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.