the American Girl store now?” she said as we got in the car.

“Honey, not today.  We’ve got to pick up your brother. But I can order the horse on the computer.”

“Okay,” she said, happy.

I guess I had to get that damn horse. When I did look it up, it was on sale for $40 – still a lot for a plastic horse, but a better deal, anyway. I’m not proud of myself, but truth be told I wish I’d bribed her sooner. It was a harrowing doctor visit. Hopefully, by the time she needs another shot, she’ll be grown-up enough to deal with it. If she isn’t, she’ll be too big to hold down. I wonder what I’ll have to buy then.


One comment on “A shot in the arm

  1. I know it’s hard but you did the right thing. I have a child who is needlephobic. We actually spent two hour at the doctor’s office waiting for him to be calm enough to get his vaccinations, because a tech tried to ‘do it quick’ without telling him, underestimated how strong he was, and sent him into screaming hysterics. And there isn’t enough time in this day to tell you how harrowing it was when he needed an IV. He’s a teenager, and it’s not any better. Hang in there.

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