I can’t always act like an adult

I always knew I wasn’t the bravest kid on the block, but this reality really hit me when I had a sedating procedure at the hospital a few months back. I’ve had this procedure as a precautionary measure every year or two for the past 10. I’ll admit I get pretty anxious before I go in because any little mistake would lead to dire consequences. My doctor could do the procedure with his eyes closed, but still I worry. You’d think a psychologist might better be able to manage her anxiety.

Small child with fearful face awaiting long needle

Imagine a 50-year-old woman here.

Normally, I’m assigned a day-surgery bed where I am prepped for the procedure, including insertion of an IV. Between blood tests and other procedures, I’ve been poked with many, many needles. I bought an anaesthetic cream developed for kids–I realize I’m being a little childlike here–to numb the area before the worst pokes. I’m not afraid of needles; I just don’t like the way they feel. Does anyone?

When I was assigned my bed, I learned that J. would have to wait outside in the hall instead of coming in with me as she had in the past. J. left but I really didn’t want her to. The young nurse did not seem to notice my reaction to this new rule. Yes, I, a 50-year-old woman but really more of a baby at this moment, started tearing up.  I surprised myself even moreso when the tears didn’t subside. I should have just asked the nurse if J. could stay, but I chickened out. Despite my capacity to advocate for myself within the medical system, I remained uncharacteristically silent.

My teary reaction surprised me. I count on J.’s being there during all invasive procedures, holding my hand or distracting me or doing whatever it is she does that makes the process easier. She blathers on about mundane topics to take my mind off what’s happening.  I’m lucky to have her; not everyone has such support. But until that moment, I’m not sure I realized how dependent I’ve become on her calm, distracting presence to get through all this being-a-patient-with-a-defective-body intrusive stuff.

So I told myself: “Next time I need sedation for a procedure, I’ll insist that J. be allowed to stay.” Not surprisingly, the opportunity arose a few months later. When I asked whether J. could stay with me, the immediate response after no, and my baby tears, was, “Do you have a mental health diagnosis?” Well, I guess that depends on how you define the term. You have likely formed your own opinions, dear reader, and I thank you for not sharing them with me.

I know I should be able to cope on my own by now; in fact, the list of things I should be able to do but don’t is endless. Nevertheless, sometimes the rules need to be balanced with patient needs. Thankfully, when I’ve asked for a reasonable concession in the past, most often it’s been granted.

And so, to my relief, J. was allowed to stay. And I barely felt the IV go in.

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2 thoughts on “I can’t always act like an adult

  1. I don’t see the point of coping on your own…if you have someone brave enough to sit beside you and help ease the load, lucky you. Bill Withers wrote “Lean on Me” for a reason, I don’t think you are being a baby, I think it makes perfect sense.

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    • I guess you’re right, Coleen. I know I’m very very lucky to have someone who is willing to endure all this stuff without complaint, and who has a way of making it easier for me. I hope I’d do the same if our roles were reversed.

      Thanks for your support. Maybe I’ll stop calling myself a baby.

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