The Needle(s) and the Damage Done

When you get a CT or CAT scan, you have to intake a contrast element so things show up clearly on the scan. In big people, this is usually an oral solution, somewhat chalky in taste.

In babies, it’s an IV solution.

IVs mean needles.

To say that the experience Friday was a screaming horror would be overstating it a bit. But it sure wasn’t fun.

We arrived 10 minutes before our appointment time, which is great for DearDR and me. We are punctually challenged, to say the least. So I’m thinking this is a good start. Bun had been nursed at 7 a.m., and had taken about 4 ounces of pedialyte and water at 9 a.m. (I thought she wouldn’t take the pedialyte, but she went at that bottle like a deer goes at a salt lick — or so I imagine.) At the time of our arrival at the hospital, she was sleeping.

So far so good.

Because we didn’t have a prescription for the procedure in hand, the hospital had to contact the office of the specialist who had referred Bun for the scan. This took a while, about half an hour. Bun was still sleeping. About 15 minutes after they received the script, we were called into the room where Bun was going to get her IV.

As you can imagine, Bun’s veins are very small. So, relatively speaking, the needle to start the IV was small too. But it was sharp, and the nurse had to do some uncomfortable holding and prodding to find veins. Bun, obviously, woke up as we undressed her. I changed her diaper.

Then things got, well, not so great.

The nurse looked at a vein on Bun’s hand, and then at her feet. She decided to go in through one of Bun’s feet. I held one of Bun’s hands, and her other leg. I hummed in her ear, murmured non-sensical phrases like, “It’s okay” and “I know, I know”. Bun squirmed and cried. DearDR was in the background at this point, neither wanting to see what was happening nor wanting to make the nurse nervous. I was trying not to look either; I just wanted to know when it was over.

But I glanced up. There was a needle sticking out of my baby’s ankle. Bun was screaming, now. There was blood. And then the nurse said, “It’s not going in.”

It looked in to me. But the nurse removed it. She tried to explain the problem, that the needle wasn’t advancing, that apparently a valve in the vein wasn’t giving way. “But I was in the vein. I got good blood return.” Oh, that’s great, thank you for that information. If this weren’t my child and if I had more than high school biology, I may have been able to appreciate the information better.

The nurse left to get another nurse to help her hold Bun down. I had picked Bun up and was rocking her, knowing she hurt and that she had no idea what was going on, and she was probably hungry, too. I wanted to feed her; I was wishing I had pumped before we left home because my boobs hurt. Bun had her pacifier, and I think that gave her some comfort, but I know that I could give her more if they would let me.

The nurses came in for Round Two, in Bun’s other foot. They were discussing something relevant to the problem, but I couldn’t suss it out. The same thing happened with Bun’s other vein. The second nurse suggested contacting Rob in MRI to put in the IV needle. He had a light, or something. The Nurse #1 thought this was a great idea. She left again.

When she came back, I asked if I could feed Bun. She suggested I wait because if Bun was going to get comforted and fall asleep, she would just have to be rudely awakened again. The nurse told us she had paged Rob and the IV team, and someone would be in shortly.

And then she picked up her equipment tray and took off like her ass was on fire.

DearDR and I waited. Bun eventually fell back to sleep, her little chest hitching as she continued to calm down. She was pitiful, and DearDR and I already felt spent. Little did we know. As we waited, we discussed how long we would wait. DearDR kept going out in the hall to find out when someone was coming. We decided that if no one showed up by 2 p.m. (it was about 1:15 by now), we were leaving. Although, as I pointed out, that just meant we had to come back.

The IV nurse came in. She and Nurse #1 talked about the difficulty with Bun and her little veins. “They look good,” Nurse #1 said. IV Nurse agreed. “Maybe they’re just not long enough for the needle.” They decided to try the vein on Bun’s hand.

It didn’t work. So much for three being a charm.

IV Nurse decided to try a vein on Bun’s scalp. Yeah, on her head. If DearDR and I thought she was crying before, it was nothing to the scream that issued from her little body as she her head was bound with a rubber band (your office variety rubber band; you probably have one at your desk right now — it makes the veins stick out more) and a sharp needle was once more inserted into her body. DearDR and I were crying now, too.

On the bright side, this time the IV needle advanced, and they were able to start the solution. They had to use a bunch of tape to secure the needle, and then secure the IV apparatus, and then they covered it with a plastic shield to protect the assembly. It looked grotesque. I thought the needle sticking out of her little foot was bad, but this truly sucked. Step one was finished though; now we just had to get her in the scanner.

