Leaving Room 224, I spotted the Assistant Head Nurse pacing nearby. “Hey, what’s up, Laurie? Looks like you’re losing it?”
“I’m close. Reinforcements are coming to help me with the pre-op for the six-year-old in there.”
I took a quick peek in the room, and saw a tiny girl about swallowed up by the adult-sized hospital bed. “Uh, I see what you mean; she’s the size of a gorilla and looks pretty scary.”
“Make fun of me, if you want, but you’ve never had to try to give this kid an injection. Humph! She’s no innocent little darling when it comes to a needle. Last time she had surgery, five people were needed to restrain her for the injection.”
“Have you tried, or do you just expect it will be the same tonight?”
My question was answered by one of the three arriving nurses. “You bet that’s exactly what we expect; we’ve all had our turn over the last three years. The only way to get it done is by brute force.”
I lifted up my green, plastic box. “I know another way. Please, give me fifteen minutes with her, and you won’t need a small army to do it ever again.”
“Go ahead; the other two aren’t here yet anyway. Fifteen minutes and we’ll be back.” Laurie said.
The strong-arming team dispersed. I’m pretty sure they knew I could hear their parting giggles and comments about how foolish I was to expect a child just to lie in the bed while someone stuck her with a needle.
Help me, Lord! I prayed, entering the child’s room. I greeted each of the other two pediatric patients, stepping over to shake the outstretched hand of a little boy’s mother.
“I’m here to teach Julie something new, so she’ll be prepared for her operation tomorrow.” I turned, and smiled at the little girl, as I moved to sit on her bed.
“You don’t look like a teacher. You have a white coat.”
I glanced down at my lab coat, pointing to one of the appliqués I’d sewn on the pockets. “Who is this; do you know?”
“Strawberry Shortcake.” Julie’s broad smile radiated joy as she answered correctly.
“Absolutely!” I reached out and gave her hand an exaggerated shake. “I’m a special kind of teacher for special students.” I lifted the lid on my colorful box; Julie’s little head strained to see inside.
“Here we go. Pre-Op Patty, meet Julie.” Setting the box beside me, I held out one of the rag doll’s hands. The child gave it a tentative shake, offering a muted greeting. “I’ve brought Patty, wearing her favorite, frilly pink dress, to show you how to give someone a shot. Sometimes kids expect that the shots will hurt, so they do; but Patty says that all a kid needs is to learn how to do it, so they won’t be afraid. Do you want to learn?” Julie continued nodding her head as she watched me set up on the over-the-bed table.
“Well, before you can even go into the patient’s room, you must prepare the syringe properly.”
I pointed to the vial of sterile water and a syringe with capped needle attached. Tearing open the alcohol swab, I wiped it over the top of the vial. Next, I handed a closed swab to Julie. “Go ahead and clean it off again, just for practice.”
In like manner, I took Julie through every step in preparation and administration of an intramuscular injection. Young Julie, sadly already a seasoned recipient, leaned in, eyes riveted to my every move.
Each time I paused to let Julie try, she recited back to me the how’s and why’s, while reproducing the step perfectly. How tenderly the little girl spoke to Patty as she slipped the needle into the doll’s leg, finishing with the application of the band-aid.
“Great job! Can I tell Laurie she can come to give you your shot now? You can check to see that she does it right.” Julie nodded, and out I went.
“Let me see.”
Laurie held out the medication tray. “Just so you know, I’ll be watching you.”
Laurie smiled each time Julie commented on her technique until, at last, she’d finished. The five nurses, waiting to assist, glanced at one another with broad grins, eyebrows raised.
“You did that pretty good,” Julie said, offering Laurie her hand, along with a big smile.
“Thank you.” The stunned nurse’s eyes brimmed with tears as she shook the child’s hand.
Author’s Note: This is a true story, though names have been changed except for Pre-Op Patty’s.
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