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Kid Triumphs At the Annual Drawing Of Her Blood
Daddy-daughter team muscle through early nerves, then marvel at the extraction of her wine-dark blood
Kina was, when she was younger, eerily at ease with having her blood drawn. This is convenient, as her allergies require an annual visit to the phlebotomist for tests, which was our morning occupation again yesterday.
The first time she had her blood drawn, it was in her doctor’s office, and we approached the process with the anticipation of certain doom, restraining her with all our might as she struggled and screamed, surrounded by three scowling nurses. It took hours for the adrenaline to wear off.
A year later, with a visit booked to a nondescript clinic on 14th Street, Laurea and I agreed to assume and expect nothing at all, and escorted our two-year-old child (whose long-term memory was still flimsy) through the door and into a fluorescent-lit back room festooned with Disney decals.
The phlebotomist asked Kina to sit on her mother’s lap, and Laurea snuggled her arm around Kina gently. I braced, ready to bust out a video and a dance routine at the first sign of panic. The nurse placed the needle to the edge of Kina’s vein, and Kina watched as it pierced her skin, her blood flowing steadily through the tube and into a vial.
With literal sangfroid, our child stared silently at her own blood for the next minute, then calmly let the phlebotomist place a bandage on the spot where the needle had pierced her skin. It was over. Laurea and I silently marveled at this scene, and the staff showered her with stickers and praise. We walked to a playground and wondered what had happened.
The next year, same thing.
The following, a pandemic.
Last year, having had a little space from her superpower and at least three Covid shots, she went in hot. I wasn’t there, but Laurea described the scene with dismay. Had our miracle child, whose annual required blood draws seemed so easy-peasy, suddenly been stricken by a deathly fear of needles?
We’d told her about the blood draw, and she seemed to fixate on the similarity to vaccines, which she’d learned to dread in 2022 by watching at least three children in line ahead of her nearly collapse with grief. She went, in that instance, from syringe-positive to shot-averse in under twenty minutes. The effect of that change, in the phlebotomist’s chair last year, was notable.
And so this year, we didn’t tell her about it at all, until yesterday morning. I pulled up this video of the world’s most intuitive and patient phlebotomist, and we watched together as she explained everything that happened in the course of having your blood drawn. Kina and I agreed this was in no way a big deal, and we hopped on the bike to reproduce her early experiences in phlebotomy.
As we waited in the lobby, Kina drew a picture (of course) for the staff—which she has kindly reproduced at top left of the main headline. We waited thirty minutes or so, and then made our way to the back, where she melted hearts and took a seat on my lap.
After some nervous squirming and a request to palpate her own vein before the main event, I snuggled her up inside my arms and squeezed her other hand rhythmically as the needle went in. With a brief gasp, she watched again as her blood filled vial after vial, staring squarely at her own hemoglobin flowing out. A minute later, and it was over. She got two bandages (purple and pink, at her request) and the sincere and glowing praise of the overworked clinic staff.
Lunch of her choice. An ice cream.
I would have given her a gold medal, had I found one at the bodega. I was so proud—not that she didn’t cry (because crying is okay), but because she approached the whole situation with an openness to Things Maybe Being Not So Bad that I sometimes find challenging. It was a useful reminder never to expect the worst, and a powerful example of the power of a promised cupcake.
It will all be okay.
Kina taught us this morning how to paint clouds, which is to say: do not paint them at all.