Medical Anxiety: Him and Me

Last spring, after spending almost 50 out of 90 days in the hospital, I often forced our way out before the doctors were volunteering discharge.  I also often refused the home nurse visits for follow up.  I was done.  I was in a dark place with medical workers and unless it was the Synagis nurse or Early Intervention, I didn’t want them in our house.  Seriously, a home nurse come daily to weigh Owen?  $200+ a visit?  7 days a week?  No, thank you!  I’m quite capable of weighing my child.

And that is how we became the proud owners of a high quality baby scale.  It pretty much collects dust now, but there was a long time that I weighed Owen daily to see if he needed PRN (as needed) Lasix (strong diuretic).  I keep it under our coffee table and have recently come to the realization that it’s Owen’s version of a monster under the coffee table.  He’ll be crawling around and happily playing and suddenly see the scale and start crying.  Sometimes he pushes the music button on the scale and will simultaneously cry and shake his head to the music – it’s both adorable and heartbreaking.

Why is he afraid of a scale?

Because getting weighed is the first step to all appointments medical.  He cries at the scale, screams at the stethoscope and nearly climbs the wall if you try to take his blood pressure.

Yesterday the Synagis nurse came to our house and it was the first time where he was apprehensive the minute he saw her.  He smiled at her, but it was more of a, “if I give you a nice smile, will you please not poke me?” sort of smile.  He finally warmed up to her and then she gave him his shots (big kids get two).

He screamed so hard he started retching.  I knew it would happen so didn’t feed him before she came.  Even on an empty stomach, he still retched horribly.  It didn’t last too long, but it’s also longer than the typical response to the shot.  Owen clearly has medical anxiety.

Home is always better than in the clinic.  In the clinic he hits the scale and works himself into such a fit that he finally falls asleep in my arms.  Even asleep, as soon as the door opens and the doctor or nurse walks in, he starts crying.  Mind you, not a word is spoken, just the door opening and it starts.  The exam begins and the hysterics start all over again.

A hospital stay is even worse.  I’d give some serious thought to making a deal with the devil to never have Owen admitted in the hospital again.  It’s excruciating for him and for me.  I do not exaggerate, by much, when I say it’s torture.

His fear is palpable as I try to give him a reassuring smile.

But the truth is, while it’s happening I’m thinking, “I’m putting him here.  I’m holding him down as they do these things to him.  The person he trusts most.”  (And I’d never let anyone else do it).  Even still, when it’s all over, it’s me who he clings to … a cling and searching eyes that say, “please, don’t let that ever happen again.”  His lip droops in the sweetest, saddest way.  As we leave, his eyes search with fear for what’s next and when we get to the car, he visibly releases his tension and almost immediately falls asleep.

It doesn’t matter if we are going for a routine check up where there are “no hurts” or for something more invasive.  Nearly every doctor appointment is the same.

The one exception; a physical medicine and rehabilitation appointment.  He was happy as could be, do you want to know why?  The nurse is a friend of mine.  Knowing his medical anxiety, she decided to not weigh him.

I hate that scale, too, Owen.

I’ve moved the scale from under the table.  For now, it’s under the bed in the guest room.  But one day, when I’m really sure we won’t need it again, I’m going Office Space on that thing.  Would it be inappropriate to let Owen help?

For those of you who are not Gen X’ers and don’t know the cult classic Office Space, below is a little clip.  (And if you are a Gen X’er, nod your head and smile.)  Warning:  R Rated clip for heavy use of profanity.

© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

20 thoughts on “Medical Anxiety: Him and Me

  1. It took Avery, my former preemie, until she was about 5 or 6 for her to get over her extreme fear of the doctor. She was always a sobbing mess the moment we brought her into any place that even resembled a doctors office. It was stressful for everyone involved. She still doesn’t like to go, but she doesn’t usually cry anymore. It helps that we can answer any questions she has about what’s going to happen. It’s so hard with babies when you can’t explain anything to them.

    • Glad to hear it got better for Avery – that’s similar timing as my brother who also had lots of doctor’s visits. Thanks for the note, Niki.

  2. That’s so hard! Jax doesn’t like hats…I’m sure it’s because of the CPAP he had to wear for so long. Those little guys don’t forget that stuff. That’s a great idea your nurse friend had: don’t weigh him! Or maybe weigh him after the exam…maybe then it won’t trigger such a scary memory.Totally go Office Space on that damn thing!

  3. My Logan is similar. During his NICU stint he fought the nurses tooth and and nail to avoid that CPAP. (It actually took two nurses to hold him down – and he weighed 2 lbs at the time.)

    Fast forward to his little 2yo pre-school class. A firefighter came to visit! Ooohhhh, ahhhhhh… Until the fireman demonstrated his oxygen mask. Commence meltdown. He could not be consoled.

    And I’m so in on the Office Spacing of the scale.

    • Crazy! I’d like to throw that into the face of all those people who say, “he won’t remember any of this.” Nonsense. I want to hug that little man.

  4. We have a scale too! But, Jack peed on it and it no longer works! He does the same at all doctors appointments…screams, cries, attempts to escape…for the weigh-in, the BP, the stethoscope, etc. It’s gotten so bad, that he starts crying in the parking lot of the medical building! But, we went to Urgent Care last week for a bloody nose and literally grabbed the stethoscope from the doc and placed it on his own chest?!?!? He didn’t cry and had a good time (can’t believe I’m even saying that). I think it’s his age (2.5yrs) and he’s just gotten used to it. I’ve also learned to be a little more relaxed about the visits…letting him explore in the exam room, etc. I use to keep him in his car seat or stroller, afraid to let him touch anything and get sick! I always take an extra adult along (grandma, grandpa, etc). and Jack did better when they held him and he could see me (instead of him facing just the doctor). Either way, these little ones have seen way to many white coats in such a short time!

    • Jack knew how to take care of that scale, didn’t he? I’m glad to hear it has gotten better for both your and Jessi’s Jack. I know my brother struggled with it into the early school years. I remember watching nurses hold him down for a blood draw as I was getting one of my own and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. Hopefully, Owen follows the timing of the Jack’s and not his uncle ;-).

  5. This is so Jack about a year ago and it broke my heart, too. We’ve been able to stay away from the doctor and hospital long enough that I feel it’s given him some time to heal.

    P.S. I feel very sorry for those who don’t know the awesomeness that is Office Space. What is this generation coming to?!

  6. Sounds like PTSD to me. Laughed at the video clip, music was dreadful, but certainly could relate to those damn printer problems when I worked in the corporate world. I think going Office Space on the scale is appropriate in the future!

  7. One day, we should have all our kiddos together to A) eat in a restaurant together and B) after they’ve dazzled and amazed with eating abilities we’ll celebrate by smashing those scales to hell and back!

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