At CT/CAT scanner is like a huge doughnut, with a sliding bed that goes into the hole. It can get pretty loud, too, when they start taking the image. And since Bun is a baby, and can’t be told to stay still, she has to be strapped into the bed. Tightly. And I get the job of holding her arms straight up beside her head, so they don’t get in the way as they image her chest. Babies don’t like this position. As they were strapping her in, Nurse #1 asked if I wanted to feed her. “Now?” I wanted to say. “Aren’t we almost through here? Can we just get this over with? Why couldn’t I feed her half an hour ago?”

I simply declined.

Of course Bun cried the whole time. I forgot to be soothing at one point and I was just holding my breath. DearDR nudged me and reminded me to talk to her.

I think it only took about 10 minutes to get the image. It seemed a lot longer. Toward the end, Bun managed to get her hand entangled in the IV and seemed to be pulling on it. I almost panicked then; it was just too much to see the IV line suddenly go red with blood. Nurse #1 calmly disentangled her, flushed the IV line, and then began removing the whole thing. In order to pull off the tape without pulling out Bun’s hair (of which she has little), she had to use some kind of wipe with essesnce of orange or something on it. It was like Goo Gone. I think it took longer to take off the tape than it had to take the image.

As we were removing the tape, Nurse #1 gave DearDR a little container of sugar water in which to dip Bun’s pacifier. She explained it’s been proven a pain reliever for babies. I was thinking, “Where was this during the stabbing part of the afternoon?”

I was finally allowed to feed Bun, to our mutal relief. She calmed instantly, and I felt much better too. DearDR was suddenly all hustle and anxiety — we had left Monkey with some friends at our house (our friends, not Monkey’s friends, her godparents as a matter of fact) and he wanted to get home because he was sure we were inconveniencing them. We thought we would only be three hours, tops, and it was going on four. I just wanted to be left in peace to soothe my traumatized infant.

He went to get the car, and Bun and I finished up her long overdue lunch. When we got home, it was beers all around, soothing frazzled parents. And I had my overdue lunch.

The doctor called that evening to give us the results.

Bun’s lungs are clear. She will not need surgery. The CCAM disappeared — “resolved itself”.


There are a few things I kept thinking as we went through our mini-ordeal:

1. It is one thing to witness/participate in the necessary medical torture of one’s child. Imagine being Nurse #1 or IV Nurse. Your job, all day long, is to stick sharp things in tiny defenseless children, making them scream and cry. DearDR and I just had to hear one child scream and cry — granted that it was our child, and to be party to that kind of extreme distress is an awful experience. But then we were done. IV Nurse had been doing it all day, and was going to go on doing it until her shift was over. And then she has to come back the next day and do it again.

2. Not only are these people causing children pain, but they are earning the emnity of their parents. It’s all fine and good to tell yourself, “It’s just her/his job” about a Nurse #1 or IV Nurse, but let’s face it: as a parent, there is the urge to hurt someone hurting your child.

3. My child, my dear, sweet, cuddly Bun is not sick. She had to have this test to determine whether or not she needed to have surgery. What about children who, from the time they are born or are very young, have to have stuff like this done to them on a weekly or daily basis? Kids with cancer? Kids with other serious, chronic conditions? I have a godson with a cleft palate; he had two or three surgeries before he was one year old. How do parents do it?

A Bit More God Talk

Our prayers were answered. Bun is free and clear of CCAM. At this point, and we are hoping for years to come, she doesn’t need surgery.

Maybe the CCAM served a purpose. Without those frequent sonograms, we would not have known about the placental difficulty toward the end of my pregnancy. God works in mysterious ways. Believe it.

I really could have done without all those needles though. God, if we ever have to do anything like this again, with Bun or Monkey, could they get it on the first try? Thanks.


I am adding this a day later: Reading through the above post, I realize I don’t say much about DearDR. It sounds as if he were just kind of hanging around waiting for things to be done. But he took turns with me holding Bun when she wasn’t getting pierced, and he did a lot of dealing with people. Because I am not good at dealing with people (for instance, going to ask how long things are going to take, or thanking people for their help and/or care). DearDR is a pro at that, and I rely on him for it. So I just wanted to clarify his part, and not make it sound like he left everything to me to handle. He was very present.

One thought on “The Needle(s) and the Damage Done

  1. i am a nurse and i have stuck babies, old people and lots in between. i am so grateful that while it is such a horrible ordeal to have one’s baby “attacked” those of us that have to do it dread it as much or more…i still have a memory of a baby i held 15 years ago for a lumbar puncture. i’m glad that your baby is okay and won’t need surgery…
    funny you should have a godson with a cleft palate..i have an american friend who’s baby has been in hospital here in england for 6 weeks!! her darling cate has a cleft and was not gaining weight…it really puts things in perspective!
    best wishes for your baby!!

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